I’m a foreign national of Indian parents. I only shifted here to India 7 years ago from London, England. I helped my brother get married, we found my sister-in-law online on a matrimonial site, little to know that she was quite ‘strange’. She would not converse with my parents, brother and I, lived most of the time with her parents and made issues of the most trivial matters such as “Why does father watch Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on TV?” However, as we were modern thinking we let her be and thought not everyone is an extrovert. She had my niece two years ago but would not come home to us, always found excuses to not come. Just last month she filed an FIR- Section 498a amongst other articles. Section 498a is to do with domestic violence and harassment and all four of us have been implicated in it! My father is a retired dentist suffering from hypertension, my mother a housewife who also has hypertension and a chronic illness that she spends most of her time in her bedroom, my brother is in marketing and I am a high school teacher. When we heard of this we were shocked. We had never heard of such a section. This section had been made for those who receive such violence, not for strange women who don’t live with us and want to ‘teach us a lesson’ for which even I am baffled as to what her problem is. My school life is so hectic I don’t even get time to do anything as soon as I get home, why would I be implicated in this?- just because I live there and am not married? Is there an ego problem she is suffering from? What did my elderly mother do??? My father has no idea why he has to also go to the police station and make a statement. My brother is equally perplexed. If my father who is a dentist and I a teacher are put behind-bars when we are the fabric of the society, then who is free to roam around and do as they please? Women such as my sister-in-law who put innocent people in jail? My friends admit even they find this offensive and now when they see their ‘bhabhis’ even they feel threatened that they could file Section 498a if they feel the slightest unhappy. This section is such that you are guilty unless proven innocent. 98% of the cases filed are false claims and even the Supreme Court knows this. Our statements have not been taken but we can be arrested whenever the police feel like it. How long we will be kept in the police station depends on how willing the police are to feed us and look after my parents’ medications. All sounds quite absurd to me but I believe this is women empowerment. The power a daughter-in-law has over her sister-in-law and mother-in-law. My mother and I have no power and are at the mercy of this woman’s whim and fancy.
The NRI police station writes letters and speaks in Marathi which is of no help as Marathi isn’t a universal language taught out of India. So I seem to not understand anything unless someone I trust translates. Also I’ve come to understand that the police inspector would like a bribe and he will ‘fix’ everything. My lawyer tells me he has no power to fix anything but reporting him to anywhere will make no difference- does corrupt India have no hope of changing?? Another option to resist arrest is to take bail, this again will require lacs of rupees (in cash at that!), hard-earned money which took years to earn as the salaries here are anything to be desired and fluctuate around the bare minimum, regardless of where I’m from.
So now I’m here, waiting to be arrested for my sister-in-law’s power trip of woman empowerment. Some would say I should flee the country- but why? What did I do?? If I leave the country, the inspector says I can’t come back. Would this make me a fugitive? What about my parents and brother? Why couldn’t she just file a divorce? Section 498a will forever be a reason to not let any of my brothers marry, even I was sceptical on what today marriage actually meant and now I see no point in it whatsoever. I wanted to teach abroad, but my criminal record will most probably be tarnished even though the claim is false. One woman- any daughter-in-law has this power to ruin the men and women around her. This is India’s woman empowerment. Where is my woman empowerment?