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Sanjoy Sachdev has been hailed as the defender of love in India. For some, he’s a villain: NPR

Sanjoy Sachdev founded the Delhi-based Love Commandos.

Lauren Frayer

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Lauren Frayer

Sanjoy Sachdev has been hailed as the defender of love in India. For some, he's a villain: NPR

Sanjoy Sachdev founded the Delhi-based Love Commandos.

Lauren Frayer

All over the world, Sanjoy Sachdev was considered the Cupid of India.

Sachdev harbors runaway couples who defy the country’s norm of arranged marriage. But one day, some of these couples decided to drop him. For what?

NPR’s New Podcast Series love commandos Since Approximate translation examines how Sachdev and his group became villains in the eyes of many they promised to help.

Who is he? Sachdev founded the Love Commandos, a Delhi-based group that for nearly a decade ran a haven for young lovers fleeing threats of violence.

But in 2019, Sachdev and the other commandos were arrested for wrongful confinement and extortion – allegations coming from the very couples they promised to help.

What is the problem ? In India, around 95% of marriages are arranged by families, usually within the same caste or religion.

People who marry for love, without parental permission, challenge these boundaries. As a result, many of them have been ostracized, kidnapped or even killed by their families or communities.

And some of them turn to the Love Commandos, desperate for the services the group has been promoting for a decade:

  • Help us navigate the Indian marriage registration system to obtain the documents that can validate their union in the eyes of the law.
  • Advice on how to start their new life when their own family has rejected them or when people in their life still pose a threat to their safety.
  • A promise of free protection and hosting, sometimes for months.

NPR reporter Lauren Frayer and love commandos Series co-host Mansi Choksi spoke to more than 30 people who accepted the Commandos’ offer of protection. For many of them, their stay at the shelter was anything but safe. They allege that the Commandos:

  • They pressured them for money, sometimes demanding whatever they had in their pockets or in the bank.
  • They withheld their cell phones, identity cards and other important documents, with the aim of keeping them at the shelter for as long as possible.
  • Forced them to perform free labor, including cooking and cleaning, not only for themselves, but also for other couples at the shelter and in the private homes of Love Commandos volunteers.
  • They fostered an atmosphere of manipulation and abuse, threatening to reveal their location to their families, making Castist and Islamophobic remarks, and tormenting them with dogs when they refused to do as they were told.

In 2019, some of these couples alerted local authorities. Sanjoy Sachdev and other Love Commandos volunteers deny their accusations, and some other couples who have been through the shelter say they have not witnessed any such behavior.

Want the full story? Listen to NPR’s new podcast series love commandos Since Approximate translation.

What are people saying?

How Sachdev could have failed to notice the discontent rumbling in the shelter:

  • Approximate translation Podcast host Gregory Warner: “One thing we know about Sachdev, from friends and foes, is that Sachev was always a man who needed an audience. [It’s not hard to imagine] that Sachdev could also be someone who liked to play the part of a revolutionary under the captive gaze of young spectators… It may have served his self-image by gradually ignoring the fact that so many couples so desperately wanted to leave .

On the consequences of the arrest of the Commandos in India:

  • Journalist Mansi Choksi, co-host of the love commandos series: “It reinforces that once you cross the invisible lines of the caste system, you’re going to get into trouble. So if it’s not an honor killing, you’re going to be trapped in [a] scam…. Here you have someone who promised to protect you for challenging the caste system, but the real thing is that he is going to scam you.

On the challenges couples face after leaving the Love Commandos shelter:

  • Lauren Frayer, NPR Reporter and Former India Correspondent: “Almost every couple I’ve spoken to have reconciled with some family, but not all. [One couple] left the country, put an ocean between them and their two families. But none of the couples I spoke to concluded, “That’s it, I’m not going to talk to my family anymore.” None of these couples abandoned their families, even if they abandoned them. »
Sanjoy Sachdev has been hailed as the defender of love in India. For some, he's a villain: NPR

Sachdev Fields calls to his office inside the Commandos’ shelter in Delhi.

Lauren Frayer

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Lauren Frayer

And now ?

  • The criminal trial of Sanjoy Sachdev and other members of the Love Commandos is ongoing, four years after their arrest. Some couples from the shelter testified. Sachdev appeared in court, but lawyers say it may take a few more years before a verdict is reached, if at all.

Other organizations provide similar services to Love Commandos in India: Dhanak of Humanity runs a support group for interfaith and intercaste couples, the India Love Project shines a light on the love stories of couples from all walks of life and , since 2021, the Delhi City Government had been operating a mixed shelter for needy couples. However, none of them cover all the services provided by the Love Commandos.

Learn more:

  • Listen to all five episodes of love commandos by NPR Approximate translationwherever you get your podcasts.
  • Read correspondent Lauren Frayer’s companion story about a couple who came through the Love Commandos shelter.
  • Read host Gregory Warner’s conversation with a woman who mentors interfaith couples to help them mitigate the risk of becoming victims of violence.
  • Check out Mansi Choksi’s ‘The Newlyweds: Reshaping Marriage in Modern India’, which tells the heartbreaking love stories of couples across the country.

Luis Trelles, Mansi Choksi and Raksha Kumar contributed to this report.

NPR News

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

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