The Maharashtra government has set up a committee to gather information on the inter-faith and inter-caste marriage couples and the maternal families of the women involved if they are estranged, with its head and state minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha saying the move is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Shraddha Walkar case.
The opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) called it a 'retrograde' step and said the Eknath Shinde government had no right to spy on the personal life of people.
A Government Resolution (GR) issued on Tuesday by the state's Women and Child Development Department said the 'Intercaste/Interfaith marriage-family coordination committee (state level)' will be headed by Lodha.
The committee will monitor district-level initiatives for women involved in such marriages who may be estranged from their families, so that assistance can be provided if necessary, it said.
Talking to reporters on Wednesday, Lodha said setting up the committee was an attempt of the state government to ensure that the Shraddha Walkar case does not happen again.
"The fact that Walkar's family was not aware that she had died six months ago is scary...We don't want to have another Shraddha Walkar and this is the reason why the committee is being set up to ensure women in such marriages are not away from their families," he said.
Walkar was murdered allegedly by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawala in Delhi in May this year.
Poonawala allegedly strangled Shraddha and cut her body into 35 pieces which he kept in a 300-litre fridge for almost three weeks at his residence in Mehrauli in south Delhi, before dumping them across the city over several days.
The GR said that the committee will be a platform for women and their families to avail counselling and resolve issues.
It added that the panel will have 13 members from government and non-government fields to study policies of the state and central government regarding welfare schemes and laws related to the matter.
The committee will hold regular meetings with district officials and collect information of registered and unregistered inter-faith and Inter-caste marriages; on such marriage that took place in places of worship and marriages took place after elopement, it said.
Meanwhile, senior NCP leader and former state minister Jitendra Awhad said in a tweet, 'What's this rubbish of committee to check inter-caste/religion marriages? Who is govt to spy on who marries whom? In liberal Maharashtra this a retrograde, nauseating step. Which way is progressive Maharashtra heading towards. Stay away from people's private life.'
However, Eknath Shinde-led 'Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena' spokesman Krishna Hegde welcomed the step..
'Welcome move by Govt of Maharashtra to set up State level committee to study data of Inter-religion and Inter-caste marriages. Proactive steps taken by the Govt in the right direction,' he tweeted.
Last month, minister Lodha had asked the State Women's Commission to set up a special squad to identify women who married without family support and are estranged from them. This decision was taken in view of the Shraddha Walkar murder case.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had recently said that his government would study laws on freedom of religion, dubbed as legislations on 'love jihad', enacted by other states, but had not yet decided on introducing a similar law in the western state.
'Love jihad' is a term often used by right-wing activists to allege a ploy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into religious conversion through marriage.