Marriage breakup in India these days takes lesser time than it takes to complete six balls in a cricket match. ‘Over’ says the Umpire in a cricket game; his decision is final, no appeals, no reviews. But in an Indian divorce, the real match begins for players of the game. Prenuptial agreements or contracts as seen in the Western world are supposed to minimize the litigation for the warring couples, and to ensure that no party uses divorce for the express purpose of financial profit. However, in India, it is a different power play altogether.
News reports started off saying that a kerosene-burning of a woman took place in the side lanes of the old city of Hyderabad. The accusation of the 30% burn victim is that she was attacked and burnt by her relatives. The woman is currently hospitalized and undergoing treatment. Police had taken custody of the accused and questioned.
After investigation, other facts came to light. The relatives claimed that they were not involved in the incident. The burn victim claimed that she was working in Deloitte software company. She claimed that the attack took place at 10pm in the night. During investigation, the police officials could not get any leads. At this stage a young man came forward to say that he was an eyewitness to the incident. But when the police interrogated him further, he claimed that the woman called him up at 9.30pm and told him that she was burnt and told him to give false witness of the incident.
Even her rescuer confirmed that he did not see anyone who could have set her on fire. On further investigation, police found out that she was not working for Deloitte. She already had 13 cheating cases on her. She even put false cases on many of her relatives and made them run around courts. An elderly relative explains how she put rape case against him, his wife, his deceased daughter and his two sons. When they were acquitted, she filed writ petition against their acquittal in the High Court. It is reported that she even put cases against people who refused to helped her and also against people who helped her! MBT party leader Azadullah Khan says that he himself, his brother, party workers and even a lawyer who helped her with bail were also implicated in fake harassment cases by this woman.
The news report concludes that at present, the police are investigating further into the case, but as of now it seems that the woman has allegedly has set herself on fire to implicate her government-employed relatives and extort money from them.
There have been several news reports informing the public that the Women & Child Development (WCD) Ministry is proposing the legitimization of pre-nuptial contracts in India. Sounds just like cricketing rules. Sounds fair and square? After all cricket is supposed to be a gentleman’s game overseen by gentlemen umpires. Some would say that’s patriarchal oppression of the stadium! But if we allow the dust to settle and allow the playground to become visible once more, we will find that the WCD has no mandate to create rules of the marriage game on its own. Remember, in a past issue the WCD famously responded by saying “Protection of men is also not the mandate of Ministry of WCD”.
By definition any heterosexual Marriage involves the union of a man and a woman, then it can be said with reasonable authority that WCD has no mandate for drafting any law involving marriage. In reciprocation, and in all fairness, we the men of India recognize the fact that we do not have any mandate for marriages involving woman and woman. If at all WCD is burdening itself with heterosexual marriage laws, then a partner-body of Men and Child Development (MCD) Ministry must be immediately constituted to allow reason and logic also to be clinically injected into the draft. Provisionally, till the formation of an MCD, Men’s Rights Groups must be allowed to put in their representations to the law making body.
The WCD is a Ministry which has time and again shown itself to be anti-male for adults as well as children (witness the anti-male child remarks by the current Minister). If it is the official stated position of the WCD Ministry that “all violence is male generated” then logically speaking WCD should not entertain any sort of contact between men and women. So if Honorable Minister Maneka Gandhi’s views on males as generators of violence is to be taken at face value, then by proposing a prenuptial law then the WCD, by its own admission is directly contributing to the violence.
Besides any one-sided prenuptial law, being unrepresented by the side of men, is the same as a dowry demand, which is illegal & prohibited by the Dowry Prohibition Act.
Also like in the past, WCD is more suited to propose new laws and amendments for encouraging breakup and post-breakup scenarios like dowry cases, Domestic Violence Act which is applicable only for women and matters involving incentives for divorces for women, as opposed to Domestic Harmony law proposed by men’s rights groups. Therefore it can be said that till now as far as women and men are concerned, in the context of a family, the WCD has been working purely on divisive lines.
Marriage is a unifying concept, performed for the purpose of harmonious cohabitation and the growth of man, woman and children. Marriage is not a platform for unleashing male hatred, property division and making children the property of the State. The WCD, therefore having no experience or mandate or any intention of drafting unifying laws is uniquely disqualified from making proposals for the creation of any sort of draft outlines in any context remotely concerning marriage. We therefore summarily oppose any lab experimentation on the institution of marriage by any unscientific body. The WCD is advised to rediscover fire and reinvent the wheel & also clean itself of misandry before it even thinks of reformulating the rules of man-woman relationship of marriage. In case the government and public still think that a law on prenuptials are required, then we suggest that WCD and Mens Rights Organizations sign a prenuptial agreement first to sit together and draft a prenuptial law. Hows that for equality?
It was mid-day and the April sun was sharp against my face. I was the last of the prisoners to enter the courtyard. It was hexagonal with a small room near the centre. A big man in a prison uniform looked at me and told everyone to pick up a plate. When my turn came, there were no plates left. I was terrified at the thought of asking him. The inmate looked at me like I was a cockroach. Then he uttered a “$@%8#.. andar se pilate le” (“Get a plate from inside”) and pointed to a small dusty room with an open door. I went inside and found a few bent food plates with dust and dried grime on it. I picked up the least dirty one. This one looked like it was greased with tar.
I took the plate and wandered out of the hexagon into where I saw the last man disappear. It opened into a bigger courtyard with lots of trees and barracks building on the right, with a few men sitting outside and looked at me as if I was a foreign tourist. I probably had that look of a lost boy on my face. I looked around for the least intimidating looking man and approached him with caution. I was not sure if I should talk to him first. He asked me if I had any cigarettes with me. I told him I don’t. He scowled at me as if I had a rabid infection and after a pause, gestured at my plate and told me to clean it near a cemented water tank.
Thus began the longest plate cleaning exercise of my life. In part I was relieved I had something to do. I poured some water on and used some detergent powder that I found next to the tap. It barely even cleaned the caked dust. I picked up some sand and tried to scrub off the tar. I saw it make some progress. I wondered if they had sandpaper supply in prison. That was the engineer in me thinking. I scrubbed and scrubbed till the skin of my hands showed signs of peeling off. The final result still had some black tar in a thin layer. With sweat pouring down my face, I could see lines of metal after my engineering feat. I prepared myself mentally to eat off the plate if I was going to be here forever.
I looked up to see a thin young man looking at me intently. He looked amused at what I was doing. He said “Bhaijaan, usko pheko. Khane ka wakat, mere pilate le lo, baad me accha wala doondh ke dunga” (“Brother, leave that plate, you may use my plate during meal-time, I will find you a better one later”). Something about his gesture was reassuring, because I felt I was going to be here for a long long time. I kept imagining, no, I was sure that my family stopped trying to get me out on bail, though I did not have much understanding of that concept then.
That evening I was sitting on my own, trying to avoid ‘the hardened criminals’, imagining all sort of sordid things that might happen to me. The same boy set up a carrom board game and asked me to play with him along with two others. The second day of prison was spent like this, listening to their life stories.
The next morning I kept listening to the loudspeaker announcements that listed out names for release on bail granted or visitation ‘Rihae or Mulaqat‘. My name or number did not come up, but my new friend came back from somewhere, called me by name and asked me to report to the Superintendent’s office for release procedure and to hurry. He did not even wait for me to thank him.
I had a lot of time to reflect on that in the years to come. I do not remember his name, lost in the hardened faces I tried to remember during the three days of ‘judicial remand’. I have forgotten the names, I have forgotten the faces, but I will remember the kindness and the concern the inmates showed me those three days, something I didn’t find in all the people who pretend to uphold law, justice and fairness in the days that led up to prison and hence.
Today, I commemorate the Prison Experience Day with my thanks to the inmates, their kindness and humanity that is lost in the ‘fair and just outside world’. Today, I wish the humanity in them with my #SelfieInPrison initiative