CHHATTISGARH: Domestic violence may be a crime, but in India it is also a social scourge that the victims, mostly women, are expected to bear silently.
Quite often, chuppi or silence becomes the way of life for such victims, even if the abuse leaves them mentally or physically scarred for life and families shattered. That is what the Raipur police sought to change when it launched the Chuppi Tod (Break Your Silence) campaign in mid-March this year.
The campaign was the brainchild of Raipur senior superintendent of police Arif H Sheikh. With cases of domestic violence witnessing a surge during the coronavirus-mandated lockdown, the SSP felt it was time the victims spoke up about the ordeal they regularly face at the hands of their abusive spouses.
It was while investigating a murder that police got the idea of the campaign. Fed up of persistent nagging and abuse, a woman had killed her husband. The incident made Sheikh, a 2005-batch IPS officer, prepare an elaborate plan to make the victims break their silence.
It was easier said than done, though. It was a tough task for the police to convince the victims to pick up the courage to speak out. What made the campaign click was the approach the police have adopted. They do not take the investigation and punishment route.
There is no rush to register an FIR. Only 14 cases have been registered out of 2,075 instances of abuse and assault reported so far. "Our focus is to intervene and stop cruelty by the spouse, followed by reconciliation efforts," said the SSP, who has won three global recognitions on community policing.
Initially 1,500 cases lodged since 2018 in Raipur city were taken up for random follow-up. Four teams under Investigation Unit for Crime Against Women were constituted and around 100 women were dailled daily. An 11-point questionnaire was prepared to record stories of harassment, abuse and sexual assault.
It helped to grasp the mental status of the victims before working out counselling sessions and initiating reconciliation process with the assistance of psychologists and activists. "A well-researched questionnaire worked for us as well as the victims. Our concern remains to resolve the cases amicably," said Amrita Sori, chief of IUCAW, the nodal agency for the campaign.
While connecting with the victims over the phone, the police personnel hide their identities saying they are calling from the health department to assess the well-being of the family and the sufferer. "This was done to ensure the victim’s spouse doesn’t get suspicious or she is not hesitant of narrating her plight due to fear or threat," added Sori.
The plan incorporates counselling of the victims, involving them with social welfare programmes or their vocational training. At the same time, the police promote the campaign on social media platforms.
Though the victims of the violence are overwhelmingly women, about 10 per cent sufferers happen to be men. "We have resolved over 80 per cent of the complaints received and generated awareness about the law," said Sheikh.