What’s love got to do with caste, class or countries?
Love and marriage have always been subjected to societal norms in most communities and this is especially true in India with its myriad structures of caste, class and a historical rich-poor divide.
The recent media glare on honour killings in northern India put the spotlight on the traditional system of local “khap” councils, who do not allow persons from the same sub-caste or lineage to marry.
Sometimes even marriage between two consenting adults from different gotras (clan or lineage) is banned if they are from the same village, and the diktat of the khaps can lead to ostracism and banishment to even honour killings.
Proponents of the ancient tradition maintain the issue is not simply black and white as a lot of factors are in play including maintaining honour, a balanced social structure, brotherhood of gotras, apart from historical opposition to inter-caste and inter-religious unions.
But frequent reports related to the khaps in recent times could mean that more and more people are defying tradition to be with the ones they love, even at the cost of their lives.
This presents the dilemma of a large population of youth with global aspirations living in a country still deeply entrenched in tradition.
The government plans to toughen laws to punish errant khap members but rural panchayats say they will continue settling disputes in villages.
So is the issue a battle between tradition and modernity?
Should young men and women keep with tradition and avoid the romantic angst that youth brings with it? Or should they break from set norms in their pursuit for happiness?
India’s tennis darling Sania Mirza had this to say when she was asked about her impending marriage to cricketer Shoaib Malik of Pakistan, India’s traditional enemy: “I am going be more worried about how my hair is going to be, rather than the Pakistan political issues.”
Maybe it should be just about the hair and make-up, and how the couples are going to spend their lives together — and not about caste, class or countries.