India Love Project: Tales Of Forbidden Love

Oscar Wilde in his work ‘A Woman of No Importance’ asks, “Who, being loved, is poor?” Well, in contemporary India, the person might not be poor, but he/she can be a criminal. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Karnataka have already passed love jihad law which has provisions against ‘unlawful religious conversions’. The bill proposes sentences upto 10 years in prison for breaking the law.

Constraining Love

India has a predominant culture of arranged marriage where the match is set by keeping caste and religion in mind. If a girl chooses to marry outside these boundaries, it often results in violence, and even death. Honour killing is a common issue in the northern states of India such as Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The basis of this problematic idea is that it connects the family’s honour with the woman’s chastity.

Not only this, honour killing doesn’t only takes place when a woman marries outside the caste without family’s consent. There is a wide range of causes that trigger honour killing such as pre-marital sex, refusing an arranged marriage or even rape.  With such familiar incidents at home, the love jihad law left the internet divided in its opinion. But at the same time, the debate also brought up the idea of ‘love conquers all’.

One such page on Instagram is the ‘India Love Project. Its bio says ‘Love and marriage outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender.’ The page shares the love stories of people who married outside their community and lived happily ever after. Founded by Priya Ramani, Samar Halarnkar and Niloufer Venkatraman, the page already has over 46 thousand followers.

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The project has a story to tell from every generation. It shows that the inter-community marriages are not new, they have been a part of South Asian community since ages. But it is important to talk about them now, than ever before. At a time, where hate is being served to us with breakfast and dinner through news, it is important to remember that inter-caste and interfaith unions are not new.

One such union took place in late 1950s between famous writer Krishan Chander and Salma Siddiqui. Both of them married, to other people, having different faiths, yet had the courage to fall in love. Salma Siddiqui’s granddaughter Rehana Munir says, “They fell in love—unabashedly, irreversibly, inconveniently.” That’s how love is supposed to be, isn’t it?

Actor Kalki Koechlin met her partner Guy Herchberg on the way to Dead Sea. Kalki is of French origin, born and brought up in India, while Guy is Jewish, part Russian, part Polish, part Iranian. The couple has many differences but love brings them together. They have a daughter together. As Kalki says, “We don't follow any religious rites at home but we share our different customs and food. We fight everyday about whose turn it is to do the dishes and we always split our dessert in equal parts.”

The love story of Bhishan Samaddar and Sandip Roy will warm your heart. Both of them are from West Bengal but they met online at a time when one of them was living abroad. The couple has been living together since 2011. Sandip Roy shares, “our families, while they might not march in Pride Parades, have made their peace with who we are.”

Another warm and hugging story is that of Vinaya Kurtkoti and Tony Kurian. Vinaya is from an upper-caste right wing Hindu family, while Toni is a Syrian Christian from Kerala who identifies as an atheist and communist. The couple met on tinder. The couple got married with just 50 guests during the lockdown and received blessings of their parents.

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These love stories make you believe that there is a better world to live in, if only you make some space for others. This page is like a ray of hope in bleak times. Do you know any such couple who have broken the shackles of worldly norms? Let us know in the comments below.