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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Inter-faith couples, staff at ‘safe house’ flag ‘threat’ from kin; Delhi government raises alert

Delhi Police sources said after receiving a communication from the headquarters, personnel are being deployed in three shifts to ensure that the facility is not left unguarded.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi |
Updated: June 30, 2021 7:44:46 am
The party was being held for local Ghaziabad resident Himanshu Sharma, who was due to get married in a few weeks, said the police.

The Delhi government has urged the police to ensure round the clock security at the ‘safe house’ meant for inter-faith or inter-caste couples after staffers at the facility flagged that they are “facing threats” from the kin of the men and women taking shelter.

Delhi Police sources said after receiving a communication from the headquarters, personnel are being deployed in three shifts to ensure that the facility is not left unguarded. The Supreme Court had in March 2018 directed the states and Union Territories to provide shelter to couples, both married and unmarried, facing threats from families and khaps opposed to their relationships.

It is learnt that the issue of threats first came up in March during a meeting involving representatives of the Delhi social welfare department, which is overall in charge of the facility, the Delhi Police, the Delhi Commission for Women, and the supervisors of the safe house. The safe house in Delhi, which can accommodate three couples at a given time, was opened late last year.

“The Superintendent as well as the Welfare Officer of the Blind Hostel, who have been looking after the basic provisions of the Safe House, shared that they are facing threats as well as security issues from the parents and guardians of the couples. Along with this, the couples are also sharing that they have threats to life from their family members.”

“It was recognized that the Department of Police has been given the responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of the couples in the Safe House and outside the complex, as well as the government officials who are working in the Safe House. Since, it was informed by the Superintendent and Welfare Office of the Blind Hostel that there is no regular police security, the ’round-the-clock’ security should be mandatorily provided in the ‘Safe House’ by Delhi Police,” a document recording the proceedings of the meeting stated.

When contacted, a senior official of the social welfare department said the security aspect of the safe house is handled entirely by the police. “The social welfare department manages the house in terms of providing meals, counselling, and providing medical care,” the official said, acknowledging that threats are a matter of concern.

“These couples are in distress. The very fact that they have to take shelter in the safe house is due to threats from their families. So it is no surprise that they face threats at the facility also. And it is the duty of the supervisors and staffers to raise alert whenever that happens and for the police to provide protection,” said the official.

Since its opening, the safe house in Delhi has so far sheltered around eight couples, including from other states such as faraway Gujarat and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. The social welfare department records also state that the “majority of the requests for accommodations are being received from the couples, both of whom are not the residents of Delhi.”

According to guidelines drawn up by the department, the couples are provided free legal assistance by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority. The 181 helpline for women also takes calls from couples in distress.

The SC order had come during the hearing on a petition filed by NGO Shakti Vahini.

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