Stop! Or my lover will shoot

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Friendly commandos to save them. Angry Senas to hunt them down. Attacks, feints, defences, protests. When did love become such a heated battleground, asks Gaurav Jain

LOVE IS a political fall. Ask Abhijeet Panse, who is enthusiastic about both. The president of the Shiv Sena’s student wing told TEHELKA that the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena is not against lovers, it just hounds them in public because “there is an extremely thin line between love and vulgarity”.

So. When discussing the cultural battles today, we should be clear that across the country what is being attacked is not love, but the aesthetics of love. As long as lovers stay within marked boundaries, their communities have no problem with them. Love that behaves itself is decent, love that doesn’t follow orders is indecent. Panse may not be too much off the mark when he complains that “it’s unnatural for [lovers] to be behaving in this way”, for love makes the best of us act wised up.

It’s almost as if the bureaucratic aesthetic of love’s crusaders are being deployed to make love respectable
It’s almost as if the bureaucratic aesthetic of love’s crusaders are being deployed to make love respectable

From the Shiv Sena and Sri Ram Sene’s attacks on young people to love jihad insinuations to professional ‘objectors’ against Hindu-Muslim marriages stationed by right-wing parties at courts, the battle to tame Indian love has become more public in the past few years, more so since it makes such good media copy. Now, there is a growing number of quieter crusaders willing to fight back for love. Observe the plain aesthetics of such efforts: the Love Commandos helpline in Delhi, the Lovers’ Organisation for Voluntary Exhibition (LOVE) in Kolkata or the Mixed Weddings Forum (Misra Vivaha Vedi) in Kerala are self-explanatory enough. It’s almost as if such bureaucratic conceptions are being deliberately deployed to make love respectable.

But the battle hasn’t leached the culture of all energy. Thank goodness for something like the Uttarajya Navnirman Sena (UNS) that doesn’t mind being refreshingly raffish. The UNS is a political outfit that organises solidarity events for people threatened with expulsion from their communities — for the sin of coupling across boundaries like caste and religion. At the UNS’ ‘lover’s party’ in Dehradun earlier this month, there was much riotous dancing. “You just cannot pick a couple from the street and kill them,” says UNS President Amit Jani. Apart from such celebrations, the UNS is also building a Delhi control room that will offer helpline services to couples in danger.

FOR MOST lovers though, the most hectic moments are the private ones — often in their own heads. One way or another, once the crowds melt, the lovers are left to grapple with what to do with love’s sourest gift — choice. The stories profiled in this issue are only precursors to the deeper love stories of what each couple is doing with their independence.

Lovers are the selectest constituency in the world since their involuntary love gives them limitless freedom. Outfits like the Sri Ram Sene are not trying to be cute. They are tapping into the middle class’ anxiety about love’s destabilising nature. This is the keenest political emotion shared by all of love’s enemies — the Khaps, religious heads, politicians, parents. What beats in all their thudd’ring hearts is Fear.

Illustration: Samia Singh

gaurav.jain@tehelka.com

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