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Dec 11, 2019-Wednesday



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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

Armed with patience, this Navi Mumbai police team goes all out to save marriages

mumbai Updated: Nov 15, 2019 00:39 IST

A few months ago, the Navi Mumbai police’s women assistance cell received a letter from a 25-year-old woman complaining against her 28-year-old husband, who had been harassing her and picking up fights over small issues. When the department in-charge Meera Bansode met the couple for counseling, she knew this case was not going to be easy. The couple was hearing and speech impaired.

Senior inspector Bansode didn’t know sign language and neither did any one from her 12-member team comprising women and a male constable. Hiring an interpreter would have not been easy. The couple may not come back for the counselling session if sent back.

The woman knew Marathi and her husband knew English. Bansode scribbled a few questions – first in English and then in Marathi. The questions were common — what irked them about each other and the reason for the fights. She learnt that they have a three-year-old child. Over the next three hours, Bansode and her team read through the couple’s responses and wrote a few more questions.

The team saw that although the couple was weary from writing responses, both were determined to save their marriage. So, the team at the women’s cell, kept encouraging them and talking to them. After a few more sessions, the couple found love again, without having spoken a single word.

The case was one of the 220 marriages that Bansode’s team has saved this year till October. The cell received around 727 complaints, out of which, 358 cases involving stringent action or legal remedy, were forwarded for either divorce proceedings or investigations at the police station. Every day, the cell conducts at least seven counselling sessions. Most sessions last for around three months.

Sporting a pixie-cut hair, Bansode is seated inside her small office in the commissioner’s office peering through yet another complaint. Marriages are tricky and both parties need to adjust, she said with a maternal smile and in that moment, her demeanor changed from a stern police officer to an amiable woman, lending an ear to distraught couples.

“Our main work here is to solve marital disputes. Fights occur in every marriage and some take a turn for worse, but it’s the couple’s temperament that either makes or breaks it. The solution, we found, is both of them have to be willing to take a few steps towards each other. Adjustment is the key,” said Bansode.

The team also helps create awareness among young girls in college. In a digital age, it is easy to be carried away by Instagram and Facebook. It is not possible to police the social media. The cell recently conducted sessions with college girls. “It is natural for them to fall in love. We don’t deter them, but only help them understand situations and not throw all rationale out of the window and run off to marry. We tell them to focus on their career first,” said Bansode.

Last year, the Panvel court referred to the women’s cell a couple who had filed a divorce petition. The couple wanted to give counselling a try, and after they attended the sessions, they arrived at an amicable solution. Currently, the husband is working in Germany while the wife stays with her son and her mother-in-law and there have been no complaints. But it is not always a happy ending.

Many times, the police end up facing the ire of either the man or the woman. Sub-inspector Sonali Rajguru said she often has to deal with those who want nothing but to file cases against the other. “The reason this team has been formed is to counsel them, whenever possible,” Rajguru said. “We hear out both the parties and if counselling is an option, we convince them to try it out. If after counselling, they still want to separate or opt to file criminal charges or seek divorce, we guide them,” she added.

When asked if any women keep in touch, Bansode glances at a woman constable standing next to her and they exchange a smile. “Ours is a thankless job, but it helps us sleep better at night knowing women we helped out there are not suffering in unhappy marriages,” said Bansode, adding that their job does not end here. They have to follow up cases to check if the patch-up is holding up.