India’s urban elite not likely to marry outside their religion
has been in the news lately for the wrong reasons. Rizwanur Rehman, a Muslim youth who married a Hindu girl is believed to have been murdered. However, his death was declared a suicide. His wife’s father Ashok Todi along with the Kolkata Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee are suspected of being connected to the “suicide.”
Update: 12/03/08 – The CBI inquiry has confirmed the ‘suicide.’ Even if its a suicide, no doubt he was driven to suicide by the Todis.
In Indian society, inter-religious marriages raise a storm, although this case went too far. Most likely because Todi is a rich man. Only when two people from modern and financially equal families marry do the tensions created by such alliances have a hope of working out. Not otherwise.
Not very long ago, in a small town in , a radical political party actually called a bandh (strike) to protest such a marriage. For some strange reason, political parties and the police get involved in such cases, as if it’s a crime for two consenting adults to marry!
It’s in the context of this that I am presenting a tiny survey of a bunch of upper class people, the majority of them college students from an elite college, and their views on inter-religious marriage. Their answers surprised me because I had assumed that the respondents, some of them barely 20, and also from well-off families, would be fairly open to marrying someone from another religion. Ofcourse, this was a theoretical question, none of the respondents were actually in love with anyone from another religion.
I did not do this survey myself. A 20 year old psychology student did. She offered me her questionnaires (not her analysis) about a month ago and since then I have been thinking of writing about it. There were a whole range of questions asked, but I have summarized the responses to only a few. In all there were only 45 respondents.*
(Due to the small sample size, coming to any sort firm conclusion on the basis of this survey would be erroneous. )
The majority of youngsters said they were not religious Only 44 percent (16 out of 36) if twenty year olds termed themselves as religious or above average religious and the rest said that they were not at all or not really religious. In fact quite a few said they were non-believers/atheists.
About half of the older people said they were religious5 out of 9 adults over the age of 40 said they were religious. Only one person claimed to be a non-believer.
Muslims are the most devout
The sample size was very small…but well, out of 11 Muslims, 9 said they were religious, which is 80 percent.However, only 9 out of the 25 Hindus, about 36 percent, termed themselves as religious or above average religious.And only 1 Parsi out of 4 Parsi respondents said they were religious and only 1 Jain out of the 4 Jain respondents said so.
Not too high a gender difference
12 out of 22 males said they were religious and 9 out of 23 girls said so.
Most youngsters were not willing to consider marrying outside their religion and also said that their parents would never agree to an inter-religious marriage.
I was surprised to find that only 44 percent, that is 16 young people out of the total of 36 said they would ever consider marrying someone from another religion.And about 66 percent said that their parents would never agree to the match (26 out of 36).About half of those who said that they would consider marrying outside their religion, said that their parents would not object. The other half then were willing to battle it out!!
More boys willing to take the plunge outside their religion than girls
Interestingly, 68 percent of the guys (15 out of 22) were willing to marry girls who were not of their religion, but only 47 percent (11 out of 23) of the girls said they would.This could be because in the patriarchal society that we live in, women realise that they might have to adjust far more than the men, even if they are not asked to convert. In fact most youngsters who were willing to marry out said that they would not insist on their partner converting…but ofcourse one has to keep in mind that none of them were actually involved in a inter-religious relationship. This is what they said they would do if ever in a such a situation.
More Hindus agreeable to marry outside their religion
56 percent of the Hindus (14 out of 25) said they would consider marrying someone of another religion, but 44 percent (11 out of 25) said that their families would never consent.Only 18 percent of Muslims (2 out of 11) said they would consider marrying someone outside their religion, and the two who said they would were quite sure that they would never ask their partner to convert.
Surprisingly, only 1 out of four Parsis and only 1 out of four Jains said they would ever consider marrying outside their religion, this inspite of their not being very religious. I mean, on the face of it, it’s natural if a religious person is reluctant to marry outside his/her religion, but in India community also seems to play a major role.
Although the sample size is very small, I think that for Parsis and Jains the feeling of community is very strong. This is from my personal observations of Indian society. In any case, all the Jains said that their parents would never consent, and only 1 out of the four Parsis said that parents would consent.
Well, so that was a brief summary of the findings. It’s significant because these people are the well-to-do educated elite, many of whom live in South Mumbai. But the majority of them are wary of an inter-religious marriage…barely 20-21, but they already feel uncomfortable with the idea! Is this indoctrination? Is it the fear of being unhappy? And in fact were those youngsters who said they would consider marrying outside their religion, simply being politically correct, and would never do so in actuality? Your guess is as good as mine.
*Note:-Total number of respondents:45.
23 F and 22 M.
25 Hindus, 11 Muslims, 4 Parsis, 5 Jains.
36 students and 9 above the age of 40