Pune's 'Right to Love' NGO pushes for garden exclusively for lovers

Feb 11, 2018, 11:00 IST | Chaitraly Deshmukh

Right to Love has written to the Pune Municipal Corporation requesting that they grant a space for couples to enjoy quality time together, without fear of harassment

Members of NGO Right To Love, which was formed in 2015 to help couples in need
Members of NGO Right To Love, which was formed in 2015 to help couples in need

Close on the heels of the upcoming Valentine's Day celebration, a Pune-based NGO that has been working towards protecting the rights of couples, especially those  targeted for cosying up in public places, is spearheading a campaign to demand a garden exclusively for lovers. The group, which runs Right To Love, has written a letter to the Pune Municipal Corporation requesting that the garden be created at the earliest.

A space of their own
"The idea is to provide a space for lovers to enjoy quality time without any interference from authorities or violent mobs," said Abhijeet Kamble, 33, in-charge of Right To Love. The NGO, Kamble said, was launched in 2015 after footage of a Latur-based couple being brutally attacked, went viral. Until now, the group has helped nearly 37 couples - facing stiff opposition from their families - settle down.  

Z Bridge in Pune, which is a favourite spot for couples, has often been targeted by cops
Z Bridge in Pune, which is a favourite spot for couples, has often been targeted by cops

Swapnil Manav, a volunteer, who also works as an accountant with an IT company, said, "Couples are targeted for no rhyme or reason. Sometimes, they are attacked for simply holding hands." According to Manav, there are currently, around 100 gardens in Pune. "We are only asking for one garden. Most couples just want to sit and talk. Having such a space will put them at ease. They can enjoy their private time without the fear of being victimised."

Harassment by cops
Lawyer Vikas Shinde, who works with the NGO, blamed the police for instilling fear in couples. "In the name of moral policing, the cops unnecessarily harass people. A garden for couples is a step forward, especially when Pune is transforming into a smart city." Another volunteer, Mayuri Sushma Madan, who works as a counsellor, said that several couples have approached and relayed horrifying stories of torture by the police.

"The cops target places like Z Bridge, where couples like spending time together," said Madan. However, Ravindra Kadam, joint commissioner of police (law and order), said that the police did not have any issues with couples sitting together. "It's their right to assemble and express. It becomes a nuisance, when they cross the line." Pune Municipal Commissioner Kunal Kumar said that a garden for couples sounded interesting and would be considered, if feasible. "I haven't received the letter yet. we will take a decision after studying it," he said.

With inputs from Gaurav Sarkar 

Mumbai couples want garden too
When mid-day reached out to Mumbaikars, many supported the idea. Rishma K, 27, said, "We need a spot where couples can spend time without being shooed away." But, Andheri resident Maria Rodrigues Almeida, said, "Such a park would invite indecent behaviour from couples, which would then, in turn, attract criticism from local residents."

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