Abhilash Joseph was then the project head of an IT company. He had also started a Kozhikode-based business firm where a man named Ranju worked. Soon, Ranju got married to the girl he loved, Sajitha –— a Muslim. An inter-religious marriage was not easy to carry off. It is not just the families that had a problem, but fundamentalist groups who opposed their union. Life became so difficult they couldn’t stay in Kozhikode anymore. With Abhilash’s help they moved to Bengaluru, found jobs and after a few years, when they had children, moved back to Kerala — but to Kochi.
All this got Abhilash thinking. He read more stories of couples who suffered because they belonged to different religions or castes. He spoke to rational thinkers’ groups. The thoughts finally led him to start a non-religious matrimonial website. He named it just that — nonreligiousmatrimony.com.
“In my knowledge, there are about seven lakh inter-religious/caste marriages in Kerala. And they find it difficult to get proposals for their children. You need secularism to go forward in society, to have an ultra modern democracy,” says Abhilash. He left his job some time ago and started an IT company in Kozhikode, turning an entrepreneur. The matrimonial site was started as a division of the company, with the tagline ‘marriages beyond caste and religion’.
“It is a free service as of now, because we want to see the response of people. We ask for ID proof and once we know it is a genuine application, it is registered. There are about 120 registrations now, after the site went online a week ago, but only 20 of them coming from women. Parents can register for their children, or individuals can register for themselves. We don’t insist or interfere on their preferences. So if a person who doesn’t follow religion but belongs to one by birth says they prefer to marry from the same religion, that’s their choice,” he says.
Social activist M.N. Karassery wished Abhilash and frieds all success. He says in a video, “In our land, rationalism starts with Sahodaran Ayyappan. Many like him believed that a practical and simple way to fight superstition and other backward ideas was interreligious marriages. For these values have roots in family. The Indian government gave a huge support through the Special Marriage Act in 1954. Which meant you could get married in a register office, regardless of what caste or religion you belong to. But it didn’t get the support of society. Inter-religious couples still go through a lot of challenges. Many end up dying. In North India, there is the practice of honour killing — killing one’s own children for marrying out of caste. We see ads of marriage bureaus, which ask for a Muslim bride or a Nair bride or a Brahmin groom. But what Abhilash and his friends have started here is an initiative to support marriages without looking at caste or religion. We have a secular state — we have the freedom to believe or not believe in anything. This initiative is started on the basis of that basic right. It is only a beginning.”...