In an interview to NDTV yesterday, tennis icon Sania Mirza said, “After playing for the country for as many years, after saying time and again that I have an Indian passport, after winning medals for India after I got married, I don’t know why I have to keep justifying that I am Indian.” She was responding to BJP leader K Laxman labelling her ‘Pakistan’s daughter-in-law’ after she was made the brand ambassador India’s youngest state, Telangana. News anchor Barkha Dutt probed whether she was being singled out for being a Muslim and for being a woman. The 27-year-old Mirza, who married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik four years ago, said she didn’t know what the reason could be.
Reasons are, of course, politically motivated (anti-Pak has got to be pro-India, right? Telangana is only for those born there, right?) and there is no doubt an element of sexism involved (a woman is someone else’s property after marriage, right?) but put together they bring to the fore the several issues involved whenever there’s a cross-border marriage.
Several Indo-Pak couples have expressed the difficulties they face in day-to-day lives, and the narrow-minded views of leaders such as Laxman only exacerbate them, derailing any possibility of a peaceful solution to neighbourly antagonism. Love and marriage are matters of personal choice, but when there are two hostile nations (and some celebrity status) involved, the whole matter takes on an unnecessary amount of national, social, political significance and controversy.
On the contrary, love and marriage are perhaps more powerful tools than the snazziest of international diplomacy or threat of nuclear attacks when it comes to building bridges and establishing peace in Southeast Asia. Instead of ostracising cross-border marriages and terrorising them with unimaginable legal conundrums, the government should encourage such unions — maybe even incentivise them! Imagine a whole (admittedly Utopian) generation of kids who are able to call both countries their own. What better way to prevent conflicts across the border?
Laxman and his ilk who bank on divisive politics need a dose of innovative lessons in ‘making peace, not war’ across the LOC, and even across Indian states. Or they could just go play a game of tennis. Love match, anyone?