ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi and Hindu-Muslim Marriages

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I thank L N Mittal for his letter    ‘Gandhi and Hindu-Muslim    Marriages’ (December 11, 1999). For my statement on Gandhiji’s view, which Mittal questions, I had relied on Sugata Bose, ‘Nation, Reason and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective’ (EPW, August 1, 1998), which was duly referenced in my article. To repeat, Bose writes: “And he [Gandhi] gave the meaning of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood an inimitable Gandhian twist in his opposition to inter-marriage”. To substantiate the point Bose quotes Gandhi as follows: “If brothers and sisters can live on the friendliest footing without ever thinking of marrying each other, I can see no difficulty in my daughter regarding every Mohamedan [a] brother and vice versa” (Young India, February 25, 1920). Now, a brother-sister marriage is a case of incest, isn’t it?

Mittal cites a letter of May 24, 1932, where the Mahatma says: “I would not oppose it [Hindu-Muslim marriage]... if the [Hindu] girl can follow her religion and the Muslim youth his”. However, this condition is, everyone knows, self-contradictory, for nobody can meet it in the prevailing situation. Gandhiji was a firm believer in the Hindu varna system which is after all a social institution. Now, should a brahmin girl marry a Muslim youth, can the girl any longer “follow her religion”? Will the Hindu varna codes ever accept her again as a brahmin or even as a shudra Hindu, and let her ‘follow her religion’? The answer is obvious, and the implication transparent. Everyone knows it. There is nothing more difficult than to find a subtler oxymoron than this one in the entire Gandhian literature.

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