Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Handling couples at war

Handling couples at war

THE Crime Against Women (CAW) cell in the Chandigarh Police was introduced in 1991. Today, 10 years later, a follow-up of this CAW reveals that while its beginning was full of fits and starts it has graduated into an ideal cell.

The year 2001 witnessed a radical change in CAW, Chandigarh. This could be achieved because the present Inspector-General of Police, Mr B.S. Bassi, was driven with a passion to ensure that CAW, becomes an ideal for the rest of the country to follow.

“I wanted our CAW to direct its efforts for an amicable settlement between husband and wife. By the time the warring couples come to CAW, ‘intense bitterness’ is bound to be their third companion. Unless this companion is given a due burial, no mutually acceptable compromise or rapprochement is possible. The police needed to be a kindly leading light instead of a cold law-enforcing authority. This obviously was a hill-task as it meant total overhauling of the mindset of the police force”.

To implement his ideas, a young officer, H.G.S. Dhaliwal, IPS, was given this charge in April, 2001. An ideal breed of tradition and modernity, this officer, who is affectionately called, Harry, has introduced a humane touch to this cell.

“CAW, Chandigarh, mostly receives complaints of marital discords, dowry demands etc. While in majority of the cases the reasons behind marital discords are largely other than dowry harassment, and the girls come to CAW only when pushed to the wall. In fact, they have almost no option to fight or sort out any marital discords if the boy and his family adopt a stubborn posture or make some prestige issue. I wanted CAW to act as an ideal mediator to sort out the discords, instead of leading the door to registering of FIRs”, comments Mr Bassi.

“We decided to introduce ‘counselling’ to the couples threatening to part their ways in a marriage. But much before counselling the couples, we needed to train our own investigating officers of the CAW Cell. We also needed to re-orient the mindset of our own police personnel. To achieve this, we decided to conduct workshops wherein psychologists and women NGOs were involved. The very first workshop was held in July 2001 in which we invited Dr Vidhu Mohan, Dr Reet Inder Mohan Kohli, Dr Promilla Vasudeva, Dr Sudha Pant, Dr Jagat Jerath and leading women NGOs of Chandigarh. They provided structured training in counselling to the personnel of CAW Cell, besides, rich interaction on women issues”, says Dhaliwal.

“It is not always a man who torments his wife. We have come across cases wherein even women have proved to be tormentors. For instance, take the case of Home Guard Lalit Kumar. Our CAW was approached by a woman Home Guard, Balwinder Kaur, and accusing Lalit Kumar of tormenting her, she said though she had been living with him for the past one-and-a-half years, yet he was refusing to marry her. She accused him of demanding dowry, the demand which she was unable to fulfil.

When we counter-checked with Lalit Kumar, a totally new story unfolded. He said Balwinder Kaur was already married and had three children, whom she had left in some ashram at Panchkula and that she had hidden all these facts from him. He said that he felt cheated and was no more thinking of marrying her. At this stage, CAW asked him to prove that she was married and mother of three children.

“Interestingly, while Lalit Kumar was busy gathering proof, Balwinder Kaur even approached certain Nihangs to mount pressure on CAW, Chandigarh. A section of the media even jumped at the sobbing story of Balwinder Kaur and accused us of siding with Lalit Kumar. However, soon enough, Lalit Kumar not only provided a ration card of Balwinder Kaur, her husband and three children but also found out the ashram where the children had been left.

She had deserted her legally wedded husband because he had turned a drug addict. Ever since we have learnt all the facts with full evidence, Balwinder Kaur is absconding from her duty”, narrates Harry Dhaliwal.

“You see our lawmakers came out with a radical law like 498-A to help the hapless women in desperate situations. But many began misusing this law. We have come across a case in which the family members of a boy, who were living far away from the bride’s home, were also dragged into the FIR just to avenge their own daughter’s humiliating position. In reality, an aggrieved wife either wants respectable reconciliation or appropriate compensation in case of parting of ways.

But the boy’s family often wants to get away without feeling the pinch of separation or divorce. They do not want to give adequate financial support to the estranged wife. So we are making all out efforts at our CAW to give priority to reconciliation. Our CAW staff and the leading social activists from various NGOs jointly give counselling to both husbands and wives to give them clarity of thought. It is only in irretrievable cases that we help them negotiate mutual compensations.

We are giving last priority to the registering of FIRs. After all, marriage is a delicate bond and should be handled like a fragile piece of glass, says, Mr Bassi.

The success of CAW, Chandigarh, can be gauged from the study of cases of 2001 alone. Of the total 510 complaints received, counselling by CAW and NGOs helped 197 couples to compromise and resume their married life. In 158 cases no charges could be framed under any offence. However, 36 cases were registered under 498-A and other clauses.

Harry Dhaliwal feels that majority of the Indian girls and their parents do not want a divorce. “That is why counselling has turned out to be such an overwhelming success. The use of 498-A at the drop of a hat ensures divorce at a heavy price by both sides.

At CAW we want to ensure that such stringent laws should be used only by the most desperate, hapless women, which is not hard to identify, especially when we have seasoned and mature women activists like Sheela Didi, Oshima Rekhi, Amrit Kohli, Dr Vidhu Mohan, Satinder Dhawan, etc to guide us”.

“We are now planning to include welfare and cause of children in CAW. We are likely to modify its name to widen its horizon to pay attention to the abused children. The purpose is to create a door which hapless mothers and children can knock at the times of crisis,” says Mr Bassi.


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