When Anarkali defiantly sang jab pyar kiya toh darna kya, challenging the imperious Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam, she stood up for a cliché, now forgotten — that love is essentially, gloriously, a subversive act, against hierarchies and the stodgy order of things. Among others, Romeo and Juliet, Heer and Ranjha, die heartbroken, and the feuding families of Verona and the conservative ethos of Kaido have been villainised for posterity as a result. J. Nanda Kumar, RSS national executive member and national convenor of the Prajna Pravah, misses the point altogether when he says that “love is pavitra (pure, pious)” and “should not be used to divide society”.
Kumar endorsed love as a social adhesive while launching Ek Mukhauta Aisa Bhi (A Mask Like this), a book with 15 stories on “love jihad” on Wednesday at the World Book Fair in Delhi. He is not, of course, the first public figure from the Hindutva camp to express discomfort over the possibilities of romance. The Uttar Pradesh police, fulfilling the campaign promise of the BJP, has created anti-Romeo Squads. The spectre of “love jihad” put Hadiya centre-stage, with some insisting that she remain Akhila. “Honour killings”, an aversion to inter-caste unions, are ongoing symptoms of the same malaise.
For the romantically inclined, the real question is the one Anarkali had asked: Pyar kiya koi chori nahi ki, chup chup aahein bharna kya. What she didn’t understand, though, is that pyar is indeed akin to chori for many. Unions are meant to propagate a static, insular society. A transcendent passion, beyond the arbitrary lines drawn by self-appointed guardians of social morality, steals from a patriarchal society the foundations of its control. Love, the likes of Kumar cannot comprehend, fills the space between individuals. It is not meant to fulfil the ideological goals of any camp.