Interfaith unions: a mixed blessing

This organisation provides interfaith couples legal, social and financial aid

February 15, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:34 am IST - New Delhi:

in the name of love:Members of Dhanak marching against honour killing in New Delhi on Saturday.Photo: Special Arrangement

in the name of love:Members of Dhanak marching against honour killing in New Delhi on Saturday.Photo: Special Arrangement

This Valentine’s Day many couples with interfaith marriages gathered at the YMCA and spoke out their hearts, the problems that they faced and how they dealt with these issues.

The couples are members of Dhanak, a Delhi-based organisation, which provides social, legal and financial aid to couples of interfaith and inter-caste marriages. It helps them reach a concrete solution through related aids.

Couples ranging across different castes, religions and races gathered for Sahas – (Strengthening Alliances for Humanity and Secularism), an annual confluence of members and friends of Dhanak. Sessions on mixed identity, gender issues in mixed marriages, screening of documentaries on interfaith marriages and its legalities were conducted by students of Kamla Nehru Collage and Lady Irwin Collage. A street play related to commercialisation of religion was also presented by the students of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Collage.

The participating couples celebrated their union by highlighting the importance of socio-cultural diversity.

The focus of the event was a rally held against honour killing. More than 10 organisations working on human rights from Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha participated in the march. The tribute to the victims of honour killing was paid by some distinguished social activists like Sehba Farooqui, Shabnam Hashmi, Swami Agnivesh, Anil Chaudhary, and Vikash Narain Rai.

The programme concluded with a “pledge for humanity” by all present there.

Dhanak founder Asif Iqbal shared on how the organisation came into being. “I married a non-Muslim girl. We started Dhanak five years ago with five couples with interfaith marriages. Initially, it was just a platform for catharsis. Later, we realised that this static organisation had to be turned dynamic to make people aware of the positives of such marriages. So, we begin with candle light vigil, distributing of pamphlets and talking to people about how such marriages are not failed marriages, it is possible and the Constitution of India allows interfaith marriages.”

The organisation helps couple by becoming a mediator to convince parents of both sides because “in most cases, once a girl walks away from home, her parents lodge a first information report of abduction and rape without finding the truth. It implicates the boy falsely. So first we help them get married, then send the marriage certificate copy to the District Commissioner and local police station. We also make young couples live with such senior couples to learn to deal with situation in future because it is not only about marriage but also sustaining it.”

Now, Dhanak has 500 interfaith/caste member couples with more responsible roles.

“We have formed a network called ‘Chayan’, which acts as a pressure group to intervene with local authorities in case problems erupt. Secondly, we work on legal and systemic issues such as bringing amendments in Special Marriage Acts and State rules etc. Thirdly, we do advocacy programme with marriage officers as in most of the cases, marriage officers often play foul and turn down the marriage applications on different grounds.”

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