The toll-free helpline for women in Delhi, 181, will also work as a 24-hour helpline for inter-caste and interfaith couples fearing persecution.
This is a part of the standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the Delhi government for the protection of inter-caste and interfaith couples. The SOP also says that special cells will be set up, which will be headed by deputy commissioners of police to look into these matters, according to PTI.
In 2018, the Supreme Court passed an order to states to create special cells in every district ,comprising the superintendent of police and creating safe houses for the protection of inter-caste and interfaith couples. This order was passed after the NGO Shakti Vahini had filed a petition against 'honour killings'.
The SOP also states that couples can be shifted to a safe house if required, and based on the perception of threat, can be provided with a Protective Security Officer (PSO) for additional security.
Currently, a safe house has been set up in Kingsway Camp. It has an area of 60 square yards and can accommodate three couples. According to the Indian Express, another safe house is being set up in the same location. As per the SOP, the safehouse is for couples “whose relationship is opposed by their families or local community and khaps”.
It is not mandatory for couples facing threats to live in the safe house. If the couple does not wish to live in a safe house, the special cell will provide protection to them, as per the perception of the threat, to their current place of stay.
The operators of this helpline will have to follow the SOP and inform callers on the way in which the state can help them. They will then refer the cases to the special cells in every district, after which the area DCP will take over and an enquiry will be initiated. It will be established that both individuals are adults.
On March 22, violence broke out in Southeast Delhi’s Sarai Kale Khan over conversion of a Muslim girl to Hinduism to marry a Dalit man.. The woman’s family vandalized the streets, causing damage to two-wheelers and banging the doors of houses, while people could be heard screaming from inside.
In December 2020, the Delhi High Court granted protection to an interfaith couple who had fled Uttar Pradesh fearing persecution under the recently passed Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. It directed the Delhi government to provide the couple with a safe house.
This article has been written by Sherwyn Fernandes for The Paradigm
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