It was not long back I had shared Samar’s story, who is a victim of misuse of IPC 498A. Samar’s story became the medium through which I was introduced to Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj, an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker based out of Gurgaon. She has been working against the misuse of IPC 498A, the dowry harassment act and had just completed her new documentary on the same subject. I was invited by Deepika for the Mumbai screening of her documentary – Martyrs of Marriage, scheduled on Friday, 23rd December. I was speechless by the end of the screening.
Marriage – a sacred institution that recognizes the union of two individuals as man and wife and is considered the medium of amalgamation of two families and cultures. Well, the institution seems to have lost it’s essence and veneration in current times with legal terrorism seeping in unabashedly. Section 498A, the provision that was drafted to protect women from the scourge of dowry harassments, has been being misused in the country since many years now. Considering the sensitivity of the provision and severity of criticism that it has come under, Deepika has undoubtedly shed light on various aspects of the said law right from its inception to becoming the most grossly misused law in the country through her feature Martyrs of Marriage (MoM).
The ninety minute film takes us through first person accounts by the victims and their families about the perpetual agony they had to go through and the terrible pain of losing their loved ones to death (read suicide) in cases where the extensive pressure of harassment was no more bearable. Each and every story shown in the film is heart wrenching. Deepika has also interviewed judges, advocates, police officials, legal mediators and Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) to support the facts and reality behind misuse of the provision, which included the likes of Rtd. Justice of Delhi High Court, Shiv Narain Dhingra and famous matrimonial lawyer of Mumbai High Court, Mrunalini Deshmukh.
The offence is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable
The film is an eye-opener for our society in many ways. Like the way it mentioned that men/husbands are not the only ones to bear the brunt when implicated in a false case of 498A, the women and children of the families too have their own share of sufferings. The offence is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable. The law is drafted in such a way that there is no need for any investigations before the arrests. So, every person against whom the wife files an FIR has to be arrested. According to the data, the youngest member to be arrested under such a case was a 2 month old infant and the oldest member arrested was an octogenarian.
Deepika has also incorporated couple of telephone recordings between family members of the wife and advocates discussing their modus operandi. This also brings forth the fact that most of the times the idea of slapping the husband with IPC 498A is of the lawyer, with the motive of earning quick money. One of the victims, Uma Challa, candidly expressed as to how the misuse of this law represented marriage to be prostitutional, since this seems to have become a big business for everyone involved within the nexus.
As Rtd. Justice Shiv Narain Dhingra rightly mentioned in the film, the section certainly needs amendments and needs to be put under one family law. Draft laws in a way that they are gender neutral and not biased against one particular gender. In the cases where accused are acquitted in view of false implications, there has to be some sort of punishments for the abusers of the law too.
If this is the scenario today, what future, what standards and what example of a society are we setting for our children and generations to come?
Every facet of the provision in question has been dealt with absolute and appropriate succession in the film. Right from the reason of inception of the law to how it started being misused. Delving into gravity of the reasons behind the misuse plus it’s fallouts, Deepika has done complete justice with the subject in hand. The director’s 4 years of research and perseverance has paid off well. Having faced a similar situation once, she decided to fight against it. She has done a commendable job taking up a cause that no one has attempted so far and has undoubtedly succeeded in doing so. She has been accused of being anti-feminist by many women but that could not dampen her fighting spirit.
At the end of the screening, Deepika introduced the audience to 3 victims from Mumbai, whose stories were featured in the film. I would not indulge in revealing the names since they have cases sub-judice. One of them, who has, till date won few cases including the custody of his children was very firm on advising men not to settle the matters with money and fight till end no matter what. Only then shall the conspirators learn a lesson. He still has section 498A pending against him and he will continue fighting.
A failed marriage is not a crime. Such insensitivities have left very little space for faith in institution of marriage and relationships
The film received a standing ovation from the audience which, in itself was amazing. The screening of Martyrs of Marriage in Mumbai turned out to be the world’s largest screening till date on a subject related to Men’s rights.
Every story in the film would leave one horror-stuck and in tears with several apprehensions ceaselessly running inside our heads. How can people drop down to such levels of inhumanity and heinous acts? Where did we lose all the tolerance? Why feel vengeful to an extent that even death of a person doesn’t move the accuser? When demand of dowry is a crime, then why is using the dowry law in reverse not considered a criminal act? If this is the scenario today, what future, what standards and what example of a society are we setting for our children and generations to come? Well, right now, it is in a lot of mess and chaos.
This is not about men v/s women. It is about right v/s wrong. About justice v/s injustice. A failed marriage is not a crime. Incompatibility in any relationship is not a crime. If human relationships are weighed in terms of crime, where would it lead mankind to? We, the Homo sapiens brag to be the most intelligent beings of the ecosystem. Are we now? Seems like the intellect is in continuous process of deterioration with greed and insensitivity. Such insensitivities have left very little space for faith in institution of marriage and relationships.
Deepika’s film leaves many questions for us to ponder upon.
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