Facing flak, Maharashtra drops intent to track inter-caste marriages; to monitor interfaith couples

WCD Minister Lodha says the govt is only a bridge between the married woman and her parents

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Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

After Shradhha Walkar’s father Vikas Walkar met the Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the latter indicated that the state would consider enacting a law on 'love-jihad' after a thorough study of similar legislation in other states. The ‘love-jihad’ law is so far applicable in most of the BJP-ruled states. Vikas had demanded a thorough investigation into the murder of his daughter and also asked to question parents of Aftab Poonawalla.

Within a few days, the Fadnavis government set up a 10-member panel to keep an eye on ‘inter-caste marriages’, and 'inter-faith marriages' headed by the Minister of Women and Child Mangal Prabhat Lodha. For the same, they released a Government Resolution (GR) stating to track both 'inter-caste' and 'inter-faith ' marriages .

However, the flak the government received made them hastily drop the inter-caste reference and stick to monitoring only inter-faith marriages. Fadnavis then told the media that they would like to promote ‘inter-caste’ marriages and the govt has been already providing incentive schemes to inter-caste couples.  However there are various reports coming from the state that ‘inter-faith’ marriages are in a bad shape.

Less than a day after issuing the initial GR, the government amended it by removing 'inter-caste' marriages’ from mention. Lodya then sheepishly stated that that the word  had inadvertently crept into the GR. Therefore, it was removed and only ‘inter-faith’ marriages are now the focus of the panel. “ We will only do counseling for the inter-faith married woman or her parents. Usually after the inter-faith marriages the chords between parents and the girl (daughter) are disconnected. We will only do counselling if anyone approaches us. If any complaint reaches the panel by the woman it won't go unheard. There will be no delay in action. The panel is the bridge between parents and married women,” added Lodha.

On the other hand, sources close to the ruling-government claim that the backlash by the opposition on including ‘inter-caste’ marriages influenced the retreat of the government. “Many are divided over including the inter-caste marriages in the panel as this also may include SC and ST communities. There are a lot of intricacies involved if inter-caste marriages are included, especially losing out trust of the communities. In fact, when the first GR was issued, there was no one from the Muslim community in the panel. Later they amended the GR by dropping 'inter-caste' and restricted themselves to tracking only inter-faith marriages. In the new GR , one Irfan Ali Pirzade is also added so that inter-faith marriages can be well understood by the panel,” the source added.

The panel, “Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee” (state-level) will collect full information on couples entering into such wedlock, the families of the girl if they are estranged, or who may have eloped and provide assistance as needed” as per the new Government Resolution. The panel will serve as a forum for such women and their families where they can get counselling and communicate to resolve issues. It will also study various other policies and laws pertaining to the issue and recommend improvements or solutions.

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