Wedding bliss triumphs over vile comments

The couple turned comments off, had to turn comments off on all their wedding-related Instagram posts, but that didn’t stop the rightwing troll legion from descending on their older posts.
Zaheer Iqbal and Sonakshi Sinha during their wedding
Zaheer Iqbal and Sonakshi Sinha during their wedding

Actors Sonakshi Sinha and Zaheer Iqbal tied the knot recently, and an event that should simply have been one for the entertainment pages and platforms also became one that was being discussed by everyone from feminists to fascists. Theirs is an interfaith union — far from the first in their industry, the nation or indeed the history of the world. This fact alone has been enough to make their decision to marry controversial, a conversation topic and — in a sad indication of the state of things even courageous.

The couple turned comments off — had to turn comments off — on all their wedding-related Instagram posts, but that didn’t stop the rightwing troll legion from descending on their older posts.

An extremely brief look at the kinds of things that these trolls have been posting in response to their wedding is enough to see why this was necessary.

At the mild end of the spectrum are declarations of unfollowing (Sinha is clearly the recipient of these), with more disturbing statements being lobbed at Iqbal (such as sarcastic ones about fridges, which is a reference to two extremely media-hyped cases dating from 2022 and 2023 in which Muslim men murdered their Hindu partners and hid their body parts in refrigerators). I didn’t explore the comments for more than a few seconds. It has been reported that the couple have also received death threats.

For weeks prior, rumours had circulated that Sinha’s father and brothers were unhappy with her decision to marry her long-term boyfriend. This was not just standard Bollywood gossip, but carried insinuations related directly to religion. There was a deliberate attempt to draw two people’s and two families’ personal choices into an ongoing narrativisation that is both misogynistic and Islamophobic. The vile term ‘love jihad’, which is used against partnerships involving a Muslim man and a woman of another religion (usually Hindu) was obviously invoked.

Sinha and Iqbal dated for seven years prior to getting married, and have done so under the Special Marriage Act. Neither of them has chosen to go through religious conversions — thus affirming publicly that contrary to popular misinformation, conversions are not mandatory in interfaith marriages. They have shared a very understated video of their registration ceremony, held in her home, and this is also unusual.

Traditional rituals are almost invariably given centre-stage both in celebrity and non-celebrity wedding portrayals, and the privileging and the celebrating of the law above those is interesting and commendable. The couple is clearly aware of how an interfaith marriage in India today is increasingly unlike just any other marriage, and chose to showcase their joy over their wedding in a way that proffers a nod to this reality.

That reality is a very bleak one: one which contains everything from heartbreak to homicide, and with political pressure for legislation that makes such unions difficult. This wedding and its loveliness — which is not a comment on its aesthetics, but by which I mean that it’s a match made out of love, across denominational lines, and both of these are too rare, and indeed imperiled — are notable because of it, and in spite of it.

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The New Indian Express