For more than one month I have been thinking whether to write this piece or to just let it go. One strong reason for letting it go unnoticed was such rants on social media is perceived as negativism and I hate that. It doesn’t serve any purpose and only creates some bitter relations. We already have enough bitterness in life and surely don’t need more. I have almost decided that I would not talk about it when I also thought that by not talking about this, I would probably do more injustice to the cause I fight for. In fact, if I don’t talk about it today, no one else will ever talk about this, and Indian MRM will continue to suffer for good.
For those of you who have ever wondered why Indian MRM can’t excel and why feminists always get what they want while MRAs keep on shouting on social media with minimum results, this article will give you enough insight. All of us have traditionally adhered to reactive activism. That is, feminists always took some action first and then we reacted. Even though for the past several years some of us have been vocal internally about it and wanted to bring pro-active activism, nothing much has changed. MRM has for ages has been restricted to law-misuse based fights. Innovation in men’s rights activism is almost non-existent. Only a handful of individuals have tried that ever.
However, the need for men’s rights has ever grown. With this growth, Indian MRM also needed to scale up. But unfortunately, they couldn’t because of a lack of innovation and dedication among the activists. Coupled with this was the lack of researchers, writers, speakers, and debaters, without which no group or activism can succeed.
That is why we needed strong literature for men’s rights and futuristic thought process. We needed to inculcate a culture of proactive activism with an eye to future prospects of MRM. So, as a writer and a tenured activist for the cause, I needed to go beyond from maintaining a blog to actually creating and maintaining a research platform for men.
I understood the future need for men’s rights literature about two years ago when I wanted to delve deep into the gender justice domain. I understood how deep-rooted the problem of feminism was and at which level we needed to work. That was the reason, I wanted to build a team of internal researchers who would primarily focus on developing research papers for MRM. This could create the much-needed literature for men’s rights that could be used in different Universities in developing courses on MRM later. A thought that was not possible in reactive activism framework that has historically led only to the notion that ‘MRM existed for law misuse’.
So, when organizers of the last year’s (2017) National Meet in Kolkata asked for my help in planning the event, I have planned thesis development presentation for MRM, where activists of different chapters would participate and develop papers on various burning gender justice topics that MRAs never discussed or had any idea about. This activity created a very high enthusiasm in all MRA groups and many activists were highly interested. However, as I was about the start the mentoring process, the organizers wanted to interfere in my activities in their own way. They didn’t have any knowledge of how such papers were developed, what kind of details were needed or what kinds of qualities needed for one to be a mentor.
One of these leaders, who live outside Bengal but still clinging on to the Bengal group, wanted to steer the activity in the wrong direction and completely mess up things. I understood that his motive was to derail the activity and to gain some personal accolades while not contributing in any manner. He was one of the organizers as he held a position in our Kolkata NGO and another Kolkata leader was stubborn about their unnecessary interference, so I decided to stay away from last year’s National Meet, even though I was in Kolkata at that time.
These random people who have become MRA leaders simply for showing their face for years didn’t have any credential of doing any research work. For them, research work was only interpreting NCRB data that always led to ‘law misuse’ kind of activism. However, that quality was not suitable to manage in-depth social research I have planned. In fact, this attention seeker challenged me in an internal group that “he could do much better in research than I”. So, I withdrew my participation from the national meet to stop wasting my time for their personal glory and asked him to lead the research. After all, MRM deserved the best (if his challenge was true). I was very sure that he would not be able to complete the activity as he didn’t have the required quality and was merely a show-off. After I withdrew from 2017 Kolkata National Meet, this guy completely debunked from taking the activity forward and didn’t even attend the meet. Finally, there were some presentations but that didn’t lead to any long-term value for MRM that I had planned. MRM couldn’t create any meaningful literature or paper for men’s rights, forget about creating new leadership in social research and for future movement.
The Kolkata organizers failing to create enough value for MRM due to some activists’ personal glory, was like cheating the entire movement by few self-proclaimed leaders who failed to deliver and stopped an important future-oriented activism from taking place. Another goal for the research activity was to create new researchers, speakers and thought leaders for the movement who could take Indian MRM ahead. Who could innovate and bring changes and who could create perceptible value for MRM? Clearly, those who unnecessarily created hindrance didn’t have any clue about it and cheated the whole movement, all NGOs associated with it and all Indian men. Surprisingly, they were not thrown out of the group for cheating everyone and wasting participants’ time and money.
Some of this research I planned last year, could have taken us ahead and could have made a significant impact in any PIL including our response to MR PIL. Participating in MR PIL was another significant move by some Delhi activists and they needed a lot of research to be done. I took the lead to offer my time as that was the minimum help any remote MRA could do to help the team on the ground. However, the attention seekers from the Bengal NGO did not come forward to help the MR team in research or otherwise. Activists from other chapters came forward but not these glory seekers. They continued to beat their trumpets as leaders simply by showing their face and not creating any value for MRM.
But this would not have gone any far without an unscrupulous MRA group surfacing in Bengal in recent time. This time feminists have created an MRA group. It was evident to me and many others in MRM that their intention was to mint money from male victims in the name of helping those. I would have only stopped after exposing that group, but when I saw our Bengal leader felt proud that another new group came up in Kolkata, I was really worried. There were many in MRM who were worried too. With the new group suddenly shot to eminence, it became clear how weak and incompetent MRM in Bengal was. In other cities in India, we did have strong feminist organizations. There were other MRA groups as well and we have never bothered. Because the core group was strong enough to be recognized as main MRAs. It didn’t matter to anyone if those other groups wanted to distort the cause. Because we had a significant presence in those cities.
But the inception of the MRA group by feminists and them taking center stage of MRM in Kolkata in no time, made it very clear how weak MRM was in Bengal. Bengal is #1 in filing false 498a and even after being the oldest MR movement in India, Bengal has failed to produce any significant leader in last 10 years. Bengal, that gave leadership to whole India during our freedom fights and produced many respected freedom fighters, failed to give Indian MRM any noteworthy leader. Also, we saw that the movement in Bengal was only restricted to Kolkata, whereas many districts in Bengal were in the forefront of filing false 498a cases. Some occasional meeting or activities in other parts of Bengal were shown as MRM presence in those places which were really funny but hardly any MRA understood that. In 2018, a very new state in activism, Rajasthan, had MRM presence in three cities. This clearly showed how Bengal was under the wrong leadership and how the MR leaders of Bengal have failed miserably to take the movement forward. This also raised suspicion whether they were interested at all?
This was also worrisome to note that after a series of false POCSO cases in Kolkata schools, the local team had completely failed to take up the issue and fight against false accusations. In fact, this group and the leaders did not even follow up those cases when the agenda behind the false POCSO complaints were clear. When I was doing a research on those cases and was trying to find out loopholes in those complaints and media bias, none of the Kolkata activists could help me with relevant local media reports. Some activists who parted ways from this group, however, helped me with Bengali articles that helped me find out English media bias. There was absolutely no activism from MRAs from this NGO in Bengal – no protest, no press release, nothing. Some other activists who were not associated with this group, however, tried to protest on social media and followed up the cases.
If these were not clear signs of a dead group, then what was it? And if, we who cared for MR in Bengal, do not protest, who will? If in-spite of boasting about their local presence, the local group fails to take up these burning issues, then why should they exist? And in future, if feminists start controlling all gender conversations in Bengal, will that be any surprise? Coupled with this, when I saw the Bengal leader being happy about a feminist group formed as an MRA group, I had good reasons to be vocal about it.
This kind of sustained failures to take cognizance of danger signs led to my utter dismay and I decided to leave the group earlier this year. However, I have not spoken to anyone about this as that would not have made any difference. Initially, I had also decided not to join National Meet this year (2018) as I didn’t find enough value from any of the previous meets.
However, when this year’s (2018) organizers contacted me to plan activities for them, I could not deny. Even though by then I had come out from all MRA groups. Among many futuristic plans given to them, I have also planned for a ‘talent hunt’ contest for new MRAs (< 2years). The idea was to groom future leadership for MRM. This was an exclusive leadership development program I planned for the movement. I have planned to discuss leadership best practices, case studies that the group never knew. The way it was planned, was to make everyone participate and learn and progress as a group. But with me, not present, the possibility of these being taken up correctly is bleak.
Other innovative suggestions given to 2018 organizers were being live on FB, Twitter, and YT (team might have already thought about it though) and have a live QnA session on Twitter on the first day. I have also given an implementation plan for the QnA session and designed elaborate strategies to make the live event successful. But before these could be discussed, I was told that some individual glory seekers had an objection in my attending the 10th National Meet. So, the strategy was never discussed. The result is obvious, we don’t see enough enthusiasm generated about these live videos.
In the meanwhile, Bengal jeopardy was evident to all activists in Bengal. Seasoned activists, who were earlier part of this group but left because of Incompetent leadership in Bengal, were raising questions on social media how feminists had taken over men’s rights in Bengal? Those of us who understood Bengali and read local media have seen how the main MR group of India became insignificant in Bengal. The pride of taking innovative futuristic steps like fighting in MR PIL or university connect programs of other chapters failed to make a mark in Bengal, as the team there didn’t learn from others’ experiences. They only kept on boasting in thin air without any results. We kept on hearing how local law colleges came to us for MR seminar but have never seen at least one of those being organized in reality.
So, when one of our old activists from Bengal posted about feminists taking away MR leadership in Bengal, I commented there about how incompetent Bengal leadership was leading to such demise of MRM. And why shouldn’t I say that? Apart from the above details of incompetence, I had more examples to show.
Approximately two years ago, this self-styled arrogant Bengal leader, who is showing his face in MRM for 10+ years, used to be in my good books. Once, he referred one woman research scholar of Jadavpur University to me. According to him, she was a Ph.D. Women’s Studies scholar and had done a Ph.D. thesis on men’s rights after being associated with his NGO (read ‘him’) for some time. I was thrilled by the news that scholars were doing doctorate level research on the cause. I readily agreed to publish that on TMF. However, when she contacted me with her research paper, it was a 3/4 page article in which about 2 page was about the local group. The paper started with the point that how important it was to have rights for the women but ‘because of false cases’ the researcher felt there was a need for MRM as well and that was all about the Doctoral research.
I was utterly shocked to see the quality of a paper that was supposed to be a Doctoral paper. This paper didn’t match even the worst article on my blog. Clearly, the Bengal leader had no clue about the quality and details a Ph. D. level thesis required or the level of details needed in a research for MR. He also praised the researcher, how she has worked with his NGO (him) and how good the research work was. After seeing the paper, more than the woman researcher, I was angry at the MR leader who despite being in the movement for 10+ years, didn’t learn anything. So, when feminists created an MR group in Bengal, I was not surprised. They just tried to fill the existing void that MRM couldn’t fill so far. For a group that couldn’t go beyond Kolkata despite WB being #1 state in terms of filing false 498a cases, this was not shocking to me as well.
However, while this leader didn’t stop promoting females doing some bullshit, he didn’t adequately help another male photojournalist from Time, NY. This Bengali journalist wanted to work on a photojournalism project on 498a victims. He told me how the Bengal team has failed him, wasted his time and canceled many appointments. Hearing that, I referred him to other chapters where he had a very good experience. If I didn’t take him to other chapters, he could have not only dropped his project but also would have had a very negative impression about Indian MRM.
Question is when other chapters can try to innovate, then why not Bengal? Bengal, that led India’s freedom fight from the front and is currently leading many global corporates; why can’t that state give enough good leaders to Indian MRM that can take the movement forward? Clearly, some arrogant idiots are blocking the way of competent people or people are leaving the group because of poor leadership or non-value-added activism there.
So, I commented on a social media post that incompetent leaders create maximum harm to the movement. That led to the big problem in MRM and organizers called me to say that this Bengal group threatened to withdraw from National Meet if I went there. I didn’t have any agenda to block the national meet or create problems there. So, I decided to withdraw despite helping the organizers plan the whole event in an innovative way that could reap future benefits for the movement. None of these arrogant leaders has ever contributed to the organization of any futuristic meet. In fact, I am still trying to understand their contribution to MRM, if at all. I was also informed that some other NGO leads also supported the Bengal team. The view was if someone abuses any NGO of the group, he is not eligible to participate in the National Meet.
Here, I will not talk about how many better plans I had dropped because the organizers requested me to help them organize the event. I will also not say that how I have set aside some of my important family engagements and left those on my ailing parents only to support the cause and help the team, and how much humiliation was the last moment forced withdrawal from this meet was for me. None of these attention seeker leaders would have helped the organizers and they were only bothered to attend the two-day picnic of MRAs. This had upset my plans but here I will talk about the support of the arrogant Bengal leaders by some other NGO leaders.
In fact, I am not surprised that these NGOs indeed supported arrogance and self-promotion without any contribution. I am the only one who was creating problems every time I saw an issue with activism, and their anger on me can be understood.
I remember, when WCD ministry announced FB interaction after introducing the National Women’s Policy, and when all MRAs were planning to talk about law misuse and male suicide, I forced them to come out of the old school of thought and talk about evils proposed in the policy which was more relevant at that time. Rest is history. Minister said, “boys’ education was not under her” and we know how much flak the ministry had faced after that. In another occasion, when a new activist wanted to file an RTI to SC registrar against an SC judgment. I stopped him from wasting his time and energy and use that time for filing better RTIs that could help the cause. This had upset another leader who started an argument with me for stopping a potential activism. Unfortunately, no one else tried to stop him. Probably no one understood that randomly doing something was not activism. Leaders needed to understand that when resources are scarce then we need to use them sparingly. These are basic leadership skills.
In another case when a woman scholar of a North-Western University wanted to do a survey among men on ‘498a misuse’ and wanted to ask questions on ‘how much dowry he has taken’ etc., I objected even though one of our groups was promoting it. It seemed to me as making men confess that they had taken dowry and hence justifying 498a instead of talking about law misuse. Also, I knew that a study on law-misuse needed to be done in a different way and not by these kinds of surveys.
So, I am not surprised that I was taken wrongly for criticizing my own groups. When these NGOs and leaders joined hands, wasn’t that expected? I am not surprised that this time they supported arrogant leaders who have stopped making any meaningful contribution to the cause other than boasting in Whatsapp groups. If you check for evidence of activism in Bengal, it will be clear how they are bringing shame to everyone associated with the cause. And I am actually happy that I came out, a lot of time saved from unnecessary arguments and internal fights.
In Indian MRM, almost everywhere mediocrity is promoted. I remember that in another case, when a leader from a different NGO went to a discussion on ‘Domestic Violence Against Men’ for a local FM channel and spoke about 498a misuse instead and when everyone else in our internal group was praising him, I was the only one criticized him openly for completely messing things up and missing the opportunity of talking about DV on men that we hardly get. I remember, he specifically called me to fight with me as he thought I was supposed to praise him for his stupidity and pathetic handling of an important discussion, simply because other MRA leaders have praised him. This was not an impromptu discussion and the topic was told to him in advance and moreover, we have a specific study on DV on men. In spite of all that, our activists failing to talk about relevant points in media and getting swayed by ‘498a misuse’ kind of unrelated topics showed how badly they needed training in media handling. More shocking was other MRA leaders praising him without understanding that this was, in fact, a BIG issue for MRM. This was surely not expected from a group with 12+ years of existence. This told me that how we were lacking in proper training and sharing of best practices across teams.
So, a joint effort in support of some non-contributing arrogant members was not very surprising for me. I myself might have angered many of these leaders by openly asking them to correct their mistakes or for contributing to MRM in meaningful ways. But none of my criticism at any point was ill-intended and was only for the betterment of MRM (not for anybody’s personal glory). I have always believed that activists will at least learn from those mistakes and improve. But that has never happened.
I have always worked for excellence. I wanted to drive excellence and nothing less than that in MRM too. The day I joined MRM, I gave up political correctness. I also don’t believe in the notion that “don’t judge other MRAs and keep on contributing in a positive way” that this group tries to force upon others. Such socialism didn’t work in any society or group and cannot work in MRM either (read how kibbutz society was disintegrated – here). Socialism only promotes mediocrity and worthlessness. A group is only good as its members and the leaders are the face of it. Having some incompetent and arrogant leaders can’t help anybody. In fact, having arrogant and incompetent MRAs do not help anybody. There is a saying in the corporate world – ‘Don’t be the weakest link’. This goes for every single group member. We don’t want many Rahul Gandhi to boss over quality workers. If that happens, everyone associated with those groups or the cause will lose value.
Like Rahul Gandhi is bringing shame to Congress and bringing a national party to death, like a world-class football team Brazil lost its supporters and credibility after WC, incompetent leaders can bring shame to entire MRM, to all individuals and groups that are working for the same cause. If they become a laughing stock in the media because of their lack of knowledge or conviction that is harmful to all of us. MRAs/NGOs can support them at their own peril and this will be proved in the days to come.