IPC 498A states , “Cruelty lies in the eys of the Beholder”. A shory essay on how Indian marital laws ruin the lives of young ,honest and intelligent Indian NRI boys in the name of Dowry Harrasment .
How do I start telling about a sad and bitter story that I have just narrowly escaped, but have found other unfortunate brethrens that got duped? Should I present it as my story and use the sympathy gained from readers to nurse my own insignificant wounds or should I report it as a story of an actual victim as a third person and stay objective?
I had heard word ‘Bakra(Sacrificial Lamb)’ being used again and again by few of my wife’s girlfriends in a small gathering that my wife hosted shortly after our marriage to introduce me to all her special friends. I never understood the giggles that inevitably followed. We all were Vegetarians, so what was this “Bakra” all about?
As a member of growing Indian Diaspora in Western countries, you may have heard about or known young professionally qualified men, who after arriving from India have quickly ascended into secure and well paid jobs to establish themselves into acceptable standards in foreign lands. Such Indian men are popularly referred to as FOB (Fresh off the Boat). They are pride of India and pride of the land that have chosen to reside in.
You may have also come across few young Indian men who were born and brought up in foreign lands, in a land that was adopted by their forefathers. This group of young men is popularly referred to as ABCD (American/Australian Born Confused Desi).
Irrespective of whether a guy is FOB or ABCD, at some stages in his life, he starts (or is persuaded to) searching for his life partner, a perfect quintessential woman!
Directly or indirectly his attention is drawn to large number of educated and qualified brides from India. Perhaps, you have actively participated in conversations that discuss relative merits of matrimonial websites that specialise in servicing young brides and grooms of Indian Origin.
Whether the guy is still a NRI with significant roots still back in India or he is citizen (Permanently Resident) of the land that he is now living in, he will usually browse through matrimonial advertisements appearing in Indian and local papers and increasingly on the internet sites.
But, does he know of the dangers that are lurking just beneath the surface for getting married to girls from India?
If he is naïve and gullible (like I once was), he will foresee no problems whatsoever. After all, he is well established in a foreign land and has some strength to support the woman that he is hoping to bring into his life. Moreover, his prospective bride is also going to have sort of standards. She will also be a professional and when given a chance, she will also carve out her own success story. So, what is the problem?
In one phrase, the answer is “IPC 498A”. Yep, read it again, “IPC 498A”. That one phrase can become a problem that is big enough to drive many a successful men of Indian origin to commit suicide. This is the price that these unfortunate men pay for their overseas success.
To those of you who have never heard of this phrase, it stands for “Indian Penal Code 498A”. As you may have surmised by now, “IPC 498A” is some sort of Indian law. It is a full family nightmare for those who do get trapped.
Very few men come out of IPC 498A unscathed. Most come out after having lost major portion of what they had been working for. Few come out with virtually nothing but the clothes that they were wearing. Few become angry and stay that way for rest of their lives. Few become insane or suffer from life long diseases. Few get branded and are levelled with worst terrorists of the world. Those who are not prepared to face any of this, succumb to the comfort of committing suicide.
“What the heck is IPC 498A?” Is that what I heard you ask?
Well, my fellow married or unmarried Men, watch out for this one!!!
Another name for IPC 498A is “CRUELTY BY HUSBAND AND RELATIVES”.
From what is haphazardly documented, IPC 498A was drafted by esteemed Government of India to counter the growing problem in India wherein young brides and married women that were being harassed and tortured. Purportedly, the reason for this cruelty towards women was to extort money from her parents or her relatives. And the obvious perpetrators were husband and his family members. The IPC 498A was drafted to combat any and all such cruel husbands and serve them with a swift Justice.
AHA! So you say, they deserve it! It is a miraculous that Indian government came up with a law that could provide swift justice.
But what does a torturing Indian husband have to do with a man who is not living in India? After all, the latter is a professional, who is generally well educated and surely he would not stoop down to level that may be perceived as cruelty.
Answer as it turns out is “EVERYTHING!!”
As a child, I used to hear of phrases such as “Beauty is in the eye of beholder”; “Rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”.
From the lens of IPC 498A, “Cruelty is in the eye of beholder too”.
IPC 498A allows any married woman (Marriage has to be considered as legitimate in India) to approach the police in India and make a complaint that her husband and/or his family is being cruel towards her. In lot of cases, she does not even have to give a written complaint. Her oral testimony is considered true. After all, there have been no women in India, who can lie. The oral statement provided by the grieving woman is noted down by an obliging police officer. Once this formality is completed, her testimony is considered to be a part of “State Witness”. Depending upon the relative shrewdness of the complaining woman or the police officer taking her complaint, the focus quickly shifts towards the assets that are owned by the husband and his family. The poor tortured woman is entitled to complain of being harassed by more than one individual from her husband’s family irrespective of that person’s age, gender or health.
After the complaining process is finished, the woman is free to go wherever she chooses. She is a “STATE WITNESS”. She does not have to make herself available again.
Thus, you may have gathered that Indian Government has made it is extremely easy for any married woman to make a complaint. Alas! Perhaps you have had more experience than Government of India that some women can speak lie too.
Judging from the statistics of past few years of IPC 498A (shown in a table that will be shortly attached), it seems that 98% of women in India who have made complaints under IPC 498A have resorted to various degrees of lie. Perhaps, the magnitude and intensity of lie uttered by a woman depends upon the upbringing and family values that she was taught as a little girl.
Remember, I said that “IPC 498A” was designed to serve swift justice. In a policy that is akin to “Shoot first, Verify identity later (if at all)” philosophy, IPC 498A allows Indian Police to promptly prepare arrest warrants for everyone that is named in the woman’s complaint.
The most startling aspect of the IPC 498A arrest warrants is that the Indian bureaucratic machinery responsible for preparing them somehow manages to conclude bulk of their task on Friday afternoon! So, everyone who is named in the complaint under IPC 498A gets arrested on Friday evening. Since the courts are not fully operational on Saturday and Sunday, most of the people who are arrested spend their weekend inside a police lockup. Most usually get bails by Monday or Tuesday to be released from custody of Police, but bail is after all a bail. It is essentially a virtual arrest wherein you have freedom to move about instead of being locked up one place.
Constant presence of young and successful NRI men eagerly browsing the matrimonial websites to search for their life partners in India completes the picture. While the Indian law in itself does not seem to discriminate against NRI, the prospective brides, her family and the Police certainly seem to have a formula that is well suited to a NRI.
A NRI man may find that shortly after his marriage, his newly wed wife from India is behaving very differently from what she used to. She has generally become more demanding and gets too angry too fast. He may try to reason with her or perhaps consider sending her back to India.
Maybe, she is too depressed by having seen overseas life with all its gloss removed, or she had a boy-friend back in India that her parents did not approve of. Each woman had unique set of reasons and the sentiments towards her marriage. It becomes a problem if a woman was unscrupulous to start with or she can be talked into making an IPC 498A complaint. If she is born and bred in Urban India, she may be bold enough to do it herself.
There are police stations in India that specialise in providing ready made typed IPC 498A complaint documents that only need to be read out by the woman, since many still do not know on how and what to complain about. She is encouraged to add the relatives of husband who are living locally.
What if she is not prepared to read, “No problems, Ma’am!” There will usually be some member of police force, who, on behalf of the woman will be eager to read out her complaints/ self experiences from an already typed document.
It was extremely puzzling to read that almost all the NRI from Northern India were accused of holding and dragging their estranged wife by her hair while brethren from South were accused of beating her with his footwear. The repetitive violence stories were as puzzling as they were unsettling. Surely the Indian men had to have some variations on how they had abused their ex-wives. You could predict what was going to be in paragraph 5 of the complaint solely based upon the men’s name in paragraph 1. This enigma was solved after the discovery of ready made 498A complaint sheets. The BEST example of Indian supportiveness and “Indian Ingenuity, Global Impact”!
The woman is advised by police to not contact her husband or his family until all the paperwork is ready. After the paperwork is ready, she is advised to contact them and to make her specific demands known giving them extremely short time to comply. If they do not agree, the police swings into action and makes few arrests. The hell breaks lose.
If a husband is overseas when he comes to know of this, he has two options. First is to immediately succumb to his wife’s demands. It is a price that he has to pay to free members of his family who are in jail. He may attempt to fly to India to sort out the mess. He usually has no idea that he is headed directly into jail. Once, in India, he may be arrested on bail and cannot go back to his normal country of residence. His passport is taken away to ensure this. He has to stay until his trial is heard. In that case, he loses his job, his car, his house, etc…
The easiest way out of this predicament is to settle with his wife, which usually means that he has to pay her (or her family) large sum of money. The fact that he’d also be signing a divorce papers is a certainty. After he has been fleeced, he is free to go back to his foreign country so as to nurse his wounds or earn money to pay off the loan that he had to take to buy his freedom.
These men are perhaps the luckiest (sorry!!! least unfortunate) in terms of actual injuries. Unless you consider the fact that he will now be carrying his silent and unspoken wounds and emotional scars of being scammed for rest of his life.
It progressively gets worse for the rest. Those who are smart enough to stay overseas and choose to fight with the complaint of wife have to put up with extremely slow court machinery of India. The actual case of 498A is likely to see trial after 7 years in waiting. In all those 7 years, he, his parents and his relatives are under bail (arrest without being in jail).
Perhaps, those who do not have any family in India, or those whose wife did not name anyone other than the husband are less unfortunate. You might be inclined to think that, but you are wrong.
For a woman with some clout and police who are determined to get him, they have an option of Interpol. Police can issue an Interpol “Red Corner Notice” for such people. Interpol alert as you may already know is usually reserved for hardened criminals such as serial murderers, terrorists and drug dealers.
I have heard about a brilliant and successful software programmer (only child of his parents) who initially tried to hide somewhere in USA after his beloved wife put him on Interpol red corner notice for him. She had gone to India for her sister’s wedding and never came back to him. She went to Police to claim that her husband had asked for Rs. 1,00,000/- from her parents! The husband used to work in a large multinational before he got listed on Interpol, from which he was sacked as soon as his American manager came to know of his Interpol status. No sane company will want to hire a person who is branded akin to a terrorist. It took him over 6 months to realize what he had been dealt with only to be shot by a vigilant US police officer who recognized him. His father succumbed to heart attack shortly after his son’s death. His mother is not so lucky. She is still alive and locked up in a mental hospital chanting either “My husband did not ask for Rs. 1,00,000!!!” or “Give me Rs. 1,00,000, I need to send that to USA to bring my son back to life”. Her Doctors think that her son was a terrorist who was killed by US Police and he probably was involved in September 2001 attacks.
What happened to his former wife? She was never called to any court or police station again. After maintaining silence for about 5 years, she finally confessed that no one had asked her for any money, but she was upset with her husband who had refused to buy her a Lexus and was only prepared to spend for Honda. She cried openly. Was it for the turmoil that she had caused or was it for the car that she never got to drive?
Watch out my fellow unmarried brothers, after few meaningless affairs, this beautiful and charming young woman is back on internet marriage market. She has now grown wiser and is currently looking for “well educated, smart, successful and down to earth NRI Dulha”.
By : T.K.Gunguly