Kerala may have a high rate of literacy but that does not seem to reflect in its level of religious tolerance. An interfaith couple living in Kozhikode has been receiving threats from religious radicals because they chose to prioritize love over religion. A 24-year-old engineer, Gautam, and a 21-year-old dentist, Anshida, both of whom prefer not to use their last names, have been threatened several times since they decided to tie the knot a month ago. Reportedly, the couple cannot step out of their house and they continue to live in constant fear.
The couple recently decided to seek protection from the state’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, so Gautam can resume work and Anshida can go back to college. The two decided to elope after Anshida’s parents objected to her affair with Gautam and insisted that she get married within her own community. The couple sought police protection on the day of their marriage and they continue to have police personnel stationed outside their home, but the death threats do not cease to stop.
Reportedly, they have received innumerable messages on social media that call their marriage blasphemous and been witness to goons driving past their home, shouting slogans of hate and pelting stones at their windows.
“India is a secular nation. I chose not to follow a religion. She is a practicing Muslim even now. I bought her a Quran,” said Gautam. “I don't know what these people are doing by bringing religion in this or blaming us as part of a religion.”
Local Circle Inspector Joshi Jose said he has provided the couple with protection so they can live a peaceful life. He claimed there was no information on who was making the death threats.
Since Gautam has not been able to work for a significant period, his parents have stepped up to support the newlywed couple.
“It is very worrying to see what those against this marriage are resorting to. These two had to hide their relationship for nine months,” said Gautam's father Sudhakaran. “Now, my first aim is to help Anshida start her studies again. I need everyone's help.”
Anshida fears going back to college as news about her marriage has infuriated members of her own community, who continue to speak ill of her at the institution. She has been studying on her own at home, hoping she knows enough to clear her second year examination.
Earlier this year, Kerala’ Catholic Church started a process to monitor inter-faith marriages, saying they were concerned about the steep decline in their own population. Trichur Diocese of Syro Malabar Church went on to set up a team under the supervision of Mar Raphel Thattil. The team’s aim was to help prevent faithful members of the church from marrying people of other religions. Apparently, the move was initiated after a survey revealed there was a steady rise in the number of interfaith marriages in the diocese. Reportedly, 200 people on an average were getting married to spouses of a different faith and subsequently cutting off all ties with the church. The church has tried to intervene by encouraging Syrian Christian couples to have more children, as the same study suggested the current trend could lead the community towards a zero or even negative population growth rate. As of now, the birth rate within the community is lower than its replacement rate, as it stands at an all time low of 1.7 children per couple. Thus, several parishes are now offering reservations in educational institutions as well as cash incentives to couples who decide to have more children.
Photo Credits: Global Indonesian Voices