February 20th, 2017
“My name is Amit Deshpande. I am now a Men’s Rights Activist and have founded an NGO Vaastav Foundation for men’s rights advocacy along with few of my gritty friends in Mumbai, who decided to fight injustice happening against men in the society.
Coming from a background of gender equality at home where I was taught I am equal to both my sisters, any thought of being superior as a male had never crossed my mind until, I met the Chief Mediator in a court. I remember his words, ‘Even Manusmriti says, you are stronger because you are a man, it should be an honour to pay alimony.’ He tried to coax me into paying a ransom, to free my life from the clutches of law, in a false litigation filed against me by my wife. I had a choice to either give in to the pressures or fight the injustice. I chose to not succumb to the extortion.
I had married a girl from Bangalore. We had begun chatting online and after a few months when I seemed completely in favour of the relationship, my wife (then still my girlfriend) told me she was suffering from Diabetes. Her mother told me that she is perfectly normal as anyone else and would take care of herself whenever required, without needing any special care. I considered it to be her misfortune to have Diabetes and thought, that reason alone shouldn’t go against her.
Trouble started soon after marriage when, she refused to come over and stay in Mumbai. For 8 months even after marriage she was staying with her parents in Bangalore. I left a job that would frequently take me overseas and shifted to Bangalore to keep the marriage going. There it hit upon me that the extent of her illness wasn’t fully conveyed to me. The biggest problem was her behaviour which turned out to be erratic. She was heavily pampered by her family and would want everything to happen as per her whims. She would pick up frequent fights with just about anybody around her for the silliest of reasons if things didn’t go as per her wishes and would even physically attack her father. Slowly the abuse began to be directed towards me too. I endured physical, financial, emotional abuse by her at the time of cohabitation.
She took control of my finances and wouldn’t like me sending money to my parents or even talking to them. Inspite of paying heavy rent for a house of her choice, we would utilize it minimally as she would hardly leave her parents house. Inspite of trying everything to keep things calm, there would be bouts of her tantrums frequently. She being indisciplined in maintaining her sugar levels, was even more frustrating. I used to set alarm in middle of the night regularly to check her health, to sense if her highly fluctuating sugar levels were normal. Although, issues had begun to crop up, but I still saw her as my best friend, when she was not having her feats of uncontrolled anger.
After two years of attempting to salvage the marriage, living through her abusive behaviour, I had to shift from Bangalore back to Mumbai due to my job. She had agreed to shift to Mumbai with me, but at the last moment cancelled it. Inspite of having moved alone, I was optimistic she will join me, as for me at least, the affection that had brought us together was still alive. Unfortunately, attempts to get her back bore no fruition.
Suddenly after four months, I received a petition accusing me of Domestic Violence. The jolt I felt was too numbing. The feeling was like losing a loved one, being thrown in front of a pack of wolves ready to eat you and being stripped down naked of your dignity in public – all at the same time lived over and over. Other than shocking lies of me having indulged in domestic violence with her, the petition also had a demand of monthly maintenance of Rs. 25000/- and an alimony of Rupees 50 Lakhs. I didn’t know how to fight the absurdity. The slow process of the court had begun, but despite the case I used to pay her some amount every month for her expenses. This was, without any order being passed by the court. I tried to make peace at every stage at all costs. Eventually I came in contact with men’s rights groups from Save Indian Family. The groups gave me huge confidence to fight the false case. They supported me not only with legal knowledge and emotional support, but at times also with logistics and stay.
Slowly but surely, in the proceedings her lies were exposed. My wife had submitted fake receipts and documents to gain sympathy. I used the Right to Information Act and got a penalty of Rs. 3 Lakh levied upon the chemist who had issued fake receipts to help my wife inflate her medical expenses. The Government of Karnataka thanked me for exposing the racket. All false claims about me indulging in domestic violence against her were refuted with evidence in courts. Still the process wasn’t an easy one. The travel for court dates between Mumbai and Bangalore sometimes entailed 48 hours of constant bus travel with a few hours of presence in courts in between. My parents used to be worried about my situation. As I started to get more active in the men’s rights movement, I began to help others also who were devoid of hope. I had converted an adversity into an opportunity to help people. The confidence that grew in me also rubbed off on my parents and they began to see reason in my fight, instead of succumbing to the unjust demands.
After almost 4 years of fighting litigation, judge dismissed my wife’s case of Domestic Violence filed against me in a stinging judgment mentioning that it was filed purely to harass me. But inspite of this there’s no hope of she being punished for filing a false case. There are false cases of dowry harassment, molestation, rape, sexual harassment that are being filed by women against men.
We as men’s rights activists are running a Helpline – 8882 498 498 – for Men facing such cases with volunteers from all over the country.
In an attempt to create awareness about issue of men’s rights, I had also appeared on a TEDxTalk : Need for Men’s Rights at TEDxJuhu.
When a man is fighting allegations by a woman, the misandry within society makes it a difficult fight by default, but men should not give up fighting against injustice. Studying the definition of Domestic Violence, I felt I was the person who faced domestic violence and should have been the one filing a complaint, but as per law, being a man I cannot complain of domestic violence. I hope that laws become truly gender neutral and false accusers should be punished irrespective of their gender. My fight continues towards this cause.