Mixed Marriages and our Heritage !
Ngangom Junior Luwang
Some years back, a Manipuri Actress’s personal views on mixed alliances seem to have touched some raw nerves. We already had a precedent in the Manipuri film industry and we all know what had exactly transpired ! Reasons could be varied – better economic platforms, increased mobility, social media etc., but we see increasing instances of mixed marriages involving minority community members (happening left and right)!
The issue, in my mind, has two dimensions – (a) an individual’s personal choice and (b) community heritage. Technically speaking, marriage is fully and strictly a personal choice and it’s nobody’s business and I believe many of us or many of our relatives are in mixed marriages. It’s my life; nobody is going to die my death and just as you do not feed me, nobody takes decisions for or on behalf of me. But what if such personal choices are to be exercised on a mass scale (bereft of community sensibilities), given that such otherwise personal choices will surely shape our common future; heritage! For the antagonists, alarm bells have already rung in almost every household in Imphal; I do have my first cousins in mixed marriages and I could see one or two in the pipeline as well. Somehow, many of us seem to be always caught-up in a dichotomy between our absolute freedom of choice and our inner conscience to pass on our undiluted heritage to the future generation.
This issue is not confined to the Manipuri society alone but global in nature. Objectively speaking, ban on mixed marriages or miscegenation is associated mostly with the bad part of history–Nazis in Germany, the American Civil War, Apartheid in South Arica, Ku Klux Klan in America etc. Here, the following facts are relevant: a. In the US itself, mixed marriage was an issue for a long time till 1967 when the US Supreme Court declared a complete ban on it in 16 States unconstitutional. “Miscegenation” was the term used for the first time to describe a mixed marriage in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet printed in New York City in 1863 to target the Lincoln administration by exploiting the fears and racial biases common among whites so much so that Martin Luther had to make the famous statement -“I want the white man to be my brother, not my brother-in-law.”
Maryland was apparently the first to pass an anti-miscegenation law in 1664, followed by many American States in the 18th, 19th and 20th Century. These laws prohibited marriage of persons of different races. In 1883, Constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld by the US Supreme Court in Pace v. Alabama. However, in 1948, the California Supreme Court in Perez v. Sharp effectively repealed the California anti-miscegenation statutes, thereby making California the first State in the 20th century to do so. In 1967, the remaining anti-miscegenation laws in 16 States were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia. But the White Supremacy movement still seem to continue in the US, with strong views on mixed marriages.
Even South Africa had Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949 to prohibit marriages between Europeans and non-Europeans but the same was repealed in 1985.
The above jurisdictions apart, many other jurisdictions have had regulations banning or restricting not just interracial marriage but also interracial sexual relations, including Germany during the Nazi period.
Either it was the sense of supremacy (White Supremacy, Apartheid, Nazism etc.) or sense of insecurity of minorities (Ughers in China, Red Indians in US, Parsis in India), which has encouraged miscegenation in one form or other. Arguably it is the latter which seems to discourage mixed marriages in Manipur, more particularly marriages with non-Manipuris (in origin). Somehow, we all have been brought up with the perception of being a minority with a distinct origin, culture and language, hugely outnumbered by majority communities settled across India. This may not be a misplaced perception since Manipur accounts for around 29 lakh out of India’s more than a billion population, Meities numbering just around 13 lakh, not to talk of other smaller communities.
Technically speaking, it is not only politically incorrect but also legally unsustainable to oppose mixed marriages involving Manipuris and non-Manipuris. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 allow any Indian to marry any Indian or foreigner, bereft of any consideration of religion, caste, creed etc. Such a position notwithstanding, I do ask myself – what if every minority community members like the Meiteis exercise such otherwise personal choice, without considering implications thereof on our heritage and racial lineage!! Studies have clearly indicated that should mixed marriages go on, it is only a matter of time that all races, castes and creed would become one – possibly with one common but mixed language. Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi in 1925 in Practical Idealism predicted-“The man of the future will be of mixed race. Today’s races and classes will gradually disappear owing to the vanishing of space, time, and prejudice. The Eurasian-Negroid race of the future will replace the diversity of peoples with a diversity of individuals.”
The same scenario had been envisaged by Madison Grant in 1916 in “The Passing of the Great Race” and Lothrop Stoddard in “The Rising Tide of Color against White World- Supremacy”. Thus, to me, it seems to be only a matter of time for minorities like the Meities to get extinguished if mixed marriages are to continue unabated.
Majority communities, in my opinion, may not have much to worry about mixed marriages since it would be predictably the minority communities which would be gradually subsumed by majority communities. Let us take the case of Parsis in India. Today, they number less than 1 lakh–thanks to increasing number of mixed marriages. After the fall of the Sasanian empire, Parsis, to escape Arab persecution, reportedly moved to China, Central Asia, Punjab and even as far as Europe. Over time, they reportedly intermarried, lost their distinct religious and ethnic identity and faded into oblivion. The only group that survived was the one that came to Div and later moved to Sanjan on the Gujarat coast. They survived because they decided to lay down some ground rules and not compromise on any one of them, such as wearing Sudreh Kusti, Atash Parasti, dokhmenashini, marrying only within the fold and not converting others to the Faith, Manthravani etc. But today, Parsis are on the edge of extinction largely thanks to mixed marriages and the trend continues.
If mixed marriage is the trend as it is today, it is a matter of time that minority communities like the Meiteis will get subsumed by majority communities. We can at the most delay such a possible extinction and certainly, mixed marriages will expedite it. Marriage is strictly a personal choice, but your personal choice and my personal choice will shape our common future. Nonetheless, nothing on earth can or should interfere with such personal choice and it is only our own conscience which should guide us !
The writer is an Advocate in the Supreme Court and a Corporate Lawyer