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Tabooing inter-caste marriage is ‘absolutely illegal’: Says Supreme Court of India

It was long overdue, but better late than never.

2018 brings in long overdue justice for love marriages in India. In a landmark statement, the Supreme Court said on January 16, 2018 that it is ‘absolutely illegal’ for anyone to attack adult couples for marrying outside their caste. A bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said any adult man and woman can get married and no khap, panchayat, society or individual can question them. The apex court has clearly stated that no harassment and killing of young couples in the name of protecting family honour in inter-caste and inter-clan marriage is legal in India.

The bench said, “Take it from us, we are not concerned with khaps at all. But we will make it crystal clear that an adult girl and an adult boy can get into a marriage alliance of their choice. No panchayat, khap, individual or even parents can question such a decision, be the marriage inter-caste or otherwise.”

A culture that demands taking life for falling in love outside caste and clan

In a country like India where love comes with a life threatening cost, the SC’s statement brings a sigh of relief for millions of young lovers who feared for their life and pray not to end up like Manoj and Babli Banwala. The newlywed couple from Haryana were killed in 2007 by the bride’s family when the khap issued an honour killing order. Their tragic end created a stir in the educated and civil section of the country, a movie was made and in a historic judgement an Indian court issued execution order for the murderers in 2010 and life imprisonment for the khap leader. Yet no concrete change had occurred to ban these immoral killing of couples in the name of honour.

Manoj’s mother Chanderpati and sister Seema broke down on national television, narrating the nightmare.

In 2016, a 22-year-old man named Shankar was hacked to death in Tamil Nadu for marrying Kausalya, who belonged to a dominant caste. In 2017, a 28-year-old man named Manthani was killed in Telangana, because despite being a Dalit he fell in love with an upper-caste girl.
These couples were not one-off cases. Honour killing in India is a predominant cultural practice in both northern and southern states. Honour killing cases in India have shot up by nearly 800 per cent over the past few years.

May there come a new tomorrow

Movies in India continue to celebrate boundary-less love and romance freely, making crores at it, yet the film loving Indian society seems to leave those concepts behind it when it enters its own household or community threshold. Trying to be wise and cautious about your child’s chosen partner is one thing; parents or society must not let centuries-old traditions dictate their modern day behaviour.

The Government and police have been lethargic about taking any concrete action against these perpetrators of gruesome crimes in the names of religion, caste and creed. We have seen mutilated bodies of couples whose only fault was that they didn’t give up on loving each other, even when the society became their enemy. But the SC’s decision comes with a new hope for the hearts that beat together beyond the purview of social and religious norms. Let love win it all.

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