It may not have ended well for the lead characters of the caste violence-based Marathi film Sairat, but a group in Maharashtra that is named after the blockbuster aims to ensure that no couples face the same fate in real life. Called the Sairat Marriage Group, the members of the group work towards helping couples whose families are against their union due to reasons ranging from economic ones to caste.
The group was formed about a month ago by a group of journalism students from Savitribai Phule University, and came about due to debates on social media about the highest grossing Marathi film ever.
"Several like-minded people, who were already working for the cause came together with the aim of joining their resources in order to help couples in a more effective manner. We publicised our collective through various social media platforms, and soon grew to include around 100 volunteers and members," Nilesh Kalaskar, one of the volunteers of the group, told ScoopWhoop News.
Kalaskar, like most of the other volunteers, pitches in and works for the group when a case comes up. The group has no formal office or structure.
"The group relies mainly on social media and word of mouth to reach out to people, and most of the couples have contacted us through WhatsApp. The group then works with the couple, understanding their problems and then counselling them about further action, which includes providing rent-free shelters, lawyers as well as employment through various sources; and dissuading them from taking any drastic measure like suicide,” Kalaskar said.
Kalaskar said that the group has so far been successful in helping around 10 to 15 couples from different castes, including aiding a Hindu-Muslim couple, escape persecution by their families. The group has no support from the government or any other organisations, and members of the group often spend their own money to aid couples.
The group's members have claimed that they have had to face repercussions like threats.
"The mindset of the society in India is such that even the police at the local level refuses to help the couples in need. However, when our activists come forward with laws supporting the couples, the police has to take action in their favour,” Jagdish Sandanshiv, another member of the group, said.
“The top officials are often more understanding and supportive than the local officials. However, the problem lies in reaching them and persuading them to take notice of the issue," he said.
One couple the group claims to have successfully helped are Aakash and Chhaya Gotise, both residents of Ambarnath near Mumbai, who got married in a court.
"The family of the girl was not informed regarding the marriage as they were completely against it. The group advised and helped us in contacting the police, who then went to inform the girl’s family about the marriage, and told them the couple had the backing of law as consenting adults," Ramesh Gotise, the father of Akash, said.
"While the family has not yet accepted the union, they haven’t caused any serious troubles either, which is a cause of immense relief to us," he said.