Sunday, September 21, 2014

The ‘Love Commandos’ counter the concept of Love Jihad

At a time when the country is being exposed to an oxymoronic term ‘love jihad’, countering such a concept is an organisation with an equally paradoxical name called ‘Love Commandos’.
With a vision of uniting love birds who have attained the legal age of marriage, Love Commandos claimed to have united over 30,000 couple in a short spell of four years.

“We want lovers to unite no matter which caste, community, religion or place they come from. There should be a society where love prevails over everything,” says Chairman of Love Commandos, Sanjoy Sachdev.

The voluntary organisation, which mainly operates in Delhi from its office in Paharganj area, claims to provide protection to couples and guards them from the wrath of their angry parents, families or police, helps them fight harassment and give them shelter so they can marry freely. “Our organisation started on July 2010 after we helped a couple in Delhi to unite after the boy was falsely charged by the girl’s family and had registered a police case against him,” says Sachdev.

Its feisty, relentless fight for the cause of love continues unabated despite paucity of funds as one of its shelter homes operates as the group’s makeshift office. It prefers to exist in perpetual liminality thinking too much visibility might lead to exposure of the eloped lovers. “There are police cases lodged against many people whom we are helping and there are several groups who do not want us to continue with our activity,” claims Sachdev, adding the circumstances often compels the organisation to constantly keep shifting their shelter homes.

The organisation has two helpline numbers that ring simultaneously in twelve cities across the country and on receiving a valid call for help the commandos swing into action. Even though they only have seven permanent shelter homes across Delhi and NCR, the group sets up temporary shelter homes in other parts of the country whenever the need arises
“If a couple needs assistance at place other than Delhi or NCR, we set up a shelter home nearby that area till the time we rehabilitate them,” says Sachdev. Although the organisation was functioning under severe financial crush, it has refrained from asking any help from the government, he says. “It is becoming very difficult to operate with the soaring price of food, water, electricity, etc. We receive donations from people. Even legendary tennis player Bjorn Borg had donated to us twice.”

He also alleges hostilities by police against the love birds accusing them of filing cases coming under pressure from their parties involved. “In some cases, families lodged FIR of kidnapping and rape against the boys even when the decision to marry or elope was a consensual one. The police often do not crosscheck.”

The cause of prejudice against love marriage in India is due to the deep-cited problems of caste and religion, says Rajwant Kaur, a Ph.D Scholar in Sociology department in JNU.
“Indian society is mainly divided on the basis of caste and religion which is why parents do not allow love marriages, says Kaur. Apart from that the problem of gender inequality, presence of a patriarchal society and societal opinions, are the other possible reasons.

In India, "love" is still considered by many to be a dirty word with most marriages arranged by parents along religious or caste lines. But a group of "love commandos" are increasingly stepping in to protect Cupid and his targets
The couple now lives in Love Commando's secret shelter. "My family was happy but not hers," says Aditya, watching for his wife's response. But before he can rephrase, Simran speaks up. "My father has accepted our bond but ...