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The risks faced by interfaith couples in India

The risks faced by interfaith couples in India Source: AAP

Interfaith love has always been contentious in India, as Arbaz Mullah, a young Muslim, discovered when he fell in love with Hindu woman Shweta Kumbhar. Kumbhar's family were so outraged at the union they allegedly hired a hard-line Hindu nationalist group to murder Mullah. This is a grim illustration of the risks such couples face as the country's Hindu nationalism surges.

The love story between Arbaz Mullah and Shweta Kumbhar was one that started out as many do - going on movie dates, holding hands in the park, having blissful conversations about a future together. 

A future that would tragically never become a reality. 

For the three years of Mullah and Kumbhar's courtship, tensions around their differing faiths haunted the young couple. 

Mullah was Muslim - a fact the relatives of Kumbhar, a Hindu, could not accept. 

The interfaith romance so angered them that they allegedly sought out a hard-line Hindu nationalist group to kill 24-year-old Mullah. 

According to police, that is exactly what they did. 

On the 28th of September in Karnataka's Belgavi district, the mutilated body of Mullah was discovered on a stretch of railway tracks. 

Mullah's mother, Nazima Shaikh, cannot understand how her son could have deserved such a violent and untimely death.

Approximately 80 per cent of India's 1.3 billion people are Hindu and 14 percent are Muslim, according to the latest census data. 

Critics say the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's Hindu nationalist agenda has polarised people and led to an increase in violence against interfaith couples. 

Hundreds of Muslim men have been assaulted, and many couples have been forced into hiding.  

Some have been killed. 

So in 2018 when Kumbhar met Mullah, the couple were all too aware of the risk they were taking.

The BJP and other Hindu nationalists have forcefully perpetuated the propaganda campaign 'love jihad'. 

This discredited conspiracy theory purports that Muslim men target Hindu women for conversion to Islam through feigning love, deception, kidnapping, and marriage, as part of a broader scheme of establishing domination in India. 

The National Spokesperson for BJP, Gopal Krishna Agarwal, says the party is not strictly against interfaith marriages.

Basically, it is an individual choice, if he wants to marry somebody (from) another religion or caste. But to lure somebody through financial means, or some coercion, or some sort of motive to convert, that is not acceptable.

 

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