By Natasha Pathak Last Updated:
India is a country that boasts of a rich culture and traditions. However, certain regressive practices followed in our country, especially against women, compelled our lawmakers to formulate stringent laws to protect women. However, in the recent past, many cases of abuse and misuse of these laws have come out in the open as well. Men have reported being harassed, and labelled as criminals by their wives only because the wife was not happy with a joint family setup or had huge demands from her husband, which he could not possibly fulfill.
The story of Avadhesh Yadav of Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, is one such story that reeks of the misuse of such a law (Section 498A, law againt dowry) by his wife, Unnati Yadav, to such an extent that he was forced to commit suicide. The young man, who got married to Unnati Yadav on December 7, 2012, was subjected to so much torture that he finally ended his life on February 25, 2015, just a little over two years after his marriage.
Avadhesh lived with his old mother, a paralytic father and an elder brother and his wife in Jhansi. When he got married, just like any other young man, he had many expectations from his wife and marriage. However, they were soon shattered as he realised that his wife was out to ruin his life. She soon began harassing the family by misusing women empowerment laws against him and his family.
She first demanded that Avadhesh leave his parents and they shift to a new house. Very soon she wanted Avadhesh’s father to transfer his property in her name. When the demands were not fulfilled, she falsely accused his paralytic father and elder brother of molesting her, and filed a dowry and domestic violence suit against them as well.
In his suicide note, Avadhesh has explicitly mentioned that it was a huge mental torment when his old and infirm parents were dragged into the imbroglio:
Within a week of marriage, she started pestering my family by asking divorce for no reason. We ignored. She never allowed me to come close to her for 2-3 months after the marriage. My father advised that with time everything will be fine. But it got only worse. She started misbehaving with my parents, hurling abuses at them. When we complained about this to her family, they gave excuses of some "external influence" on her and they would get her treated. She now started going almost every other day to her home and threatened us with a dowry case if we said anything.
Unnati left Avadhesh’s house in September 2013. In December, Avadhesh again approached her to come back as his father was retiring and he wanted his daughter-in-law to attend the program organised in his honour. A mutual agreement was signed where she accepted her wrongdoings and promised to be cordial with his family. Avadhesh also promised to take good care of her.
However, despite all the assurances that Unnati had given, she reverted back to her old ways after moving back to her in-laws’ place. She started harassing them even more and began pestering Avadhesh again to leave his parents. Her threats to file dowry and domestic violence cases against his family increased. And, she finally moved back to her parents’ house again in July 2014, bag and baggage.
Avadhesh mentions in his suicide note that:
On advice of lawyers, we filed a case of restitution of conjugal rights, requesting her to come back. Three months after that in September, she filed a false dowry and domestic violence case (498A) on me, my mother, father, elder brother and his wife.
Soon after, Unnati’s brother told Avadhesh that she was once again ready to going back to her marital home. As Avadhesh had already had too much, he refused to let her come back and instead suggested that they part ways amicably. This really angered Unnati’s family and they started threatening Avadhesh of dire consequences. Avadhesh points out in the note:
She threatened me of false cases of molestation and rape on my father and brother and, acid attack on me and getting me killed. Unnati eventually filed a case of molestation in January on my father and brother and they were arrested.
From his suicide note, it is amply evident that Avadhesh had to take this step out of extreme frustration and helplessness. He was definiltely unable to handle all the stress, and the fact that his family had been shamed in society for no fault of theirs. How exasperated Avadhesh had bceome is clear from what he wrote towards the end of the note:
I don't know what will this step of mine lead to but I want to save my family from all this humiliation. After I go, they would probably be in peace. I also wish to ask our law makers, how they can make laws that give so much credence to mere words of a woman that whatever the other person is saying has no relevance. Shouldn't the other side be heard too? My father and brother were picked up by police on her statement alone without any evidence.
Avadhesh was extremely disturbed by the fact that his family members, who had never even been to a police station, now had to frequent it almost every day. And, even though the police had not been able to gather any proof against them, his family had been labelled as criminals by the society. Avadhesh, in his suicide note specifically mentioned:
Nothing that Unnati wrote about dowry or violence is true. Authorities can examine the veracity of her statements. They declare to have spent Rs 20 lakh on the marriage; can somebody ask them where did they get so much cash from? They’re demanding that we transfer my father’s home in her name. An individual who’s making such demands even before coming to my house, what is she going to do later? I don’t want to see my family in pain. I can't think of anything better than to take my life to save my family. Please help my family get out of this situation.
Mummy, Papa, forgive me please and take care of yourself. Please don’t cry, as your tears will trouble me much more. MY LAST REQUEST– PLEASE LEAVE MY FAMILY MEMBERS ALONE.
A case of abetment to suicide has been registered against Unnati and her brother. But, this is no consolation for the grieving family who lost their young son to a law, which was originally drafted to protect women, but at times is used as a tool to exploit unsuspecting husbands. Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, a social activist working on documenting misuse of section 498A through her documentary film 'Martyrs of Marriage', raises a pertinent question related to this case, “Had this been a married lady, this death would have been referred to as ‘Dowry Death’. Had this been a married lady, leaving a three-page long suicide note, it would have made nationwide headlines. How come this story was only covered by just a couple of insignificant dailies?”
This is not simply Avadhesh’s story. As is abundantly clear, it is not just the women, but also men who suffer at the hands of their spouses. It is high time that the law is revamped to preclude false cases from its ambit. Let us hope that Avadhesh’s family gets justice soon, and the loopholes in laws that are meant to protect women, can be rectified.
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