Political Line | Siddaramaiah’s failed romance and India’s undefined borders

Updated - May 27, 2024 04:48 pm IST

Published - May 26, 2024 07:33 pm IST

(This is the latest edition of the Political Line newsletter curated by Varghese K. George. The Political Line newsletter is India’s political landscape explained every week. You can subscribe here to get the newsletter in your inbox every Friday.)

Countries have territorial borders and communities have social borders. This week, I bring to your attention two statements regarding borders — one of territory and the other of communities. The first is by National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, who calls for hard borders; and the second is Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah calling for more inter-caste marriages, and the story of his college romance that collapsed against the caste wall.

Mr. Doval has said undefined borders impact the progress and security of the country. “Borders are important because that is the limit which defines our sovereignty. Up to the last point where our border soldier is able to go and put his foot down, that is the limit of our sovereignty…. We got to see whether the border on northern or western side, they not only determine the limits of our sovereignty, not only important for our territorial integrity, they also have an impact on our internal security and stability,” the NSA said. 

He went on to add that people move across porous borders, and create undesirable political and social situations.

Mr. Siddaramaiah was in love with a girl from another caste while in college. They could not marry. This week, he inaugurated a website that facilitates inter-caste marriages. He said more inter-caste marriages should be encouraged so that caste inequalities are removed from society, offering his government’s complete support and cooperation for such marriages. 

Physical borders and social borders are both tools of control and exercise of power. Societal resistance to inter-community marriages continues even today, and even state measures often appear to support such restrictions. New laws in recent years have raised the barrier for inter-community couples. Talking of marriages, the Supreme Court recently examined yet again whether a Hindu marriage can be considered complete without the saptapadi. You can read about it here: (Clearing the confusion over ‘saptapadi’)

Mr. Doval echoes a government approach of tightening the control over India’s borders and making movement of people difficult across them. India has recently stopped the FMR (Free Movement Regime), which allowed any member of a hill tribe, who is a citizen of either India or Myanmar, and resides within 16 km of the border on either side, to cross on the production of a border pass, usually valid for a year, and stay up to two weeks per visit.

Talking of borders, scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s interaction with a Dalit student at JNU triggered a controversy that continues to rage. Ms. Spivak repeatedly corrected the student’s pronunciation, and refused to answer his question. She continues to defend herself over the incident , and she has many supporters. Many others have pointed out that ‘correcting’ pronunciation is a way of gatekeeping by the intellectual elites.

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