“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
Love often comes with challenges everywhere. In Southasia, the obstacles can be even more pronounced – ranging from barriers of caste, class, gender, tradition and religion, exacerbated by the increasing politics of hatred and violence.
This February, the month commemorated worldwide as the month of love, Southasia Peace Action Network, Sapan, invites you to a discussion ‘Celebrating Love: Beyond Borders and Boundaries’ to explore the unique experience of love in the region, to introspect on the barriers built against it, and be inspired by those who persist in following their hearts.
Expanding on the ideas discussed at the Sapan Twitter Space Celebrating Love, ahead of Valentine’s Day, the upcoming discussion on 26 February 2023 is our way of expressing solidarity with couples who encounter violence and prejudice when they transgress the intangible societal boundaries around caste, religion, gender or nationality.
While love encompasses many aspects of our lives, the focus here is on romantic love, and to explore why it encounters violent opposition and what lies behind that opposition.
The rich folklore in Southasia includes stories of love passed down from generation to generation through the oral tradition, the written word, songs, plays, and other art forms. These stories cross linguistic and geographical boundaries and are commonly celebrated and revered without judgement around the region.
On closer analysis, however, a common theme is the brutal resistance faced by the protagonists, who often have to die before we celebrate them. Their enduring love and eternal longing bestows on them a halo of tragic beauty, sanctified by centuries of storytelling.
The underlying lesson is that those who choose a partner for themselves by crossing societal boundaries of sexuality, caste, community or religion will not have it easy ― they may have to choose between love or life.
Societal wrath especially comes into play for those involved in intercaste, intercommunity, LGBTQ, transgender, or cross-national relationships.
The aspiration to love freely goes hand-in-hand with the idea of equality. It happens when people are seen as human beings beyond their narrowly defined social, gender or religious identities.
With a rise in the youth population in Southasia and aspirations of equality, there are more opportunities to meet beyond community boundaries. This has led to a rise in cross-community, intercaste marriages, often against family wishes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most families reconcile to the situation. However, some families and community members react violently.
Unfortunately, love tends to make the headlines or front-page news only when there is violence involved – or the rare occasion involving a celebrity who breaks social barriers to get married, as Indian film actor Swara Bhaskar recently did when she married activist Fahad Ahmad.
This needs to change. We believe love should be encouraged and celebrated. Social acceptance of intercommunity relationships should be the rule, not the exception.
The discussion this month brings together individuals from across Southasia and the diaspora who have dedicated their lives to love, through their poetry, scholarship, legal expertise, or social work. In various ways, they inspire and work with those who dare to love but lack the resources to navigate the formidable social and political interference in their personal lives.
This is the sixteenth in a series of discussions titled ‘Imagine! Neighbours in Peace’ organised by Sapan.
Date: Sunday, 26 February 2023
Time: 10 am ET, 3 pm GMT, 8 pm PKT, 8:30 pm IST/SLST, 8:45 pm NPT, 9 pm BST
Our featured speakers include (in alphabetical order):
- Asif Iqbal, co-founder of Dhanak of Humanity, an all-India nonprofit organisation working on the issues of right to choose in marriage and relationships, forced marriage and honour-based crimes since 2005
- Jagmati Sangwan, feminist activist, volleyball champion and vice president of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
- Malinda Seneviratne, former editor-in-chief of The Nation newspaper and award-winning poet in Colombo
- Namrata Sharma, Kathmandu-based journalist and former president of Center for Investigative Journalism in Nepal
- Natasha Ahmed, Bangladeshi activist and environmentalist based in Kolkata, India
- Rubab Mehdi, a lawyer, interfaith leader and human-rights activist in Pakistan and the UK
- Vincent Raj Arokiasamy (“Kathir”), co-founder of Tamil Nadu NGO Evidence, fighting against caste discrimination and standing up for inter-caste marriages
The event will be hosted by journalist Beena Sarwar, founder-curator of Sapan. Shailaja Rao, founder-member Sapan and board president Tasveer South Asian Film Festival, will present Sapan’s Founding Charter. Editor of eShe magazine and founder-member of Sapan, Aekta Kapoor will moderate the discussion.
Closing remarks by Kavita Ramdas, global advocate for gender equity and justice, and former director of the Women’s Rights Program at the Open Society Foundations.
Speaker bios are online here.
Register here to attend the Zoom meeting.
The event will be broadcast live on YouTube.
Note on Southasia as one word: Following the lead of Himal Southasian, Sapan uses ‘Southasia’ as one word, “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space, without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”. Writing Sapan like this rather than all caps makes it a word that means ‘dream’.
If we extract word hatred from our minds and place love instead of it then whole South Asian region
can become like heaven for us otherwise hell and nothing else. Love for all hatred for none may be
our slogan!! What is bad in it? Let us think over it seriously.
The best solution to make progress in this part of world is to educate and train our young generation
for mutual love and respect rather hatred and animosities. A good step by SAPAN management
in this regard for which I appreciate and salute them.
‘Southasia’ as one word to emphasis the historical unity of this region; ‘Sapan’ in small letters to signify ‘dream’… This is the kind of imagination that we need to explore, to bring people and ideas together.
I agree completely with nice feelings and emotions of Mr. Kumar. Let us live like one united community without hatred and prejudices. Let us fulfill his DREAM by our actions and not just lip service.