Meet the SHEROES - Deepika Bhardwaj
Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj is a Journalist, Anchor and a Documentary Filmmaker. Her first documentary ‘Gramin Dak Sevak’ was Jeevika All Asia Livelihood Film Festival 2009, student film winner. Her second documentary ‘Youth Count’ was broadcast on India’s leading News channel NDTV 24x7. Her third project ‘Garima’ was a commissioned, short documentary film by USAID and Counterpart International. She has also made several films for Sarthak, an NGO based in Delhi that works for employment of People with Disabilities. A software engineer turned Journalist, she was one of the ten media professionals selected from around the world for ‘Future Media Leaders Course’ conducted by Thomson Foundation, UK. A strong believer in documentaries as a powerful medium of communication, she draws her inspiration from Late Mr. Brent Hurd, her documentary professor at Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media. Martyrs of Marriage is her first independent documentary feature.
Tell us more about yourself.
I am an engineer turned media professional. I was working with one of India's biggest software giant Infosys when I realized IT was not my cup of tea. I left my job as a software engineer and pursued broadcast Journalism from Bangalore. During my Journalism, I learned documentary filmmaking and developed a keen interest in it. I made three documentaries as a student, all of which got a very positive response along with some awards. Post my Journalism, I worked as a Correspondent with different media houses. I continued making documentary films for NGOs on the sides of my job. In 2012, after a series of events in my personal life, I decided to make my first Independent Documentary Feature "Martyrs of Marriage" on the misuse of dowry laws in India. I became an Activist for this cause while making this film. Some episodes change your life - this film has been a life-changing experience for me.
What is the story behind Martyrs Of Marriage?
Like any other Indian, I had a very rosy view of marriage. I never thought about or knew any laws related to this bond which is still considered very sacred. A series of divorces of my friends and relatives exposed me to a very different and bitter side of this relationship. I learned how laws of our land are heavily skewed in favor of women and how men are being held at ransom in such situations. I came to know about the draconian 498A and that's where the story of Martyrs of Marriage began.
Martyrs of Marriage - my first independent documentary feature is a film on the misuse of dowry and domestic violence laws in India. It is a story about those who have fought, who are fighting and who have won the most unexpected battle of their life - marriage. The story is that of men, women and their families who are victims of abuse of this and many other allied laws that presume a man guilty when a marriage fails. The film also discusses how in the name of justice to one gender we are doing great injustice to the other and how misuse of these laws is pushing many men towards suicide.
How do you bring justice to the people suffering from fake dowry cases? Does the judiciary of the country help, this is keeping in mind women in most cases have an advantage?
No one has been able to do any justice to people suffering from fake dowry cases or people who have suffered and come out absolutely clean of fake dowry cases. I don't know if being acquitted of a crime you never committed can be called Justice or not but that's the only relief lakhs of families caught in the trap of fake cases have got. Families trapped in these cases are in courts for years and years - not only the husband but also his brothers, sisters, mother, father, uncle, aunt or anyone who has been named in the FIR. Today, 498A is used in almost every case of Divorce where the whole intention of the girl's family is to arm-twist the boy and get maximum money out of him by threat of these cases and many more litigations that can be pursued in the name of marriage. Though Judiciary has come down heavily on the 498a misuse several times, the abuse continues. Every year more than 2 Lac people are getting arrested under this law, next to only theft and hurt. About fifty thousand women are being arrested under the dowry law every year which includes really old grannies and young unmarried girls. More than 90% of people arrested in these cases are acquitted after years of trial. The trauma, the agony, the pain, the suffering is unimaginable even though you might not have done anything wrong to your wife. Young siblings caught up in this mess are becoming very apprehensive of marriages and this beautiful relationship is slowly losing faith people had in it.
As far as Judicial sympathy is concerned, while Judges understand the situation, no one has dared to punish the false case filers even though it is quite evident that the case is completely fabricated. I have met several men who have a bucket full of evidence of their innocence but there is no one to listen as the wife is always right. Judges are scared to take any action against women as the atmosphere is so charged up in India that anyone saying anything against women would be utterly ridiculed. There is a Dire need to look at the legislation associated with marriage lest we lose faith in this word.
How has the idea of the documentary been received so far?
The film is not complete yet but it has received a tremendous response as an initiative. I get emails of people every day encouraging and applauding me for taking up this issue. Several victims of these laws reach out to me to discuss their stories and some of these are absolutely shocking to say the least. Few of these cases make a part of the film. I have the support of not only men but also women who realize that many women are abusing these laws and this needs to stop.
A message to all SHEROES out there.
Listen to your heart and do what you want to do. Society is never easy for anyone - man or woman. People are blind to their beliefs, faith, religion, culture, values etc. They would always question you. But do not let that deter you from doing what you truly believe in - because it's your life. As women, we all have an obligation on ourselves to make this world a better place for our future generation. Men and women can never be equal, they are differently equal. They are made to complement each other and not compete with each other. In this blind race of equality, do not forget to enjoy yourself as a woman. God had made us what he has for a reason. Success doesn't come easily to anyone whether a man or a woman. Let your work speak and not your gender. Demand your dues for your capabilities and not that you are a woman.
Lastly, the rights that have been granted to us have come after a lot of struggle and fight. If we start abusing them, it would be detrimental for our own clan. Women must stop playing the victim card and stand for themselves. A failed marriage does not mean that the man should be punished for his whole life. If it doesn't work, walk out gracefully and in a dignified manner. Abusing laws might give you a short-term gain but not long-term happiness. I would urge all women to be heroes in their work, in their attitude towards life and in their relationships. I would also urge them to be real heroes if things don't work. Blaming others for what was not supposed to be is stupid. You hurt yourself more in the zest of punishing the other. There would be people who would have vested interests in misguiding you if you unfortunately face a bad marriage. Stand for yourself if you are abused, but if it's a relationship gone wrong because of whatever reasons, walk out. Period.