Guess who - or rather what - is playing villain in marriages nowadays? The mobile phone, says Delhi Police's Crimes Against Women (CAW) cell.
The CAW unit in south Delhi's Nanakpura area, which has since November 2008 been trying to resolve marital discord through a mediation cell, insists that the mobile phones of newly wedded brides are often to blame.
"While in most cases there is trouble owing to dowry harassment or domestic violence, we have been getting many cases where a minor quarrel which can be resolved makes people want to take extreme steps. The cell phone is what makes it to assume big proportions," CWC Deputy Commissioner HPS Virk told IANS.
Take the case of Ashu (name changed), a 21-year-old who got married last year. Her parents gifted her a mobile phone. After two weeks at her in-laws' house, there was a falling out.
Promptly Ashu messaged her parents that there had been a fight. Her parents in turn called up her husband, who was ready to apologise at first but didn't like the in-laws butting in.
"There are other cases where the person feels suspicious about an extramarital affair on the basis of a text message. The couple decides to separate. Such cases need to be handled properly and don't need court intervention," Virk said.
The CAW unit has a mediation cell in Nanakpura - the only one of its kind set up by Delhi Police - where a team of counsellors tries to get to the bottom of the problem.
"We have a team of cops and counsellors that looks at the possibility of things working out or an out of court settlement."
Psychiatrist Sameer Malhotra says more and more couples rely on what they find on cell phones or other means rather than communicating face to face.
"I have seen a spurt in cases where couples resort to checking e-mails or messages on mobile phones to ascertain what the spouse's relationship is with friends or office colleagues. What we see here is a breakdown of trust thanks to that doubt," Malhotra said.
When this happens, there is no room for compromise and it leads to further complication of the relationship, Malhotra said.
On an average, at the Nanakpura cell, four to six cases are fixed for mediation every day. Mediation is done regularly, six days a week. The cases are generally decided in less than three to six hearings. Only in exceptional cases are seven or more meetings held.
Though only 54 cases - 30 per cent of the 232 cases received - have been settled and 31 are still pending decision, Virk is confident.
Interestingly, there are as many as 19,000-odd cases pending with the mediation cell at district courts in Tis Hazari, Karkardooma and Rohini.
The Nanakpura mediation cell has 35 counsellors from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and 30 professionals each from Jamia Millia Islamia and the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development at work. In addition, there are also retired high court judges and lawyers who play the role of mediators.
Around three training programmes have been conducted by TISS for 60 police personnel across Delhi, says Virk.
Virk said if police file a complaint immediately in a dowry harassment or domestic violence case, it takes up a lot of time and money in litigation, and often the complainant suffers.
"All that is a lengthy process, we want to do away with the problem and reduce stress on the people concerned. For this, even police need to be made sensitive and we are trying to do that. Ours is a single window system," he said.
Samir Parikh, a psychiatrist with Max Healthcare, said: "The basic problem of marital discord is that couples are not ready to work out their relationship. One of the important reasons for failing marriages is mishandling of relationships by couples and their families.
He however didn't think it was right to blame the cell phone.
"I see no reason why cell phones are being blamed for marital rifts. Had mobile phones not been there, then the message would have been passed through landlines or telegrams, or letters. Basically it is about working out relationships," Parekh said.