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Opinion The Rescue Operations Of Delhi’s Love Commandos

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The rescue operations of Delhi’s Love commandos
Suruchi Sharma, TNN Aug 28, 2012


You must have heard about Love Commandos - no, they're not the military, but do a job no less noble, of helping couples in love flee persecution. Here's a look at what they do and who they help.

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, start dating, and update their Facebook status from 'Single' to 'In a relationship'. Seems like an average day in the life of a youngster in the city. Dating, falling in love, falling out of love, etc etc, is something as easy as updating our social networking status. But what we take for granted could be a rare and dangerous indulgence for someone who lives barely 20-30km away from Delhi-NCR. Being in a relationship, something that's 'cool' for you, could be a noose in the neck for someone your age, who happens to be 'in a relationship' with someone outside their community.

But helping them realise their freedom to love whoever they want are the Love Commandos, a group of volunteers including lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, who offer counsel through a helpline, provide shelter to lovebirds seeking a safe nest, and even help them get married. Here are the experiences of some of those given protection under the watch of the commandos:
I'm from a scheduled caste, she is a Rajput
We both are from the same village in Haryana. I was in Class XI and she was in Class VIII, and when I saw her for the first time, I fell in love. I could have never imagined that our story, that began with stolen glances, would turn into love. We both knew that our relationship would be opposed - I'm from a scheduled caste and she is a Rajput - but that it will result in us being chased across three states was something we never expected.

When Malti's family found out about our affair, they turned livid. They started beating Malti and even threatened to set her on fire if she even dared to step out of the house.

They stopped giving her any food and locked her in a room. Somehow, she managed to run. She called me from her friend's phone and told me that her family would have killed her had she not run, and that she couldn't go back now. I met her at the bus stand and we both went to Mathura. Malti's brother got to know of our location, so we ran from Mathura to Agra and then to Gwalior. When I called up my friend to ask after my family, he told me the police was keeping watch at my house and that the phone was being tapped. He suggested that I get in touch with the Love Commandos in Delhi. I went to an internet cafe and looked for their helpline number, and that's how we both came here. We reached their shelter on July 15, and since then, Babaji (Sanjoy Sachdev, chairman, Love Commandos) has been taking full care of us. Apart from providing shelter, they even help us with food, clothes, medicines and other needs.

Now that we are both settled, I have started looking for a job. I have an MA in English and also a BEd. Malti wants to pursue Economics (Hons) and then give the IAS exams. We have never been this happy and content before.

They were marrying her to a man double her age

I have known Chanda for two years now. We both are residents of North Delhi. I am a Kayastha and she is a Jat girl, so our families opposed our match. We decided to elope and since then, our nightmare began. They complained to the police that I had kidnapped Chanda and was asking for extortion money. The police chased us like dogs as we ran from one place to another. The attitude of a majority of cops is callous towards such cases. So, Chanda tried to get help from the women's commission, but they too, refused to help us, telling us that we should sort out the matter with our parents and go back home.
No NGO, no organization came to help us, even when we both are of marriageable age and were not doing anything illegal. Finally, we got in touch with the Love Commandos. One of Chanda's friends had seen a TV show and told us about them. We called their helpline and their volunteers helped us come back to Delhi. We both came here on July 25 and since then, this is our home. I'm looking for a job so that I can support us. The Love Commandos are even helping me find a job in a government department. I'm sure things will only be better from here.

Who are the Love Commandos?
Love Commandos is a group of volunteers including lawyers, journalists and human rights activists who offer counsel through a helpline, provide shelter to lovebirds seeking a safe nest and even help them get married.

How do they help?
They have opened up secret shelters to help rescue Indian couples who are in love, but are in danger of being forced to marry someone else by their families. They encourage marriages and alliances that challenge conventions of caste or religion. Their team of lawyers and activists help couples sort out their problems and clear any roadblocks that come in the way of their marriage. They even help and sort passport problems in high profile cases.

What is the role of volunteers?
Their volunteers work in complete secrecy. Sanjoy Sachdev, chairman, Love Commandos, says that they have thousands of volunteers spread across the country and even abroad. He explains, "If there is a couple in Punjab who wants our help, we first try to understand the seriousness of the issue. Then we contact our volunteers in Punjab. Those volunteers will get the couple out and then get in touch with the ones living in, say, Jalandhar or Amritsar, who, in turn, will pass them on to those who are in Delhi, so they can come to us safely." Being a volunteer is not easy, as often, these volunteers have had to bear the brunt of angry family members. "But we try to handle the situation with non-violence as much as possible. The maximum force we have used till date is pepper spray to get out of a sticky situation. We plan our actions in a way that we manage to sneak the couple out before things turn violent," says Sanjoy. Harish, a volunteer, says, "We can't think about our own safety if we have to rescue such couples. It's true that this work is very dangerous, but the satisfaction you get after seeing the happy faces of these couples is unparalleled."

Not everybody is welcome
Sanjoy says that they receive close to 50-60 calls everyday, and sometimes even more. Some are serious, while some are just trying to have fun. "We pick all the calls and entertain everybody, but we help only those who have a genuine case. In cases where the couple is underage, or those who know each other for just weeks or months, we just counsel them, and try to explain the harsh realities of life to them," says Sanjoy. "Most of the calls we receive are from couples who want us to speak to their parents. They say, 'Aap please hamare parents se baat kar lijiye'. Let me make this very clear, we don't talk to parents. We are not running a marriage agency or bureau. We are doing serious business - and it needs a lot of guts, money and effort to continue doing this work. We don't have time to waste on talks. We have to take immediate action, so we filter our calls," adds Harsh Malhotra, the chief coordinator.

source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiat...26215_1_facebook-status-helpline-number-malti



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