There were days when I used to identify myself as feminist because, just like everyone, I had the misfortune to witness instances women being subjected to oppression to sexism with utmost humiliation, devoid of basic fundamental rights to education and freedom. I read many articles, seen documentaries and testimonies of rape, dowry victims on either on social media describing how badly they’ve suffered in the name of culture & how patriarchal mindset had been the culprit.
This notion got fueled overnight by the fateful Delhi gang-rape in December 2012 that had not only shook the entire nation’s conscience but also created hysteria and painted the entire country’s image as ‘rape country’, and New Delhi as ‘Rape Capital’. The media went berserk post 16th December and Indian men in general were suddenly painted as potential rapists and the source of all problem internationally, yet I overlooked it and thought it must be true, guilt-tripping myself for my existence as a man.
However one incident where one of distant cousin was falsely accused of dowry and domestic violence changed my stand forever. I personally witnessed an evil side of woman never thought I would ever come across. When I researched a bit more into this with the help of my friend’s lawyer with whom I had briefly interacted, I came to know 90% of such cases are false with 10% genuine rarely making it up to court proceeding due to pressure; and that 90% is more because most wives try to settle scores with her husbands and his parents (including distant relatives) citing petty issues and extort their hard-earned money and properties. From thereon, I realized not all men are perpetrators of crimes and not all women are victims and it was shattering.
A year later, Rohtak sister hogged the limelight. When a video where these two girl were seen thrashing two boys accused of molestation in a moving Haryana bus surfaced, they were all hailed as ‘champions of women empowerment’. While many were going gaga over this bravery, there was one woman who had an eye for detail and didn’t let the ‘celebration’ defeat her purpose. Like me, even she thought the girls were telling the truth until some of her MRA friends, who strongly sensed something fishy, urged her to investigate the case from ground level.
This woman named Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, based in Gurgaon, released two shocking and eye-opening YouTube videos that revealed Rohtak Sisters as habitual offenders of false accusation and extortion. As per the eye-witnesses, sisters were arguing with boys over seat and it was the sisters who began to thrash them for no concrete reason. By the time, the investigation came to conclusion unmasking Rohtak sisters, damage was already done by News Channels who ran kangaroo court, dissecting the boys character and declared them guilty that almost cost their career. Looking at the gravity of such fraudulent cases and it’s impact in men, I realized we must speak for men too with as much compassion as we speak for women.
Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj is a Software Engineer turned Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker who decided to take a stand for innocent men legally terrorized by gender biased laws esp. Section 498A and Section 376.
Many would be wondering what propelled her to speak for men when ‘feminism’ is blooming not as a career but also as a source of financial stability? Well, circumstances forced her to act because she had seen one of her friend and cousin encounter similar false legal implication in the past, who were given two choices by his wives to either divorce with hefty sum of amount or be accused of dowry and see their family behind bar while enjoying extra-marital affair. These events were enough to help her take a step and fight for men.
“After my cousin’s case, suddenly I saw it happening everywhere. Or perhaps what I had ignored for years was now staring me in the face. I started researching dowry cases and realized that what the media had told me wasn’t the only truth. The deeper I went, the uglier the reality was behind these cases. The other side of 498A left me utterly confused as a woman: How can I use a law when I am wrong? How can it allow me to play with anyone’s life? How can it be used as a weapon? How can “she” always be right and he “always” be wrong? How can it allow a woman to get away with so many lies? One night I stumbled upon a suicide video of Syed Ahmed Makhdoom, in which he described false 498A and his ordeal as the reason behind his death. It changed my life.”
– Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj
I have known Deepika for the past 2 years, met her personally for the first time, after long virtual interactions, when she was in Dubai to screen her much appreciated and gut-wrenching documentary film ‘Martyrs Of Marriage’ last year. Deepika isn’t popular amongst women right activists, rather considered ‘persona non-grata‘ for her work. She is more often abused, character-assaulted and mocked by both feminist tribes because she dared to thread a path that do not integrate with their radical ideology yet it never deterred her, in fact has only emboldened her spirit and keeps fighting against wrong.
Deepika considers herself as a social activist (never tilting towards either ‘feminist’ nor ‘Men’s Right Activist’ tags), who has nicely developed the ability to look at both sides of situations, form transparent and unbiased point of view.
She has seen cases where broken marriages turn into dowry cases, failed affair turns into rape cases, street fight turn into molestation just because a verbal complaint by a woman in any of these above-mentioned cases are enough for men to get arrested. Men are turning victims of systematic abuse of law, their tears, plight and innocence is increasingly getting ignored day by day. The gender biased laws has only strengthen the motive of unscrupulous women to abuse laws meant to shield them from potential harm.
She cannot let atrocities meted out at men in the name of justice of women in India. Having seen the trend of genuine feminism movement turning farce, She understands that the battle she has chosen is not easy, will make her face worst of the worst opponents, yet she is ready to tackle it and How? with integrity.
Unlike what others might want you to believe, Deepika is not a misogynist and loathe crime committed against women. She just wants the perpetrator to be brought to justice not on the basis of ‘gender’ but keeping in the mind the gravity of crime committed. She wants law to be gender neutral where not only women but men gets the right to be served justice.
In my eye, this is what Gender Equality stands for.
Men and Women are differently equal and are made to complement each other, not to compete or complete each other. If there is mutual trust, compassion, admiration, love and equality between two human beings; there wouldn’t have been any need of women, men or for that matter LGBTQ rights crusaders to begin with.
P.S: Martyrs Of Marriage is currently streaming in Netflix.