Mumbai: The Shinde Fadnavis government’s move to set up a 13-member committee to track interfaith and intercaste marriages has divided the ruling and opposition parties.
BJP and Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena have supported the move saying that the panel has been formed to prevent Shraddha Walkar kind of mishaps in future while NCP and Congress have attacked the government claiming that it was a move to spy on who marries whom.
Lodha: Panel formed after much deliberations
The Women & Child Welfare Minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who heads the panel, said that the panel was formed after much deliberations to avoid tragedies involving children in inter-caste marriages, particularly if the girls go against their family wishes or are estranged.
The state panel, "Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee" will collect full information on couples entering into such wedlocks, the families of the girl if they are estranged, or who may have eloped and provide assistance as needed.
Further, it will serve as a forum for such women and their families where they can get counselling and communicate to resolve issues, and it will study various other policies and laws pertaining to the issue and recommend improvements or solutions. The government has already issued the government resolution on the formation of a committee days after Deputy Chief Minister Mr Devendra Fadnavis hinted that the state would consider enacting a law on 'love-jihad' after studying similar legislation in other states.
Counselling for couples
The government hopes that the initiative will provide a platform for these women and their families to access counselling and communicate or resolve issues. The panel has also a mandate to study policies of the central and state government, welfare schemes and laws in this regard and suggest changes for improvement and finding solutions. The panel will collect all information on registered/unregistered intercaste/interfaith marriages, those that were solemnised only in religious places, weddings after the couple eloped, check on the wellbeing of the newly-married women and help contact their families if they have severed relations, and arrange counsellors for such parents not ready to resume relations.
Former minister and NCP leader Mr Jitendra Awahd slammed the state government saying that the government resolution is anti-constitutional and violative of fundamental rights. ‘’The government is not saying that we will collect horoscopes and then after that we will say yes or no for marriages. Is this government or marriage registration office?’’he asked.
Mr Awhad observed that the government’s move in a progressive and liberal Maharashtra was a retrograde and nauseating step. ‘’Stay away from peoples' private lives,’’ he said.
On the other hand, the state Congress general secretary Mr Sachin Sawant said, ‘’The "Inter-caste/Inter-Religious Marriage Family Coordination Committee" constituted by the state government is not only a good example of how not to run the government but also to fulfill a political agenda. On March 15, 2017, to introduce a law to protect inter-caste marriages, an announcement was made by the Fadnavis government. He should tell the public what happened thereafter as Mangal Prabhat Lodha was also the member of that committee.It should be clarified whether the present committee will protect the couples or keep an eye on them and discourage them. The unfortunate murder of Shraddha Palkar is being used by the BJP for political capital.’’
However, the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena deputy leader and spokesman Mr Kiran Hegde and BJP MLA Mr Ram Kadam have hailed the government’s move and said it was a step in the right direction.
Mr Lodha clarified that the panel was not against such (intercaste/interfaith) marriages, but specifically intended to help those women who have been cut-off from their families and attempt to bring them together. As reported by the Free Press Journal, Mr Lodha last month had asked the Maharashtra State Women's Commission to form a special squad and identify women, who have married outside their caste/religion, without support of their families and are estranged, to enable extend necessary support and security as required.
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