Of all the cruelties that we as human beings can visit on one another, one of the most cruel is to say:
“You shall not love or make love with the person you love, not because of excessive youth or because of unwillingness, but because he or she comes from a different religion, a different caste, the same village, the same gender.
You may say you love each other, that you are happy with each other, that you give each other solace and courage and delight, but your love disgusts me. It runs counter to custom, it is an offence in law, it is against the order of nature, it brings dishonour to our family, it will dilute our blood, it will bring about kali-yuga, it will corrupt everyone around you, it is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. It must be forbidden.
You may say you love each other, but I do not care. No, I cannot turn away and simply let you live your life in peace and happiness. I must do something about it. I will indeed do something about it. No, you have not harmed me, but I will harm you. I will disown you, I will treat you with contempt, I will make you an outcaste or a criminal, I will lock you up. I will break your legs, I will fling acid in your face, I will hang you from a crane, I will stone you to death.
If the mob helps me, so much the better. If the law helps me, so much the better. If I can wrap myself in a flag, so much the better. If I can drape religion around myself, so much the better. But by one means or another, I will tear the two of you apart. It is fit and proper that I should do this.
I will do this because my Clan tells me to, my Panchayat tells me to, this Book tells me to, this Section of this Act tells me to, Civilisation itself tells me to, God himself tells me to.
No appeal to reason will touch me. No appeal to humanity will touch me. No appeal to Indian history or modern science will touch me. My brain is a science-free zone. My brain is a history-free zone. My brain is a fact-free zone.
This, at its core, is a simple matter. My love is right. Your love is wrong.”
What can one say to people who think this way? How can one understand their frame of mind-people who, not content with living their own lives, seek to destroy the life, the liberty, the happiness of others?
One bludgeons his daughter to death because she loves a boy from the same village. Another seeks to blackmail or send to prison two men because they love each other. Another forcibly separates a woman from her girlfriend and rapes her to teach her the right kind of sex.
Another hangs his son because he falls in love with a woman from a different caste. Another pours acid on his sister’s face because she falls in love outside her religion.
The mindset is the same. All believe they are doing good, which is what gives them licence to do evil. What is in their heart is neither humanity, nor the love which, we are told, lies at the root of true religion.
The poison comes not from within but from without: from the plausible priest, the blustering baba, the menacing mullah, the members of the khap panchayat, the political party that whips up the mob in the search for votes, the enforcers and justifiers of unjust laws.
We live on a small planet of an unimportant star. Life is not easy for anyone here. Loss and fear, failure and disappointment, pain and ill-health, doubt and death-even those who have escaped from poverty have no escape from these.
What makes life bearable is love – to love, to be loved, and even after death or parting – to know that you have loved and been loved.
To not be able to love the one you love is to have your life wrenched away. To do this to someone else is to murder their soul.
No one who thinks about this-free from extraneous voices in their head-would ever, if they are human, dream of being so cruel.