Is Tina Dabi And Athar Khan’s Divorce Baselessly Being Given A ‘Love Jihad’ Angle?
IAS officers Tina Dabi and Athar Khan, who tied the knot in 2018, have now filed for divorce in Rajasthan. Read our news report here. The couple, on account of having had an interfaith marriage, has now come under renewed public glare over their union that was already termed an instance of “love jihad.” On social media, the chatter has donned a ‘told you so’ attitude, offering up Dabi and Khan’s divorce as a reinforcing example of how Hindu-Muslim unions are essentially incompatible. And despite news reports suggesting that the divorce has been filed with mutual consent, social media has already given its verdict by holding Khan guilty.
Talk around “love jihad,” much of it salacious and tilted, has resurged recently, what with five BJP-ruled states considering a punishable law against it. These decisions have come following “love jihad” crimes against Hindu women, in Ballabgarh, Haryana for instance, allegedly on grounds of religious conversion. But does the topicality of the issue warrant sweeping estimations of all interfaith divorces that are happening right now? How is anyone conjecturing that Khan and Dabi’s separation is due to their differing religions? Why is it being given a communal angle when the couple itself hasn’t yet professed anything of the sort?
Why Does Talk Of Divorce Unsettle Indian Society?
Dabi and Khan were both toppers of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination held in 2015, with Dabi having secured first rank and Khan second. Theirs was a momentous union surrounded by loud chatter in the media since Dabi, a Dalit woman, was marrying a Muslim man. Which counts for double jeopardy in India. Even then, many had opposed their marriage, most notably the Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing outfit that had notoriously demanded for Khan to convert to Hinduism in order to marry Dabi. Now, following news of their divorce, these concerns have found new ground to play on. And why is the victim treatment being meted out to Dabi, that she is a woman wronged by a man? As a woman who needs to be “saved” by warriors of her religion who otherwise hold strong casteist views? Why is the agency of marriage and divorce being snatched out of her hands? Or that of Khan?
What’s perhaps even more problematic is that this reaction to Dabi and Khan’s divorce reveals how India is still as myopic as it has always been when it comes to divorces. Our society is still uncomfortable to address that there may be issues in compatibility or partnership between two individuals. Or that there is a possibility that the spark of love can die out one day. No, it is far more assuring to pin the blame on an external problem, the common enemy of religion. Because to look deeper into the problem would mean looking deeper into our own faults.
The Message In Dabi And Khan’s Divorce
India is infamously known as the land of long marriages, as a country with one of the lowest rates of divorce. Where the “global divorce rate has increased upto 251.8 percent since 1960,” India still prides itself on a divorce rate of less than one percent. Here out of 1000 marriages, only 13 result in divorce. But is that indicative of a positive culture or a toxic one that has stigmatised the concept of divorce so much that couples find it compelling to stay in unhealthy marriages? And now that young couples like Dabi and Khan are trying to break this pattern by mutually choosing to go their separate ways, should baseless aspersions be cast on them? For every naysayer who cites Dabi and Khan’s divorce as tangible evidence of “love jihad,” I can pull up double the number of successful interfaith marriages. Read about some of them here.
Dabi and Khan’s marriage in 2018 was a touchstone of progressiveness since it simultaneously shattered barriers of the caste hierarchy as well as religion. And now, in 2020, even their divorce holds significance by communicating to couples young and old that it’s okay if a relationship doesn’t work out. Such instances help in dispelling the taboo around divorce in India. So if we want to pick up anything from their divorce, it must be this, not speculation.
Views expressed are the author’s own.