Sometimes it takes a drastic turn of events in life to understand one’s true goal and realization with self. I was no exception to this. That, I, Virag Dhulia, had to be a men’s rights activist and campaign for men’s rights and men’s welfare in the society was inevitable and it required me to get married so that false cases of dowry harassment, domestic violence, maintenance, jail without investigation, abuse in courts and matrimonial cases enter my life as dramatic events so that the realization dooms on to me.
As I recall the unforgettable night of 13th September 2007, when I walked out of the central jail after securing regular bail and spending 48 hours in the central jail as an under-trial in false case of dowry harassment (Section 498A IPC) filed by my wife on me and my parents I recollect the news item printed about me in Bangalore edition of The Times of India titled, “Techie arrested for Dowry”, page 3 of 13th September 2007.
I had refused to bow down before her demands of separating from my parents or coughing out Rs. 12 lakhs to her as per her demands.
That news was a life turning event in my life as one of my friends read the news and asked me to join a yahoo group. He told me it’s a group of people (rather men) like me who are trapped in false cases filed by their wives. He told me, one of his colleagues is very active in the group and he has asked me to join the group.
I duly joined the group and was introduced to the informal world of the Save Indian Family movement. After initial interactions I joined their weekly meetings, and discussed my problems with them. The volunteers there told me not to panic, and give a tough fight as these false cases had become a norm and was due to lack of awareness of men’s rights in the society. I found the concept appalling and connected with it instantly.
My first meeting with the group was on my birthday i.e. 29th September 2007 and I happened to meet a person there whom I had met a few months ago in a job interview which finally didn’t materialize. His name was Anil Kumar popularly known as Gorky and was one of the co-founders of the NGO called Save Indian Family Foundation and also the concept and structure of the Save Indian Family movement. I was relieved to a certain extent realizing that I am not alone and can get some semblance of guidance in fighting my own cases.
One of the best advices I got from the group was not to file a divorce case against my wife. That advice was life saver for me and saved me from a lot of unnecessary harassment at the hands of the cruel and insensitive Indian judiciary. As I continued my journey with the group, I not only met some of the most wonderful people, but also realized the importance of my own contribution towards the growth of the group in terms of spreading awareness.
No sooner I realized that the very concept of men’s rights was missing in the society and men themselves were living in denial. It was the 19th of January 2008, when Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) organized its first ground protest in Bangalore in which I participated and also got to know about Pandurang Katti (Gorky’s mentor) as part of the preparations for the protest and many other activists and buddying activists like Mithun Kumar.
My first interview to the media in the protest inspired confidence in Katti and Gorky to refer my case to the Times Now channel when they approached SIFF for doing a story on false cases on men. As my personal story got aired on National Television, during the prime slot, everyone in the group knew about me. I also got actively involved in participating and conducting weekly meetings of SIFF which used to be held in a public park in Bangalore.
As I spoke to victimized and distressed men, listened to their tragic stories of being ditched, abused and tortured by their greedy and cruel wives and in-laws, my belief in men’s rights strengthened, my own emotional trauma (arising out of my personal case) healed and I started gaining experience of what actually happens with men.
I brought in some regulations in the meetings in consultation with Katti, Gorky and Mithun (my team) and we started registering people who would come to us and collected basic information about their lives and cases which was maintained with utmost confidentiality.
I also discovered that I could write and had started maintaining a blog where I write regularly on various issues that face men and also about some probable solutions to them.
No sooner I found myself writing press releases, conducting press conferences and having deep and detailed discussions with my team on how to strengthen the cause of men’s rights and be instrumental in bringing about some tangible changes in social mindset towards men so that suffering of men can be reduced.
As we conducted more and more research in this area, we chanced upon overwhelming evidence of abuse of men by society in terms of suicide data, arrest data and violation of legal procedures against men by society which included the police, the lawyers, the judiciary, the feminist NGOs, the media and last but not the least, the common citizen of India.
I focused on training and building other leaders and also taking to task those people who were generally “idea-mongers” but would not implement their own ideas. These kinds of people have a strange tendency to devour intellectual spaces around, suck people’s energies and create a general negative atmosphere. Hence, it was crucial to shut their mouth and it was done as well. As I was always active in my college and engineering days in terms of organizing events, I knew at the core of my heart that it is always the organizer who faces the brunt from “idea-mongers”.
No sooner this thought of mine got validated as I organized the launch event of Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), a brother concern of SIFF focusing on father’s rights and child visitation when idea-mongers from foreign countries abused me. They were given adept dose before we had a successful event of launching CRISP on 14th June 2008.
Our movement had a unique feature of encountering infighting after every success. Launch of CRISP was no exception and active team mostly vanished. Katti was pissed off with the lackadaisical attitude of men and called for a meeting to reorganize the team. In that meeting, it was unanimously decided to appoint me as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of SIFF.
As expected people got green with envy on this new development as to how a “baccha (kid)” who came into the movement barely months ago can be trusted with such responsibility. I always knew success was difficult to digest however, my experience of public relations skills in college helped me remain aground and focus on my work as I went on to organize the first ground level meeting of all the leaders of the men’s rights movement along with a fellow activist. News of the meet was covered extensively and men’s rights movement got impetus.
One after another I was organizing events after events, in conjugation and consultation with my team (Katti, Gorky and Mithun) whether it was the bike rally of International Men’s Day (November 19) 2008 or the subsequent ground level protests of Feb 2009 or May 2009 or taking a very active part in the second national meet of SIF in Shimla.
In the process I and also my team, at times, suffered from enough personal attacks on us. Time and again, various men inside the movement heaped abuses on us as they were jealous of the attention I was garnering due to my work for the movement. What they failed to reckon, is that the attention carried a great responsibility.
In the meantime I also traveled to various cities where our activists would reside and participated in the events they organized. All this travel was self-sponsored, apart from other costs that myself and some other dedicated activists, including my team, were incurring upon themselves in terms of organizing events or maintaining the various websites we had started owning.
The year 2009 was a landmark year for us we ushered and embarked in the shining glory of a flurry of media articles mentioning about SIF/SIFF, men and their problems and the men’s rights movement, as we challenged the stereotypic notions created about men by feminists and also the traditional roles heaped onto men by traditionalists and conservatives.
We marched forward in leaps and bounds as I started a series titled “An Article a Day” in April 2009, on my website WeMen, which were later (2013) converted into a book authored by me, titled “The Secrets of Manhood”. This book can be ordered at infibeam.
We also launched the All India Mothers-in-law Protection Forum, we submitted research reports on making Section 498A bailable and non-cognizable and rationalizations of alimony laws to the Karnataka Law Commission, on their requests after we had detailed discussions with them inside the Vidhan Soudha of Bangalore on how men are abused by society and legal system and how cruel and unusual legal procedures are snuffing out lives of innocent men.
The reports we submitted to the Law Commission were forwarded to the Union Home Ministry and we saw a nationwide circular being issued to discourage arrests in Section 498A and as a result there was a reasonable drop in the severity of arrests.
We also conducted more ground level protests and focused on training more and more people as we came out with new breakthroughs and surveys for e.g. this one was covered live by IBN7 wherein we staked a claim that 40% of people who approach us are software engineers and big question mark was raised on the efficacy of Section 498A.
At the same time, the then UPA Govt. (UPA II) proposed the CrPC Amendment Bill which mandated a police officer to issue a “Notice of Appearance” to the accused for offenses punishable less than 7 years (which included 498A also).
Sensing a potential drop in incomes during bail times, lawyers vehemently opposed the law and even after it was passed, it was not implemented. I drove a sustained RTI campaign against it to ensure it gets implemented. Today, this amended Section 41 (1)(a) CrPC is a relief to many a harassed husbands who are dragged into false dowry cases by their vindictive, greedy and abusive wives.
But, there was a growing concern and that concern was of becoming a bottleneck. Due to our heightened activities with complete ownership and dedication, slowly expectations from us rose and more and more work was being piled upon us as new members refused to take responsibilities.
We realized, it was time to take a back seat and create a more formidable, formal and organized platform wherein we can conduct focused campaigns and bring about tangible results in society, collective and individual cases. Hence our team of 4 – Mithun, Gorky, Katti and myself – took a plunge to build a model which will not be free. Men must pay to enter the circle of trust. Months of deliberation and a clear and concise thought of not replicating SIF in a room resulted in Confidare being born in May 2011.
In the same year in September, myself and Katti were present before the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Personnel Grievances and Affairs to depose on why the proposed Sexual Harassment at Workplace bill should be gender neutral and why men should be protected in it. Based on our submissions, the committee recommended the law to be made gender neutral. Interesting this was exactly after 4 years of my first SIF meeting and on my birthday 29 September 2011.
Even though the Govt. did not do so, however, for the first time in the universal history of gender law making a clause to check misuse of law was introduced wherein penalty was defined for false complaints. This was a huge victory for men’s rights movement in terms of changing the mindset.
Confidare is a company and under its aegis, we started India’s first ever community center for men and a first ever domestic violence shelter. The concept was very simple. Victimized and distressed men would be provided guidance and coaching on a membership basis for which a nominal fee was charged.
Initially, other leaders in the men’s rights movement were happy that something different and unique had happened in the men’s rights movement. However, as Confidare grew in popularity, we could see the sparks flying and the very people, who had once lauded the concept, backstabbed and started spreading lies about Confidare. Confidare still grew and expanded as we opened its first branch office in NOIDA in April 2014.
Meanwhile as our team had taken a backseat in activism, a drop in the overall enthusiasm of the movement was evidently visible. Media articles dropped and feminists got a chance to come back and Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 was tabled in the Parliament in March 2012, which sought to usurp at least 50% of husband’s hard earned property in the event of a divorce. There was panic in the movement and a very close friend of mine and a great activist, Atit requested me to come back to activism in order to plan an onslaught against this bill.
I accepted his request and re-joined activism only to oppose IrBM as we fondly called Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill. I rallied with all the leaders and activists all over India and we planned major press conferences and local protests all over the country from March 2012 to June 2012. I was working in complete background and allowed new and buddying leaders to take charge. And then meanwhile, as a team we decided to have an all India protest against the bill in the monsoon session of Parliament in Delhi. National leaders across India were convinced to participate in the protest and also to motivate more and more people to participate in the process.
Realizing that there was a stronger will to pass the law and our technical arguments failing to convince or influence the Govt. and the society for considering men’s interest in the law, I designed a strategy to demand a complete repeal of the law and a theme of “Rollback IrBM” was designed, developed and implemented. As a result the law was not passed in the Monsoon session of 2012 August.
As the time progressed and we realized the impending danger of IrBM, Katti, Atit along with few others decided to drive a sustained and funded campaign of meeting MPs with dedication. 2 people would travel to Delhi and stay there for 2 weeks in the session of the parliament and interact with MPs sensitizing them about men’s issues, men’s rights movement and the need to raise a voice against IrBM whenever it comes up for discussion in the Houses.
From Dec 2012 to Dec 2013 we have had 5 successful sessions of interacting with the MPs and for each session I worked in background along with others to ensure each session is properly funded and other logistics are taken care of, in the background. I myself conducted the last lobbying session along with Jyoti and others. Jyoti’s experience of handling previous sessions came handy.
Meanwhile Santa delivered a surprise out of season. Somewhere in January 2013, I was approached by the Life OK channel for a show on their program “Saavdhan India” for showcasing the misuse of Section 498A. They interviewed me and showed an excerpt of the interview at the end of the show. That show was such a huge success that we could not handle the load of new cases of harassed men that poured in.
This was a very high level overview of my journey, role and contribution so far in the men’s rights movement. I might have missed/omitted a few events, incidents and people however it’s either unintentional or it is for the sake of brevity.
But from last year onwards it has almost become a pattern for many of the new members embracing the men’s rights movement to abuse the leaders, undermine their efforts and to heap insults onto them in public forums. They have complete non-acceptance of the fact that the platform provided to them has been built by the very leaders they are abusing. They have zero regards for getting trained in the movement and yet have the audacity to behave as if they are the ones who have created and built the movement.
The very minds we were working to liberate were working against us.
I am not interested in revealing their names (so please don’t ask me also) as it could be anybody. It’s not a problem with “those” people per se, it’s a mindset problem. Unfortunately, it has become a fashionable mindset for non-performing people to abuse performing people and gain myopic popularity. They harbor grudges, heap expectations, garner entitlement feelings and show extreme resentment if they are asked for any form of contribution that may help the movement grow.
They do not want to work towards elimination of male hatred (misandry) in the system, nor are they willing to clean their own internal misandry. Whereas, the bare fact is that it is misandry in the society which is the biggest abuser of men and the biggest impediment to men’s liberation from abuse, stereotypes and traditionalism.
They are extremely selfish and lack complete gratitude and they think it is their birthright to abuse and insult the true leaders of the movement. In the recent past, a lot of them have also indulged in mud-slinging, personal attacks and washing of dirty linen in public. There have also been a lot of peacemakers who dance around these non-performers persuading the abused leaders to show restraint and somehow “tolerate” the abuse by developing thick skin.
Interestingly and probably conveniently, the peacemakers are nowhere to be seen when the performers are being abused, bad mouthed and defamed but do care to jump in when the abused performer decides – enough is enough and gives back his/her abuser a dose of retaliation. The peacemakers also conveniently forget the fact that had the performers not developed thick skin, they would not have survived so much personal attacks.
However, as I said, “Enough is really enough now” and for someone like me whose history of contribution towards the growth and spread of men’s rights movement is captured above and is just a snapshot of the actual work done, I have decided not to take the abuses lying down. Appropriate rebuttal shall be given to any abuser from now on and this may also include ostracism from the brotherhood.
It is imperative to mention that primarily it was our team that has been responsible directly or indirectly for the creation, growth and spread of the men’s rights movement and has been possible due to either direct involvement by us or due to training provided by us.
Confidare would continue to provide guidance and coaching to men on a paid membership basis and the revenue generated out of the same would be used to build structures which would be instrumental in,
- Conducting research in the gender arena from male perspective.
- Helping poor men free of cost or at a very subsidized rate.
- Providing men with community centers, domestic violence shelters as alternate emotional rest-houses to escape abuse.
- Engaging the Govt. and larger society in bringing about an institutionalized change which benefits every single man.
- Providing men with an alternate survival mechanism outside the purview of existing social setups which are predominantly misandrous in nature.
Additionally Confidare has a very broad vision of liberating men from the abuse, stereotypes and traditionalism and Team Confidare shall remain focused on it while non-performing abusers will be provided suitable treatment.
Merely because somebody is undergoing a matrimonial crisis would not authorize that man to call shots on the men’s rights movement. In case anyone wishes to join the team and contribute towards the cause, they are more than welcome provided they come with an open mind to learn the concepts of Masculism and are ready to get trained.