Permit marriage across caste and faith
In a scene that seems straight from the movies, Bareilly MLA Rajesh Mishra’s daughter has sought public support to protect herself and her new husband from her father’s retribution for an inter-caste marriage. 23-year-old Sakshi Mishra released a video telling the world about her wedding to Ajitesh Kumar. She spoke of the threat to her life from her father and his associates, warning him against any action. She has also filed a legal petition seeking protection.
Recently, a Dalit man in Gujarat was killed by his upper caste in-laws in the presence of a police counselling team. For many such young Dalit men, the ordinary business of falling in love has become lethal because of the ferocity of caste hatred. Every adult has the right to choose who they want to marry, marriage is a private bond between two people. But in India, with our many forbidding social walls, a woman’s romantic freedom is acutely destabilising, and a lower caste man’s relationship with an upper caste woman is an existential threat.
The founders of modern India, like BR Ambedkar, had envisioned intercaste marriage as a solvent of these harsh hierarchies – the state even gives some financial support to such marital unions, to compensate for the assumed lack of family support. But the caste and religious pushbacks have been intense – even now, only 5% of Indian marriages are inter-caste. Sakshi Mishra and Ajitesh Kumar deserve a happy life together, it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that they are protected from any social backlash.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.