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Is the caste barrier breaking due to increased love marriages in India?

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        Marriages in India are governed by civil laws. Different marriage laws exit for different communities. Unlike western countries, in India marriages are considered as sacred bonding between two persons, two families and two societies. In India marriage is not only the choice of the couple but the opinions of the family members also play a crucial role here.

          Let’s come to the point of ‘caste barrier’. It can be defined as a fence between the relationships of two inter caste people. It explicitly exists in Hinduism (not established by religion but by traditional misconception). As per Hindu mythology the four ‘varnas’ (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra) are determined by profession and not by birth though it became hereditary later.  In Vedic scriptures we find instances of ‘Anuloma marraiges’ where a high caste born man cannot marry a low caste born women. There are a lot of examples of inter caste conflicts in medieval and as a response to that Bhakti movement started. Social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy,  Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Derozio, G K Gokhle, Madan Mohan Malviya and others had to raise voice against it. 

          ‘Love’ between the couple must be the centrifugal force in marriage. It is not always that ‘love marriages’ take place between two different caste people. Sometimes it is also seen that ‘love marriages’ take place between two people belonging to two different religions. But it is a fact that due to inter caste or interfaith marriage amalgamation of blood is taking place and caste barrier becoming weaker. As per law of the land inter caste or inter faith marriages get equal recognition as intra caste marriage. 

          In India, caste of a child is determined by the caste of the father. So, instead of inter caste or inter faith marriage ‘caste’ play a crucial role in the life of the child. Even success in the UPSC exam depends also on caste due to reservation policy. ‘Caste’ is an invisible barrier that can be broken but cannot be eliminated from society at least from Indian subcontinent. 

          Though instances of caste discrimination have fallen down but still we often see instances of caste discrimination in various parts of India especially in remote areas. A few months ago we came to know that in Madhya Pradesh a high caste man urinated on a low caste man. In Kerala a lower caste man had to kiss feet of a higher caste woman for begging mercy. In the state of Uttar Pradesh we often hear instances of honour killings due to inter caste love marriages. In Manipur two lower caste women were forced to render naked. Safety to the lower caste people and inter caste or inter faith couple must be a concern for administration.

          ‘Love marriages’ bear some adverse effects in comparison with ‘arrange marriages’:

  • In case of ‘arrange marriage’ there is always a fall back option available to the woman if marriage breaks but in case of ‘love marriage’ this option is not available for maximum time as the families do not recognize their marriage.
  • In case of ‘love marriage’ the woman may be trapped into illegal activities as the couple flee in maximum cases.
  • In case of ‘love marriage’ the woman may get forcefully converted to the religion of the husband.
  • Instances of child marriages, pre mature pregnancy may also take place in ‘love marriage’.

          ‘Caste barrier’ can explicitly be visible in rural and remote areas where number of inter caste or interfaith marriages are very little. We often hear instances of inter caste, interfaith or love marriage in metropolitan or city areas where people are of progressive mindset. In order to wipe away caste barrier we need to focus on rural and remote India. Strict implementation of law and public awareness are only two weapons available here. Throughout this course of analysis we cannot say that ‘caste barrier is breaking’ but yes it is impacted to some extent.

-SHUVAJYOTI DUTTA

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