Rahul Gandhi fanboy Saket Gokhale on Wednesday made a rather intriguing comment on ‘freedom of choice’. He said that there was nothing inherently bigoted about a Muslim woman refusing to date anyone other than a Muslim. Truth be told, he is absolutely correct in this regard.
It is everyone’s right to choose who they date and attributing bigotry to a person’s personal dating preferences and choice of a romantic partner is morally reprehensible. The twisted nature of his argument comes to the surface later.
An individual responded to his tweet saying that the claim of the Muslim woman in question is bigoted for the same reason that it would be considered bigotry for a Brahmin to refuse to marry outside their caste.
The sensible response on Gokhale’s part here would have been to argue that there is nothing bigoted about a Brahmin desiring to marry within their own caste, just as there is nothing bigoted for a Muslim to want to marry or date within one’s religion.
But that’s not the course of action Gokhale decided to pursue. According to Saket Gokhale, it appears that while it is perfectly acceptable for Muslims to marry within their own religion, it is ‘toxic Brahminism’ if Brahmin individuals want to marry within their caste. Indeed, he takes great offense that Richa Singh compares ‘toxic Brahminism’ to Islam.
Instead of admitting that both instances revolved around the freedom of choice of individuals and there was no bigotry in either of the two hypothetical situations, Gokhale doubled down on his rhetoric and said that Brahminism is akin to oppression.
It is quite bizarre that according to Saket Gokhale here, while Muslims should have the freedom to choose their own life partners, the same should not be accorded to Brahmins who he believes are bigoted if their choice of romantic partners differs from what liberal orthodoxy mandates.
Freedom of Choice: Romantic relationships
Of course, there is nothing bigoted about an individual having a preference for a romantic partner from their own community. It does not matter if the person in question is Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Jain. People from the same community are likely to share similar values and other cultural markers which, in general, is likely to make them more compatible.
Since marriage in India is perceived to be a union of families rather than a union of only individuals, people are likely to look for partners within their own communities as compatibility between the two families is often a determining factor in the marriage.
Thus, a sensible person looking for marriage usually takes into account all these factors before pursuing a romantic relationship. Attributing bigotry in such cases is just nonsensical. If that were the metric to go by, then the overwhelming majority of Indians from all religions, castes and creed will be declared bigoted because every survey indicates that people want to form marital relationships within their own community.
What is problematic, however, is the issue of honour killings. There have been numerous instances where women have been murdered for marrying outside the community. In many instances, the bride and groom have both been murdered due to opposition from one of the two families.
Only in June, a Dalit man and his Muslim girlfriend were murdered by the woman’s family in Karnataka’s Vijayapura district because they did not approve of the relationship. There are multiple other instances where Muslim families indulged in honour killing because they did not approve of their daughter’s relationship.
In many cases, only the boy was killed by the family of the Muslim girl for interfaith relationship. Thus, the only problematic aspect of choice in romantic relationships is where such violence occurs, not the choice itself, whatever it may be.
‘Love Jihad’ or Grooming Jihad has nothing to do with freedom of choice
Like a pure Rahul Gandhi fanboy, Saket Gokhale conveniently trivializes the crime of Grooming Jihad. The phenomenon is not concerned with ‘freedom of choice’ at all. In such cases, a Muslim man often lures a woman of another faith using a false identity and after establishing a relationship, threatens blackmail and pressurizes the woman to convert to Islam.
In other instances, while the man initially assures the woman that she would not have to convert to Islam after marriage, he soon changes tune and resorts to torture and harassment to force the matter. It is such cases against which numerous states have formulated laws.
In a recent case, Abdul Wahab posed as Deshraj Gautam to lure a Hindu woman and after establishing a relationship, forced her to convert to Islam and marry him by blackmailing her through objectionable videos. Where is the freedom of choice in this case?
In another case in Gujarat, Samir Qureshi posed as Sam Martin to lure a Dalit woman into a relationship and after capturing intimate photographs, used them to force her to convert to Islam and marry him. Saket Gokhale believes these are matters on personal choice but no sensible person would buy that argument.
What is freedom of choice and what isn’t
A person choosing not to rent his apartment to people from a particular faith or on the basis of dietary preferences is his personal freedom of choice. After all, it is his apartment and he should be at complete liberty to do with it as he pleases. Similarly, a person choosing to marry within his or her own community is their personal choice. Such freedom of choice should be available to everyone regardless of the community they hail from.
At the same time, honour killing and Grooming Jihad is not ‘freedom of choice’ as it involves several morally reprehensible criminal actions.
But that is not what Saket Gokhale believes. According to him, such choices should be available to Muslims but if Brahmins exercise the same choice, then it is ‘toxic Brahminism’. It is only symbolic of the Congress brand of ‘secularism’ that threatens to tear the country apart.
The only solution to this is Hindus being unapologetic about the choices they make. The day that Hindus allow liberals to dictate their choice of life partners or who they rent their apartment to is the day when the country will move beyond the realms of hope.
Nonetheless, the argument put forth by Gokhale about ‘freedom of choice’ is indeed one that Hindus should use in order to fortify their culture and practices and for self-preservation.