By Joannah Bharose September 13, 2000

Hindus against mixed marriages

Pundit Ramesh Tiwari
Pundit Ramesh Tiwari

POLLUTING one's lineage with a mixed relationship is probably one of the greatest travesty one can inflict upon one's race, according to Hindu philosophy. Pundit Ramesh Tiwari firmly objects to polluting and diluting any race by mixed marriages.

However, he does not pose any objection to people who choose to "water-down" their lineage. Pundit Tiwari said he is not racist and he has nothing against people of other ethnic backgrounds. "Hinduism teaches the importance of preserving and not watering down one's race." He also quoted the Qu'ran and Bible as subscribing to the same principle. "Sura 24:33 in the Qu'ran states clearly... Any may marry from among you your male and female who are fit for marriage." He continues: "For Christians Leviticus 21:14 says... But he shall take a virgin of his own people for wife..."

Pundit Tiwari said Hinduism does not make a direct statement about choosing a partner but clearly points out that the "Hindu man is the only one fit to apply sindoor (vermilion) on the forehead of a woman to complete the marriage ceremony." He highlighted the problem of polluting the lineage as a major concern. This, he said, is not based on a matter of any one race being touted as superior or inferior. Pundit Tiwari referred to the general public perception, that by marrying a person of a certain race elevated or demoted person in the eyes of their peers is purely something that society has promoted.

He explained: "This is true for cases involving Indian girls and white men or African men and Indian girls. It is nothing more than perception." To justify this comment, Pundit Tiwari pointed out that the level of acceptance of an Indian girl who marries a lawyer or doctor who is African, is easier for parents to accept, because of society's perception.

He also admitted that acceptance of Indo and Afro relationships in this country is still heavily frowned upon in the East Indian community. Pundit Tiwari was quick to point out than the same applied for Indian girls and any other race and not just Afro-Trinidadians. He said: "It is still a no-no and the degree of acceptance of mixed relationships is still almost nil." He was able to point out that there are more noticeable cases involving Indian girls with men of a different race, especially Afro men.

Pundit Tiwari said the barriers have not come down with education and modernisation of society. As head of the Edinburgh Dharmic Sabha he is often called upon to mediate with families facing interracial marriages. He explained: "The couples almost never come to me, but the parents in desperation come seeking advice on how to cope with and prevent the marriage from taking place."

But in most cases the parents are unable to stop the union and the couple may be ostracised for a while, "at least until grandchildren come along". He said in most cases the grand- children help to cement broken relationships, but there are usually problems with other relatives. "More often relatives with pure Indian children will object to their children mixing with their dougla cousins, because they feel it is embarrassing."

Pundit Tiwari acknowledged that the problems with acceptance mainly occur with the generation of Hindus and Indians above age 60 or people from devout Hindu homes. "They are still steeped in tradition and adhere to the basic principles of Hinduism," he said. "And in cases of love it is never an easy solution." He added: "The orthodox Hindu family feels genuine pain and embarrassment when their child chooses a mixed relationship."

When questioned about the perception of widespread domestic violence involving Indian men, which serves as a deterrent for Indian women choosing an Indian partner, Pundit Tiwari said it is not a realistic yardstick to base such an important decision.

Pundit Tiwari said he is alarmed that this might be the general perception of the public. He added: "I am not willing to accept that more Indian men abuse their wives, until somebody provides me with proper and well researched statistics." He said: "There are good Indian men who treat their wives well." He drew reference to his own congregation in central. "I have about 500 people and 30 per cent of this are men and they are good Hindus who are not involved in domestic violence," he said.

He testified to witnessing a violent incident between an Afro man and an Indo woman in Chaguanas. "He was punching the daylights out of the woman and nobody approached them to help the woman," he said. He explained that "it's almost as if the people around her (mainly Indian) were thinking, you wanted an African man and you look for what you get."

Pundit Tiwari said he was embarrassed by this reaction and knew if it was an Indian couple, passersby would not hesitate to get involved.

"If God had wanted us different he would have made us different," Pundit Tiwari said as he reinforced his convictions.


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