“India Love Project” documents forbidden love in times of ‘Love Jihad’

"They’re dumbfounded, almost disappointed that our love would have to be called love, and not love jihad," Tanvir wrote.

Early in October, an advertisement by Tanishq, which showed a Muslim mother-in-law organizing a baby shower ceremony for her Hindu daughter-in-law came under an onslaught online. Netizens accused the Tata-owned jeweler brand of promoting ‘Love Jihad’—a derogatory term coined by rightwing outfits opposing inter-faith marriages.

The backlash was so harsh that the brand issued an apology for hurting sentiments and withdrew the advertisement, keeping the safety of its staff in mind.

Against this backdrop, journalists Priya Ramani, Samar Halarnkar and Niloufer Venkatraman brought ‘India Love Project’—an Instagram page that features personal stories of Indian couples who got married against all odds. Their display picture is a still from the same Tanishq advertisement that received backlash in October, making the connection fairly obvious.

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India Love Project is a page that seeks to highlight “Love and marriage outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity, and gender” as per its bio.

Among different stories is that of Vineetha Sharma and Tanvir Aeijaz. Tanvir wrote: “Our Hindu-Muslim marriage can be a role model of secularism seems to belie people’s expectations. They’re dumbfounded, almost disappointed that our love would have to be called love, and not love jihad.”

The page has quickly gained several thousands of followers. Each of the posts on the page features a different interfaith couple, telling their story of all the years they have been together and all the obstacles they overcame. People on social media have been appreciative of the content, taking it as a tonic to the increasingly toxic, intolerant attitude toward interfaith marriages in mainstream discourse.

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Apart from drawing a storm of appreciation, India Love Project also managed to pool endless first-person accounts of inter-community marriages and relationships.

At the juncture where leaders in several states have been harping on about the dangers of ‘Love Jihad’ and promising to implement laws to stop it, India Love Project seems like a breath of fresh air that brings wholesome stories to counter blatantly false narratives.

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