Inter-Religious Marriages, Law, and Ethno-Religious Forums in Mumbai

Mumbai is a strong base of Hindu nationalist parties and social forces that maintain and police exclusivist ethno-religious boundaries by opposing inter-religious marriage, sometimes violently.

At the opposite end, women’s movements, civil society, and subaltern groups in Mumbai support dissolution of endogamy as a strategy to unsettle caste and religious hierarchies, and polyvocal religious, civic, and lay agents debate over the content of religion, law, family, and gender across religious lines during adjudication of religious family laws in the city (Solanki 2011). This project synthesizes various aspects of these dynamics by exploring two different yet inter-related aspects of governance of inter-religious marriage in civil society and ethno-religious communities. This sub-project will analyze the role of women’s groups in facilitating interactions between litigants and their families, members of caste councils, religious organizations, and political parties, including Hindu nationalist parties, in negotiating inter-religious marriages. The project will highlight the various ways in which civil society actors construct ‘inbetween spaces’ that also become platforms for inter-religious dialogue and expression of dissent on this issue. Some have argued that the Indian state’s recognition of religious laws have ossified religious boundaries and created unitary religious communities.

This sub-project will explore this argument by studying mixed marriage among subaltern ethnic groups living in Mumbai: How do ethnic groups, such as Adivasis, that are religiously plural but governed by their own laws or, ironically, Hindu law, understand and negotiate inter-religious marriages? Shifting the debates on such marriages among groups ambiguously placed in statist and mainstream taxonomy of religious identities demonstrate how religious family laws, constructed as sites of religious boundary fixing, become grounds for transforming the very meanings of these boundaries.

Project by Gopika Solanki, Carleton University