If one is to divide Hindi movies according to genres, there will definitely be one group that enlightens the audience on how to overcome the roadblocks that threaten to ruin ‘special marriages’, a route taken my many for inter-caste and inter-religious marriages.
It is not surprising why such a theme is popular with Bollywood: Other than being possible hits at the box office (romantic tearjerkers tend to do well in India), they also deal with a social reality.
The ‘special marriages’, which Bollywood has been batting for decades, received support from the Central Information Commission (CIC) recently when it suggested to the Centre and states to include a declaration by the couple who intend to have a court marriage if they apprehend a threat to their life and liberty. Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu also suggested that couples may be allowed to seek police protection from the registrar where marriage is to be performed under the Special Marriage Act.
The CIC also directed sub-divisional magistrates or marriage officers to ensure that the 30-day notice of the marriage under Special Marriage Act should be widely circulated which mandatory under Section 4(1)(d) of the RTI Act to facilitate the interested persons (including parents or guardians) to know and raise objections, if any, to safeguard the interests of the partners to the proposed marriage. This, I feel, is a wrong step because it can compromise security of the couple.
It is not difficult to gauge why the CIC suggested police cover for couples: Honour killing is very much a reality in India and in many states, such as Haryana, it has social sanction of illegal groups such as Khap Panchayats.
On August 10, a local court in Rohtak, Haryana, awarded life imprisonment to father, mother and brother of 22-year-old girl Nidhi in the 2013 Garnauthi honour killing in the district.
Nidhi and her boyfriend Dharmender were murdered by her family after they eloped to get married. While deprecating the caste system in the country, the Supreme Court has also declared ‘khap panchayats’ illegal several times. But thanks to the vote bank they command, they end up getting political support.
The CIC’s suggestion is a good idea but the call for protection for couples can only be a temporary relief because most states suffer from shortage of policemen even to do their routine duties and so will find it difficult to spare staff.
More importantly, policemen too have strong links to local communities they come from and often desist from interfering in such cases.
This attitude has apparent in several cases of sexual violence against women and even during the recent Jat reservation riots in Haryana.
The inquiry commission into the Jat riots said clearly Jat policemen refused to act against rampaging community members.
Other than following the CIC’s suggestion on providing police cover to couples, only strong administrative and political measures against inter-caste/inter-religion violence and action against organisation such as khaps that support such illegal acts can instill fear and discourage the people from resorting to violence against couples who walk down the ‘special marriages’ aisle.