October 7, 2015, 10:11 am


Dr.Athiqul H. Laskar

Hindus and Muslims can be neighbors and live happily for years together.  However if a boy from the Muslim family wants to marry a girl from the neighboring Hindu family, all hell breaks loose and swords are drawn out.  Many Indians still follow the age-old practice of matching horoscopes of the prospective bride and the groom before finalizing the marriage.  This superstitious belief shockingly gives more importance to a piece of paper based on the birth time and place of an individual rather than on his character and capabilities.  Well-educated people from well-to-do families resort to such mindless traditions in their personal lives.  Consider the example of Ritu, a teacher at a private B.ed college who allegedly hanged herself when her marriage with Siddharth Sarpal (son of Pradeep kumar Sarpal-Inspector General of Police-law and order) was opposed by the IG on the grounds that their horoscopes did not match.  The girl and the boy had known each other for many years and had studied together. (Times of India -Sourced from PTI, 2010).  Apparently disillusioned with love, the girl took such an extreme step. Instances like these make us think as to what difference has education made in the lives of such people?

If we skim through matrimonial ads of newspapers we’ll find that there are separate sections for each religion, caste and sub-caste.  The government of India has reservations in place everywhere for the scheduled castes, tribes and the backward communities.  However, the rich from the scheduled castes take advantage of such schemes and become richer.  The student from the open category with 80 % might not get even a paid admission in a medical college but a scheduled caste student with a 50% score, will get a paid seat with very little effort, only on the basis of his caste.  Economically these students might have got the same advantages; same school and coaching classes, the same educational material etc.  Such reverse discrimination works against merit, is very harmful to the psyche of the youth and might fill them with alienation and angst towards the government.  Reservations should be meant only for the economically backward.  Caste becomes a major hindrance when it comes to marriages.  Even today, arranged marriage is a social norm and any tendency to deviate from this norm is dealt with severely by many families.  Even in supposedly modern, urban areas, parents try to dissuade children from marrying outside their caste.  We often hear newspaper reports of honor killing by family members where the girl and the boy are killed by their own relatives for marrying outside their caste.  The freedom to choose one’s life partner is almost nil in India and is restricted only to an educated few.  The Asha Saini case, one of the most recent examples of so-called honour killing, happened in Delhi, the capital of India and not in some remote village.  Asha’s father Suraj Kumar Saini and her uncle Om Prakash, who allegedly killed Asha and her boyfriend, have no regrets.  Yogesh was a cab driver and belonged to a different caste (Anand, 2010).  A 23 yr old journalist, Nirupama Pathak, who was a Brahmin by caste, was allegedly killed by her mother for wanting to marry a colleague from a different caste (Kayastha). (, 2010)  The concept of ‘Gotra’ in Hindus is an ancient one.  It means that people belonging to the same ‘Gotra’ or sub-caste are from the same ancestral lineage and should not marry amongst each other as they are equal to siblings.  However, with population growth and mingling of different ‘Gotras’ over time this concept is rendered utterly meaningless.  Recently, the Khap Panchayats or the local village caste panchayats consisting of a few judges who are not even properly educated created a furore by asking the High court to put a ban on same gotra marriages.  The High Court took a progressive step by dismissing this petition.  Even the Supreme Court dismissed a PIL regarding the same. Politicians fear that opposing such Khap Panchayats could result in a loss of their vote-banks and hence do not take a stance.  The Haryana CM Mr. Bhupinder Singh Hooda even went ahead and supported the Khap Panchayats as legitimate informal organizations comparing them with NGOs.  The youth in India have very little to expect from such superstitious organizations that are hell-bent on establishing their terror and such policy-makers who can think about nothing but their power and pelf.

Dowry is a social menace.  According to an article in Time magazine, deaths in India related to dowry demands have increased 15-fold since the mid-1980s from 400 a year to around 5,800 a year by the middle of the 1990s. (Hitchcock, 2001).  In India, for example, more than 5,000 brides die annually because their dowries are considered insufficient, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A newly-wed bride is viewed as a means to enrich the family.  The bride’s family is harassed to pay up or witness their daughter being harassed.  Even well-educated men and their families demand hefty dowries.  In fact the more educated the boy is, the more precious he is in the marriage market.  The root of this issue lies in the mentality that views women as commodities.  This is why so many girl children are killed every year.  They view girls as burdens who will take away their earnings in the form of dowry.  Thus, many women in India face discrimination before marriage and harassment after marriage.  When well-educated high-class people are involved in dowry cases they normally have the capacity to bribe the police and get away with it.  The police usually turn a blind eye to cases of dowry death, citing lack of evidence, especially when politicians or bureaucrats are involved.  Youth has an important role in putting an end to this menace.  Recently, Rani, a bride-to be, performed a sting operation on a prospective groom’s family demanding dowry and released their videos in the media.  The police arrested Nikhilesh Pathak, the groom and his father for perpetuating this crime.  Rani’s family has since then been inundated with calls for marriage proposals by men who admired her courage.  So all hope is not lost.  However Nikhilesh Pathak who is out on bail is shameless enough to threaten legal action against Rani and her family (, 2010).  Many among today’s youth are responsible and sensible enough to support the courage of women like Rani.  However, a few like Mr. Pathak, still sell themselves.  The Indian youth both men and women today need to take a sensible stance against dowry.  Any amount of legislation cannot remedy a social evil that is deeply entrenched in the mindset of the society.  Rani was lucky to have been educated enough to understand that technology can help her.  Her courage was born out of her education.  A majority of women however steer clear of such courageous deeds due to fear of social ostracism.

Education, if not the solution is at least a key to a solution.  The young as well as the elders need to understand that human relationships are far more important than caste-marks and love is the last and only hope for mankind. (


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