Culture · Law · Strategy

Let LOVE Prevail, Not CASTE

Har zarre par ek qaifiyat-e-neemshabi hai
Ai saaki-e-dauraan yeh gunahon ki ghadi hai
– Firaq Gorakhpuri

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator by certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [1].

Over two centuries have passed since Thomas Jefferson wrote those memorable words, which are still ringing in history, but a large section of Indian society still regard a section of their own countrymen as inferior. This mental attitude is simply unacceptable in the modern age, and it is one of the main causes holding up the country’s progress.In the modern age nobody’s feelings should be hurt. In particular in a country like India with so much diversity we must take care not to insult anyone’s feelings on account of his caste, religion, tribe, language, etc. Only then can we keep our country united and strong [2]. As we are celebrating Dalit Icon BR Ambedkar’s 122nd Birth Anniversary, more than 100 dalits were fleeing a small Haryana village after being chased by upper caste goons, angry that a dalit man had dared to marry one of their girls [3]. This is not a first instance of caste clash. History records that many such ugly incidents happened in Past.

Supreme Court in Lata Singh Vs. State of U.P. and Anr. [4] gave General Comments related to Inter-caste marriages (para 12):

The caste system is a curse on the nation and the sooner it is destroyed the better. In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united to face the challenges before the nation unitedly. Hence, inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system. However, disturbing news are coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriage, are threatened with violence, or violence is actually committed on them. In our opinion (Courts Opinion), such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter- religious marriage.

Court directed  the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and any one who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law. Judges also pointed that sometimes they hear of `honour’ killings of such persons who undergo inter-caste or inter-religious marriage of their own free will. There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism.

In Swaran Singh and Ors. v. State thr’ Standing Counsel and Anr. [5] Supreme Court observed (vide paras 21 to 24) as under:

Today the word ‘Chamar’ is often used by people belonging to the so called upper castes or even by OBCs as a word of insult, abuse and derision. Calling a person ‘Chamar’ today is nowadays an abusive language and is highly offensive. In fact, the word ‘Chamar’ when used today is not normally used to denote a caste but to intentionally insult and humiliate someone.

We have in recent years heard of ‘Khap Panchayats’ (known as katta panchayats in Tamil Nadu) which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities in an institutionalized way on boys and girls of different castes and religion, who wish to get married or have been married, or interfere with the personal lives of people. Court was of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out [6].

The general comments by Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly indicate that Right to Life includes Right to Marriage and a major/adult person is free to choose his DREAM GIRL/DREAM BOY.

End Notes

[1] American Declaration of Independence, 1776

[2] See in this connection the decision of this Court in Kailas v. State of Maharashtra in Crl. Appeal No. 11/2011 decided on 5.1.2011

[3] Times of India April 17, 2013 “Dalit Couple Hounded for Inter-Caste Marriage”

[4] AIR2006SC2522

[5] 2008 12 SCR 132

[6] Appellants: Arumugam Servai Vs. Respondent: State of Tamil Nadu,  AIR2011SC1859

About the Author

kushKush Kalra

Kush is a practicing lawyer at Delhi High Court. He graduated from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, India in 2012 and has authored a book titled – Be Your Own Lawyer.

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