The struggles and sacrifices of our soldiers unfortunately are generally not well-appreciated. A soldier is regarded as an employee in the Public Works Department. In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to our jawans smartly attired in a soldier’s uniform and distributing sweets to them in Gurez was heartening. So also was his statement that he regarded soldiers as his extended family. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, too, visited and cheered our soldiers in the Andaman Islands.
Our jawans are far removed from their family and cannot enjoy Diwali like others. But answering the call of duty, they provide us security so essential when our country is surrounded by unfriendly neighbours. They need to be assured that the nation respects and admires its brave jawans.
Cruel Religious Traditions While millions across India celebrated Diwali with their families, many women at some villages in Karnataka were prevented from doing so. Pray, what is their crime? The natural phenomenon of menstruation, which is considered impure. In these villages, every year women who menstruate during Diwali are forced to leave homes for several days as part of a dubious tradition. It is considered that bleeding women are unclean and unfit to participate in the holy rituals. Even the vehicles used to transport the women out of the village are washed before they are allowed to return to the village. This is the height of absurdity.
There is opposition to these traditions, but change is very gradual. No young woman observes these rules out of devotion, but does so out of fear. State Revenue Minister Kagodu Thimmappa stated that “We need to come out of the grip of superstitions and to this end our government is going to table a bill.” He rightly added that the only long-term solution for overcoming superstitious beliefs is education. True, but immediate measures must be taken to stop this cruel and discriminatory practice, which also sullies our country’s image.
Uttar Pradesh’s influential Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, has issued a fatwa asking Muslims not to post their pictures on social media. A few days before this, a fatwa was issued asking Muslim women not to trim their hair or pluck eyebrows. Surprisingly, several religious scholars within the seminary and elsewhere are said to have hailed the move. The justification offered for the fatwa is that “social media is being used to destroy traditions. Anyone can speak or showcase anything on phone. This is wrong. Photography is not allowed in Islam.”
One wonders whether there were cameras and photographs at the dawn of Islam. If the justification offered is sound then one tends to agree that religion can be the opium of the people.
Landmark Kerala HC Judgment
A division bench of the Kerala High Court, comprising Justices V Chitambaresh and Satish Ninan, in its recent judgment severely criticised the campaign by various religious groups against what they describe as ‘love jihad’. The bench observed that “every case of inter-religious marriage shall not be portrayed on a religious canvas and create fissures in the communal harmony otherwise existing in God’s own country, Kerala”.
The bench was appalled to notice the recent trend in the state to sensationalise every case of inter-religious marriage as either ‘love jihad’ or ‘ghar wapsi’ even if there was platonic love between the spouses. The bench made the following significant observations: “This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he or she likes.
If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter. But they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence, and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage”.
Quoting American civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou, the bench picturesquely noted that “love recognises no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope”.
Is it too much to hope that the Kerala government accepts the enlightened High Court judgment and does not approach the Supreme Court. Wisdom can dawn albeit belatedly.