It looks as if old carrot top’s efforts to live on in the White House have finally come to a wheezing halt. But not for lack of trying. He and his cohorts, but specifically the Duck himself, huffed and puffed to bring the house down for nearly a month with dire predictions of a coup and with all manners of yobs rampaging around the streets declaiming that they’d been robbed. And then it ended in a wheezing whimper.
As the New York Times reports, a letter from an obscure Trump-appointed bureaucrat, Emily W. Murphy of the General Services Administration, authorized the process of formally handing over the government to President-elect Joseph Biden jr. But there is always a “what if” about the entire long-drawn out process that the US has in electing its President, and this time around that process has been prolonged beyond belief. It ends with Trump shaking his fists and, like Ahmed Shah Abdali, threatening to return to fight again four years hence. And God alone knows, he may well be back with the kind of following he has. It has left the world’s richest democracy deeply divided.
In the meanwhile, back here in the world’s largest democracy, the abbot of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath aka Ajay Mohan Bisht and his cabinet have promulgated the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion ordinance. Nothing intrinsically wrong in that really, you cannot, for example, hold a gun to someone’s head or a knife to the throat and force a conversion from one religion to another. But it seems that that is not where it all stops. According to a BJP spokesman, Sidharth Nath Singh, the ordinance goes beyond, it is meant to ensure justice for women, especially from the SC/ST communities. “The law was necessitated by the rising incidence of forced conversions in the garb of marriage. More than 100 such cases have come to light,” said Singh. The Yogi and his men have now made sure that the soul of the Dalit woman who was gang raped and killed in Hathras (very much in UP) less than three months ago now rests in peace. Thankfully she died a Hindu albeit a Dalit and perhaps thereby attained Moksh.
At least four other states are contemplating similar laws: Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Haryana and Karnataka. All of these laws are meant to protect women it seems, like the much applauded (and justifiably so) one that abolished Triple Talaq. Dismissing the latest efforts against these “love jihad” laws as “duds” an article in Swarajya magazine explicitly says: “Merely declaring marriages conducted solely for conversion as void doesn't do much for the women victims. ince separation post-marriage imposes heavy costs, a law must come into the picture before the marriage takes place, not after. The bare minimum that any Act which seeks to genuinely curb the so-called Love Jihad problem should do is ban all marriages between a Muslim male and non-Muslim female if they are done as per Sharia.
“In the last few weeks, as many as five state governments — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Assam — have stated their intention to bring a law to check the abuse in marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, what is often referred to as ‘Love Jihad’ by Hindu and Christian activists who allege that Muslim men chase non-Muslim women for marriage in order to convert them to Islam.”
Oddly enough the Allahabad High Court on Monday (23 November) in a judgement stated: “the right to choose a partner irrespective of caste, creed or religion is inherited under right to life and personal liberty an integral part of the Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.” Two different parts of the same State at variance between themselves: the Executive and the Judiciary.
It all boils down to patriarchy: a Muslim man and a Hindu woman is “jihad”, the other way around its fine. Within the Hindu fold, a Dalit man marrying an upper caste woman sometimes ends in a lynching, and there seems to be no law applied to that. Protests against the rape of a Dalit woman by upper caste men with or without her murder can now invite laws of sedition, the protests that is, and not the crime. There are stringent laws against dowry within the Hindu fold, but that doesn’t stop dowry deaths does it?
So, to go back to old carrot top, the world’s pre-eminent democracy, the good old United States of America, with or without Donald Trump, has a supermarket approach to marriage ceremonies. A Las Vegas wedding is available at a small price ($ 70 at last count for the licence). Pay a bit more and in the old days they used to throw in a pink Cadillac and an Elvis Presley impersonator to conduct the ceremony. The tradition almost surely continues but in keeping with modern times they’ve probably replaced the pink Cadillac with a black Tesla and Elvis with Snoop Dogg or some other rapper, no residency requirements and no waiting time. New York is a bit staider…no residency requirement but a waiting period of 24 hours.
It’s important to know these things because in such matters parts of India are rapidly moving 1000 years backwards into medieval times when a major alternative to the Hindu way of life entered and became an integral part of the country. So, both UP and MP as also Haryana, Karnataka and Assam are busy enacting laws designed to prevent marriage from being used as a “love jihad”, basically meaning marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women. The other way around it seems would be fine.
This opens up a wide window of opportunity in various parts of India where such laws don’t exist and are, at least for now, not contemplated. It would open up a fine line of “wedding tourism” for cash strapped states even as they begin emerging out of the Covid crisis once the vaccine becomes available sometime next year. With or without a Sharukh look alike and multi-coloured Lamborghini, flashing lights and all.
Of course, Vegas runs a fine line of casinos, making it possible for the groom to get married, rapidly lose his shirt and then retire to the honeymoon suite of the hotel attached to the gambling joint. As and when Nepal gets its act together, it has all of this. All it needs is a quick marriage service for one and all, especially for those intent on a mixed marriage. For love and not necessarily religion.
(The author is a veteran journalist and political commentator. Views expressed are his own, and don’t necessarily reflect that of Outlook magazine. )