I was talking to the mother of a close friend, who was looking for a “bahu”(bride) for his son and she said that nowadays it is better to disown the sons after marriage. Going by the disowning notices in the newspapers, I was not totally surprised, but I insisted that she elaborate. She said that she had seen one of her friends being implicated in fasle dowry cases (498a) and heard of several others. The trend was rapidly increasing in urban India, where the daughter in laws put false cases if the husband and his family doesnt dance to her tune. I asked her if she was prepared to live away from her only child in her old age. With her voice breaking she said “beta ! is kanoon ki wajah se main apne pote potiyon ke saath jee bhar ke khel bhi nahi paungi. Agar kuch ulta seedha ho gaya to is umar mein court kachari ke chakkar kaun lagaega” (Due to this law, I wont be able to play with my grandsons/granddaughters to my hearts content. If something bad happens (ie if they are implicated in a false case) I cant afford to run around the courts with my age.)
So, here was a well educated family with good values and the only practical solution that they had was to break the family. Such is the terror of this law. The sad part is that there is no provision by which the innocent can safegaurd themselves. The daughter in law can implicate any member of the family at any time, regardless of the length of the marriage. Some have done it within a day of marriage, some have done it after 16 years of marriage and some have even done it after divorce.
The anti-dowry law has transformed marriage, which was supposed to be a happy occasion into one where the husband and his family fear being incarcerated if the wife decides to file a false complaint against them for any frivolous reason. The law compels the police officer to take action and if an innocent person is jailed, it only breeds hatred and disgust in him/her for the injustice meted out. After a person has been falsely accused, he/she would not be very willing to live with the person who put false charges with them. Then its a fight to the end. You will be surprised at how many people I have come across who refused to take back their wives after they filed a false 498a. And I have come across many many instances, where the wives deeply regret using the provisions of this law, but the family is too paranoid to accept them. As so aptly described in GodFather – “You get only once chance to prove your loyalty”. These are the cases where the marriage would have worked out BUT for this law. However, there are numerous instances, where the wive used this law to get back with her lover and more often to extract as much money from the husband as they could. The innocent husbands, who were otherwise productive members of the society, after being falsely implicated by this law, get traumatized and scarred for life.
So, to avoid the consequences of being hit by this torpedo the old parents decide to live separately much to the glee of the daugher in law. However, the children and grandchildren miss out on the experience and wisdom of the older generation and the aged parents suffer because there is no one to take care of them. The indian culture places a lot of respect and trust in the elders and this law is chewing away at the basic foundation of the society. Strong family values will start to erode and soon our culture and heritage will be lost as the generations start moving away from each other.