2023 HONOURABLE MENTION
India Love Project | India
India Love Project’s Story
In a few hundred words, Aamir Fahim tells a sweeping love story. He describes the heady days of getting to know his now-wife, Arsheen Kaur, in a university classroom: “Our friendship became so interesting that the sun would set faster every day. Every night seemed like a week.” He writes about the difficulties they faced as an interfaith couple from Sikh and Muslim families: “In the eyes of the world, loving each other was a crime.” He says they spent months convincing family and friends to support their relationship. In 2017, they were married under the Special Marriage Act, a secular framework that allows people from different backgrounds to marry.
The story of Aamir and Arsheen is one of hundreds on the Instagram account of the India Love Project. Launched in 2020 by three journalists, India Love Project is a response to the growing conservatism, religious polarization and intolerance towards inter-caste, interfaith and LGBTQ+ unions. The organization challenges exclusion by sharing positive stories of love and marriage outside of the traditional boundaries of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender.
Non-traditional relationships are often strongly opposed in India, where over 90% of marriages are arranged, only about 5% are inter-caste and around 2% are interfaith. Same-sex relationships were only decriminalized in 2018, and marriage for same-sex partners remains illegal. While inter-caste marriages are on the rise, they are still frowned upon. In recent years, interfaith marriages have been criminalized in several states through “anti-conversion” laws based on Hindu nationalist accusations that Muslim men are marrying Hindu women only to convert them. This conspiracy is part of the rising intolerant rhetoric in India.
India Love Project harnesses the power of social media to promote acceptance and dialogue. Their Instagram account shares real-life love stories to counter the narratives demonizing non-traditional unions. The initiative has received an outpouring of support. Online, and increasingly offline, the India Love Project is building safe spaces for couples to celebrate their love and find community. To support them further, the organization has begun connecting couples with pro bono lawyers and counsellors, since interfaith couples often face resistance in local courts.
In a climate of growing intolerance and hateful rhetoric, India Love Project responds with love. One story at a time, the organization is affirming that love takes many forms and all loving relationships deserve to be celebrated. As Arsheen writes in response to her husband’s post, loving can be the most basic yet most courageous act. “To all those in love,” she writes, “keep loving!”