In December 2022, the Maharashtra government brought in a controversial order and constituted a 13-member Inter-caste, Inter-faith Marriage Coordination Committee to collect information about couples in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages in the state. If the woman in such a marriage is estranged from the maternal family, such details too will find its way into government files. This controversial Government Resolution (GR) brought out by the Women and Child Department of the state government was enacted right after the Shraddha Walkar case surfaced in which her live-in partner had murdered, chopped the body to pieces, and disposed the pieces across Delhi.
This order was aimed at keeping girls safe and avoiding cases such as the Shraddha Walkar one, said Minister for Women and Child Development Mangal Prabhat Lodha while announcing the order. This order had been lampooned by the Opposition in the state who had demanded its withdrawal.
The panel, headed by Lodha, is in regular touch with district officials through meetings and has asked them to find out details of all registered and unregistered inter-faith and inter-caste marriages in their respective districts. The information will be collated and sent to Lodha’s department for further processing.
The district administration has been tasked with landing at the homes of those couples who have eloped to marry inter-caste or inter-faith and seek all the relevant details. If a family has lost touch with the woman after elopement or due to the marriage against parental wishes, the Committee will act as a counsellor and help open the channel of communication with their estranged daughters. The Committee will try to bring such women and their maternal families together to avoid cases like the Walkar where her family had excommunicated her and did not maintain any contact with her.
This Committee will also act as a counselling centre for women who are estranged from their spouses. Such women and their family members can communicate with the members of the committee and seek help, if needed. The aim is to resolve the issue with the help of the government, Lodha had said. The committee has been holding regular meetings with the officials of the 36 districts of the state on welfare policies of the central and state governments that can be applied to women in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages.
The main objective of the committee is to find out if such marriages have been against the wishes of the parents and do not have parental consent. Marriages that have been solemnised in temples, in religious places, and registered in the court will come under the scrutiny of this committee. In case there is no contact with the parents, the committee will hold detailed questioning of the parents and decide on the fate of such marriages, Lodha had said.
Despite protests from various quarters, this GR continues to be in place and the surveillance of couple in inter-faith and inter-religious marriages continue.