For runaway couples, it’s just another day locked up in a safe house
Three cops stand guard outside a 15ft by 15ft room in the corner of a PWD guest house, where four runaway couples have taken refugeUpdated: Feb 14, 2020 00:40 IST
Even as the world celebrates love on Valentine’s Day (February 14), a few couples in Haryana, who tied the knot with a partner of their choice against their families’ diktat and were subsequently issued death threats, will be spending the day locked in safe houses across the state.
At present, there are four couples each in safe houses in Jind and Karnal, three in Rohtak and one in Sonepat. Three cops stand guard outside a 15ft by 15ft room in the corner of a PWD guest house in Karnal, where four runaway couples have taken refuge.
The couples share a room, which has a single washroom, and make do with a few utensils. The gate of the room remains locked from outside and as the locals believe the couples could be a bad influence on their kids.
“Yes, this room seems to be too small to accommodate four couples, but it is the only place where people understand us,” says Pradeep, a government school teacher who married a Nancy, a clerk, who worked at the same school but was from a different caste: “We don’t just share the room and food but our stories with fellow couples who are in the same predicament.”
“We have not broken any law but the way people reacted to our nuptials, one would think we had committed a grave crime”, says Nancy. “My elder brother and uncle are resolutely against our union.They threatened us of dire consequences should we go against their wishes, leaving us with little choice but to flee.”
Reena, 19, and Vivek, 21, of Kaithal have been in the safe house for over a week.
Their marriage raised many eyebrows in their community because Vivek’s cousin is married to Reena’s uncle and according to them Reena is Vivek’s niece.
“We met at Vaishno Devi temple and my sister helped me get Reena’s phone number. We exchanged messages and gradually fell in love,” says Vivek. A blushing Reena adds, “Though, we are both from the Jat community, our parents say we cannot marry.”
Similarly, the families of Suman and Vimal of Karnal refused to bless the couple because they lived in the same colony and belong to different castes.
“My parents said they will have to leave their ancestral home if we got married but we decided to get married in court and then sought police protection,”says Suman.
Protection officer Santosh Rani says she remembers the stories of most couples who have stayed at the safe house over two years. “Despite incidents of honour killings in the state and attack on youngsters for choosing their own partners, these couples have gone ahead and followed their hearts,” she says, adding that six months ago as many as 16 couples had been sharing the room.
The authorities provide them with shelter and protection but they have to arrange their own bedding and food.