A romantic tale that takes on the ideology of nationalism in South Asia? Hold up a second

The majority of Pakistani Muslims are mourning the loss of one of “their” ladies, whilst the majority of Indian Hindus are suspicious of the allegiance of “another’s” woman. Both the Indians and the Pakistanis are in danger from a woman who is in love.

The stories of two lovers, one from India and the other from Pakistan, have enthralled two countries that are traditionally at odds with one another. Sachin Meena, age 22, and Seema Ghulam Haider, age 27, had a one-night stand in Nepal in the month of May. After that, the couple traveled across the border into India, where Seema, who was a Pakistani national, was apprehended by the local police in Noida for entering the country unlawfully. Since then, a judge has decided that she is eligible for release after finding that “the petitioner has not entered the boundaries of India with any improper motive.”

The couple currently resides close to Delhi after having initially connected virtually on a gaming website. Some reporters are dubbing it a “happy family union” while they wait for a verdict and endure interrogations, but right-wing nationalists in both nations are making threats and calling for Seema to be deported to Pakistan. A women’s movement is taking place in both countries.

The gutsy nature of romantic love

India and Pakistan were not two independent countries until just over seventy-six years ago. In this day and age, when burdensome restrictions prevent the majority of Pakistanis from receiving visas to visit India and vice versa, the actualization of such relationships is quite an accomplishment. An Indian woman named Anju traveled to Pakistan in order to wed Nasrullah, a Pakistani man she had met on Facebook. The wedding took place a month ago. The daring of love has triumphed over the artifice of borders.

However, Seema and Sachin’s marriage demonstrates not only that love is not restricted by geographical boundaries but also that such boundaries can impede romantic pursuits. Politics based on nationalism determine who can and who cannot traverse borders. Although Seema and Sachin may have a chance of remaining in India together, it is only possible for some couples in love to cross the lines in the sand that separates India and Pakistan.

The colonial border between India and Pakistan separates residents of neighboring countries into citizens and foreigners, natives and migrants. The bordering countries, which have a shared history, are erecting fences, which is causing families to become estranged from one another.

The fact that these two future spouses first communicated digitally on an online gaming platform — which was also an online war — feels simultaneously absurd and eerily prescient. It’s easy to feel as though you’re living in a simulation these days, what with nations increasingly fighting their battles online and people split by border walls meeting on digital displays. Are Seema and Sachin trying to defuse the tension between the nationalists and themselves? If citizens of a country are willing to break the law in order to be with the person they love, what purpose do these nations serve?

The marriage of Seema and Sachin is a victory for lovers, but it is also fuel for the fires of those who loathe love. Their marriage ties Pakistan and India together like a mother and a mother-in-law. As Seema passes the border between the symbolic roles of daughter and daughter-in-law, she is both loathed and welcomed by her new family.

People in India are accusing Seema of being a Pakistani spy on various social media platforms. The fact that she was born in Sindh and later converted to Hinduism lends credence to Pakistani suspicions that she is a spy for India. Will a man who practices Hinduism be able to fulfill Seema’s needs? If a woman converts to another religion, will she be able to go back to her family?

The majority of Pakistani Muslims are mourning the loss of one of “their” ladies, whilst the majority of Indian Hindus are suspicious of the allegiance of “another’s” woman. Both the Indians and the Pakistanis are in danger from a woman who is in love. As nationalists across borders chant the same xenophobic clichés, albeit in different idioms, the colorful flags of several nations seem to melt into each other, leaving us with a familiar scenario of men attempting to police the decisions that women make.

The benefactor countries for women

Both nations, even since Partition, have established themselves as patriarchal champions of women’s rights. Seema has submitted a petition to remain in India on the grounds that it is her “matrimonial home.” Following the country’s declaration of independence, both administrations reached a consensus to recover and exchange any women who had been kidnapped after the 1947 Partition. In 2018, the Indian government made the announcement that it would be Geeta, a lady who had been living in Pakistan, a member of its foster family.

In spite of this, the fact that the Indian government has made an exception for a Pakistani Muslim woman to remain in the country, at least for the time being, is both moving and worrying in this era of nationalist governance. It is difficult to believe that a Pakistani Muslim guy who falls in love with an Indian Hindu woman would be accepted in India, which is characterized by its patriarchal and nationalist Hindu culture. Likewise, a Hindu bride from India is not likely to find favor in Pakistan. As a scientist who studies the movement between these countries’ boundaries, I am aware of the ways in which states provide citizenship to individuals on the basis of factors such as their religion, caste, class, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality.

And while some narrowing veins of South Asian popular culture celebrate the inter-religious couplings of Hindus and Muslims — think of Jodhaa and Akbar, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor – a widespread acceptance of inter-caste and LGBT marriage is unhappily beyond the national and worldwide horizon.

There is a significant disparity in “travel freedom” as a result of nationalist politics unequally determining who can pass human-made walls. Only when we stop questioning the movements of individuals and begin challenging the legitimacy of national borders that impinge on our rights to migrate will we witness a severe challenge to nationalist politics in South Asia? Until then, we will not see a true challenge to nationalist politics.

In the meantime, it is imperative that we pay close attention to the politics around the question of who is allowed to cross borders and who is not. Cheers to the coming together of even more pairs of lovers in all directions!

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