MEN IN BLACK: Gupta, Gokul and Sheikh are among those who are brought together by the grief caused by women
In this column, we portray incredible, desperate and even very sane groups. This week, we present some men who claim to have been emotionally and physically abused by their wives. They gather every Saturday to figure a way out, reports Ketan Tanna
It is a group that most men would say they would join. But that is in the mirth of male bonding when jokes about marriage and wives flow. There are places, however, where the cruelty of wives is discussed in unnerving seriousness. Woman, the great victim of our times, would suddenly appear as a monster. She apparently attacks, using not just words and a partisan law, but also with finger nails and stainless steel utensils. The comity of such men who have suffered at the hands of their wives may invite chuckles, but their stories are disturbing.
One morning five years ago, P R Gokul, former marketing manager of Crompton Greaves, had a predicament. His left cheek had deep scratch and injury marks that were inflicted, according to him, by his wife the previous night. â€œWhen I went to my office, I just fibbed saying I was riding and a tree branch hit me. What could I do? I could not tell them that I was being battered by my wife.â€
The Malayalee, now 33, eventually had to quit his job, because the emotional trauma of his marriage made it hard for him to concentrate at work as his wife had filed various cases under 498 A (anti-dowry law) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code, while in Mumbai. â€œMy aged parents back home in Kerala too faced harassment from my in-laws. Their anticipatory bail in Kerala was rejected. A police team from Mumbai went to arrest them, but in the meantime they came to Mumbai where they finally got bail. The idea was to shame them, torture me and disgrace us.â€ (His wifeâ€™s version could not be obtained). The divorce came through but he lost custody of his infant daughter.
Gokul knew that there were many men like him. To bring them together and fight for their right to dignity as men, in 2003 he decided to form the Protect India Family (PIF) group. PIF is affiliated to a larger group called Save India Family (SIF), that has a presence across many cities in India. PIF meets every Saturday at an office near the Mulund court between 6 pm and 8 pm. The office belongs to M R Gupta, an IIT graduate and a businessman whose IIM-educated son has been fighting messy legal battles after being sued by his wife. The group has over 80 aggrieved husbands who have been either physically or mentally battered by their wives. New members join every week. The men are also very active on the internet, where they use blogs and message boards to declare their troubles and seek assistance of any sort.
In the Saturday meetings which are attended by 10 to 30 members, problems are openly discussed. Emotional and legal guidance is given. Everyone has a traumatic tale to relate. â€œThe people in this group had just two choices. Either become henpecked or become handcuffed,â€ says a 32-year-old Gujarati, who is a qualified software professional. His romance began in a
chat room and ended in court.
He describes his marriage as a terrible experience. â€œMany a times she would slap me, hit me violently. Her daily tantrums and fights soon became well-known in our locality. One day, she upped and left,â€ he says indignantly. They agreed on a divorce by mutual consent, but soon she returned to his life and lengthy legal battles ensued on various grounds. â€œWe all have become lawyers in this group. Now we can actually give any lawyer a run for his or her money. But in the bargain, we have also become emotionally fragile and naked,â€ he says.
Vivek Verma, a chubby, bespectacled 32-yearold computer engineer, is one of those who enjoyed marriage once. For eight-and-a-half years. He says things changed when his wife began to have abnormal mood swings following an ailment. Her medication, he says, worsened her condition and she became, â€œphysically violent and mentally cruelâ€. He is now fighting her over a hefty maintenance and also pines for his twoyear-old daughter. Both his wife and daughter now live in Delhi.
Suhail Sheikh, a 34-year-old web designer from Navi Mumbai, whose marriage lasted for just 25 days, says that in India the law offers no protection to men. â€œThis would eventually disintegrate India,â€ is the view of many men in this group. Gokul says, â€œWhen lop-sided laws start impinging on the very institution of marriage, when the foundation of families are attacked, there will be revolt. The recent Domestic Violence law is like a nail in the coffin. But in a way we are happy about it because more the false cases and more the victimisation of men, the better will be the voice against such draconian laws.â€
The men here are aware of the theory that women can be protected only by brutal laws. But they feel that the time has come to examine this logic. The increasing empowerment of women in cities, they suggest, has led to rampant misuse. Through the laws meant to protect them, women have simply become too powerful. One of the members says, â€œThe misuse of laws by scheming women is just like the tale of Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite. He invented the dynamite as he wanted a useful tool for his construction work. But now dynamite is being used for destructive purposes. The same is true of Sections 498A and 407. The intention may have been good. But these laws have now turned into legal terrorism.â€ He says there are cases where many husbands canâ€™t help, but get provoked like Zinedine Zidane when their parents/siblings are abused. â€œIn such cases, the manâ€™s red card would come from the police in the form of 498 A or divorce. Sadly, his silent and tolerant behaviour throughout the marriage will be ignored, and only the instance when verbal abuse provoked and got the better of him will be recognised. With some tears, the lady enjoys the luck of Materazzi and gets the world cup for her team. The bottomline is that the winner takes all and the loser gets none,â€ says the software professional.
At times, friends and relatives gently rib the harassed husbands and there are even times when the group evokes amusement. â€œIn India, we are still not used to talking about human rights for all genders. Human rights are still predominantly associated with women. Laws are supposed to be equal for everyone, but I do not think men in India have any rights,â€ says Gokul. Gradually the group has moved beyond the initial embarrassment of what the society or neighbours would say. â€œYes, initially it was embarrassing when the police came to my house or when the neighbours came out of their homes to see what was happening. But after a while, these things do not matter. It is the belief in self and in our cause which has become our motto,â€ says Gokul. TNN