The direction of the Supreme Court of India to NIA to investigate what has popularly been described as 'love jihad' (without an understanding of love or jihad) might have given a wrong impression of vindication to two diametrically opposed political reaction to the phenomenon, if it is one at all. It is interesting that retired Justice Raveendran, one of the finest judges of the Supreme Court has been requested to monitor the probe. This is seemingly a departure from normal practice of inquiries and investigations but perhaps in the circumstances a salutary assurance to the citizen that the court's direction is not a carte blanche to the agency to run riot.
In a plural society like ours, where people of different faiths have lived together and openly mingled for centuries, inter-faith relationships are inevitable and have seldom been frowned upon except for narrow political reasons in extreme conditions. In fact one can think of no better way than that, of true integration of our society. But of course it must not be simplified in a state where uniformity is a panacea for some whilst it is anathema to others. India has consistently and sensibly celebrated ' unity in diversity' over the millennia and that sentiment interalia is enshrined in our Constitution. Freedom and liberty, in the widest sense, including the right to dignity (presently being explored by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court as right to privacy) and right to conscience are the core of the Constitutional values. Consistent with that it would be difficult, if not a blatant violation of the Constitution to deny a person the right to choose religion or atheism as indeed a spouse to live life with.
Living in a plural, multi- faith society has its advantages as well as disadvantages, particularly where unfortunate events of history have cast a shadow on social relations. The deep scars of Partition and the violence that accompanied it healed remarkably swiftly in the post Independence years and very quickly the unthinkable began to happen when minority personalities occupied positions of chiefs of armed forces, the head of the judiciary and even the highest office of the land, the President of India when Dr Zakir Husain took the oath of office with the moving words, "the whole of Bharat is my home and its people my family."
It would be interesting to compare data of mixed skin (white-black) marriages in the USA, mixed denomination (Catholic-Protestant ) marriages in the UK and elsewhere in Europe with similar data from India ( Hindu-Muslim; Upper Caste-Other Caste etc). I would not be surprised if the results are an eye opener. Yet it is a fact that there remains some institutional suspicion (and it is clearly being pushed aggressively in recent months as part of the ruling party ideology) concerning such matrimonial liaisons. Curiously, no similar outcry was heard when a few years ago news got out of Hyderabad that rich Arabs were shopping for brides amongst the disadvantaged Muslim families of the city. Just as we have a moral duty to protect the honour and dignity of young girls of poor Hindu families we have an obligation to protect Muslim girls. That indeed is far more important than some exaggerated concern about people opting to convert from one religion to another. After all, we have known an entire movement that encouraged Dalits to convert to Buddhism to break the shackles that traditional Hindu society had placed on them over the centuries.
The right to practice one's religion includes the right to propagate it but of course any form of allurement or coercion is and must be prohibited. In any contract, undue influence or unconscionability is a ground for voiding its obligations. That principle applies to any agreement of marriage. Whatever be the form to describe other marriages at least the nikah form of Muslim marriage is a contract. But of course the concern is larger than any particular marriage and therefore surely is about infusion of money into India for any object that is subversive or detrimental to social harmony and public security. Essentially any concerted, premeditated conspiracy by unfriendly elements needs to be thwarted and there is a national consensus on this. But this is a far cry from dubbing any and every social liaison as Love Jihad or Romeo Jihad.
Policing for national security against subversion and policing morals on some Jurassic world view are two entirely different things. One knows of the drug menace in the US, Afghanistan, Punjab in recent times and historical tales of China using drugs as a weapon. Similarly counterfeit money, child trafficking and unwholesome disinformation campaigns are known to be used against democracies. But to think that conversion for fake marriages is a potent weapon needs a dose of imagination. We need to watch against subversion, not seduction by pervert fantasies of sexual degradation of Indians.