Is Your Love Under Threat? Meet The ‘Love Commandos’ Who Claim To Have A Solution

Posted on February 14, 2016 in Society

By Manira Chaudhary:

14th September 2011, Pahar Ganj, Delhi, India. The Love Commandos L-R: Sonu Rangi, Commando Coordinator; Rajesh Malhotra, Delhi State Coordinator; Harsh Malhotra ,Chief Coordinator; Govinda Chand, Delhi State Commando Coordinator; Sunil Sagar, Commando Trainer. The Love Commandos is a small organisation that was established in July 2010 and is based in Delhi. It is staffed by Indian activists devoted to providing help and assistance to Indian couples facing threats, violence, monetary difficulties and other problems associated with love marriages in India. Specifically they tackle the iniquity of so-called 'honour killings' that are still so common across the country. The Love Commandos have 2,000 plus volunteers from different spheres of life across the country. While founder Sanjoy Sachdeva is a journalist, his Chief Coordinator Harsh Malhotra is a garment businessman. They also have lawyers, doctors, daily wagers and others as volunteers. They have five centres in the national capital plus there are others in Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. So what do they do when they get a distress call? "Initially, we try to counsel the couple over the phone. If the matter is serious, then we send out a team to the area, which will take help from the local police to rescue the couple. Then depending on what they want to do, we either marry them off or give them protection till they reach a decision. Most police forces cooperate with us except for the Uttar Pradesh police, which is a shame, because we receive maximum number of distress calls from UP," Sachdeva says. PHOTOGRAPH BY AND COPYRIGHT OF SIMON DE TREY-WHITE + 91 98103 99809 + 91 11 435 06980 +44 07966 405896 +44 1963 220 745 email: simon@simondetreywhite.com
Courtesy: Love Commandos website.

The website says, “no more honour killings,” under their name – ‘Love Commandos’. Ours is a country where honour killings and violence against people who dare to go beyond entrenched conservative norms and decide to marry a person from another caste or religion are regularly reported in national dailies. An organisation like Love Commandos, thus, seems like the need of the hour.

The organisation claims to provide assistance and refuge to couples who do not receive support for their relationships from their families or, worse, experience threats for the same. Started in 2007, Love Commandos has a core team of six people under the leadership of Mr. Sanjoy Sachdev and claims to have about 20 lakh volunteers across the country. In a short period of time, the organisation claims to have rescued/helped over 45,000 couples.

As unwarranted threats of violence by some right-wing fundamentalist groups loom over couples on Valentine’s Day every year, we interviewed Love Commandos to understand how they go about their mission.

Why does Love Commandos do what it does? What is the inspiration and thought behind it?

We help the couples in distress or under threat of murder or violence in the name of so-called honour to get married and remain safe. We provide them free shelter, food etc. till they are safe. However, they need to bear the expenses on legal documentation, marriage at a lawfully valid place, registration under tatkal scheme and its legal documentation, with other district/state resident waivers, conversion (if needed) and protection.

The inspiration and thought [behind this] is that we believe that “love begets love” and only love can bring world peace.

Were there any objections that you faced from people initially, considering our society is still plagued with conservatism when it comes to love affairs?

Such objections are routine and keep on coming. Threats are always there but we are not worried as we know from the core of our hearts that love always blossoms.

What are the problems that you’ve faced from the families of people who reached out to you for help? Share some instances with us.

There are a large number of incidents, threats and attacks and it is not possible to describe them in a few words or single some of them out here. If reports in the media are to be believed, there are huge bounties on the heads of our leaders in the core team placed by Khap leaders, ‘caste leaders’ and fundamentalist outfits but we are not bothered as we believe that “Love shall rule the world one day.”

Why do you think people have to elope to get married? What is the biggest reason, in your experience, of the opposition they face from their families?

Because families expect respect from them but do not respect the feelings of love of their wards. It appears that [many] parents failed in love in their own time and are now punishing their wards for no fault [of theirs]. Love is [our] nature and none can stop nature from spreading, but families that think children, especially females, are their property and [commit all sorts of] atrocities against lovers.

No political party in the country has any agenda for the protection of lovers’ rights and that’s why families can resort to unlawful methods. Resolutions of our Parliament, articles of the Constitution and directions of the Supreme Court support lovers but the saddest part is that the administration and police all over the country are bent upon oppression and suppression of lovers.

There are some right-wing organisations who are staunchly against the celebration of Valentine’s Day and instead want to re-baptise the day as one to worship one’s parents. What do you have to say about that?

It is their right to say what they want but we do not agree with that. In our opinion, Valentine’s Day is the only secular festival in the world [since it is] is not linked to any religion, caste or creed even nation. It is celebrated the world over by young males and females whether they are Hindu, Muslim Christian, Sikh, Jew, Dalit, ‘Forwards’, ‘Backwards’, residents of villages, towns, cities, metros. It is the most important festival and none should attempt to derail this festival of nature and youth.

What does your day look like every 14th of February? Do more couples reach out for help on this particular day?

It is like every [other] day but definitely our volunteers all over the country are more alert to take on the fundamentalists. Youth can call our helplines 09313784375/09313550006 if they feel any threat or [are in] grave danger. The youth [present] at venues of Valentine’s Day celebrations should feel that they are volunteers of Love Commandos and if they find anyone troubling the celebrators, all [of them] should gather at once and chase away those anti-social elements bent upon spoiling Valentine’s Day.

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