Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called out Congress for being only a ‘Muslim-male’ friendly party with no thought to Muslim women. His statement has stemmed from the “triple talaq” Supreme Court judgment last year, still awaiting legislation despite being cleared in Lok Sabha, held up as it is in Rajya Sabha.
On the face of it, it’s a “hara-kiri” by Congress: The ratio of Indian Muslim women vis-à-vis men is 951 per thousand. Why risk losing such a significant share of votes when the party is fighting for survival?
The answer is in these bland statistics: As per the 2011 Census data, 13.5% Muslim women are married before they turn 15. The ratio rises to nearly 50 per cent for Muslim women getting married between 14-19 years. The child thus ‘transferred’ at a fragile age is unlikely to resist the patriarchal order, from the one of the father to the new one of the husband. Such a “captive” audience would do as the overarching men in the family would ask them to do. Love, set and match.
The Muslim women, thus married early, are also unlikely to finish their education. An uneducated woman has the lesser chance of being employed. Lack of financial security drives them further inside the cage. This is the story from one generation to another to the next one. There is no escaping from this rigid order which acquires a ‘Quranic’ sanction only Mullahs or All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) can decode in this land. In order to keep their hold watertight, they then announce grandiosely to have a “Sharia Court” in every 640 districts of the country.
Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) demands our attention for this body has been active for over a dozen years. It came into existence during Gujarat Riots of early 2000 where, as per its founder Zakia Soman, she felt a common thread of being from a ‘marginalized gender’ with Muslim women in camps. “Marginalized in families; marginalized in the community,” as she says it.
Soman recounts a vivid experience: “We were working to enrol girls in school, get scholarships and find some kind of work with decent wages and social security. After three years, Muslim women started coming to us from all over the country. `You helped my daughter, helped me fill some form for the government. That was very good, but now my husband has divorced me instantly and thrown me out. And I don’t have a home to go to, I don’t know where to go with my children. Can you please help me’?”
So it’s much more than just about ‘triple talaq’.It’s also much more than polygamy, inheritance or abortion. It’s a state of perpetual slavery, without education, without jobs, without security. You also can’t keep your children with you, if so the men wish. The Mullahs who interpret ‘Quran’ in this manner are lying, pure and simple.
“There are direct verses in the Quran that support our claim to equality and gender justice. For the first time both women and men were learning that Quran is not about what some groups had been suggesting,” says Soman.
The truth is, the personal laws for Muslims remain uncodified in India. Hindus have the succession act of 1956; the Christians have their own marriage act but Muslim leadership has taken refuge under the Constitution which allows for family law to be based on religion. The Muslim laws remain uncodified in India. The codification of the laws too would solve little for the well-being of Indian Muslim women as long as they are disempowered due to lack of education, and consequent financial dependency, they would be herded like sheeps in perpetuity. The patriarchal society would assert its domination.
Neither child marriage nor education/financial independence of Indian Muslim women is a matter on which you would see a Congress leader stick his neck out. That’s the vote-base they have cultivated for decades after decades. Never mind the abject situation of Muslim women, never a thought as to what a self-confident woman could do to free-up her next generation; never a reflection how it would ‘de-ghettoised’ a community and turbo-charge the growth of the country. All Muslims in this country have got is religious leadership such that there has been no attempt to create social or democratic leadership from within.
It’s facile and silly to play to the gallery with quips like “jhoothon ka sardar” in response to the charge Modi has made against Congress for appeasing muslim men only. Discerners remember at certain times ‘maut ka saudagar’ or ‘khoon-ki-dalali’ one-liners have emerged from the Congress camp. Sometimes, Modi is called ‘tughlaq. At other times ‘feku’. Rajdeep Sardesai once on stage called him a ‘mass murderer.’ His wife Sagarika Ghose kept screaming about Modi and his Louis Vuitton shawl till the company clarified it doesn’t make shawls. Rahul Gandhi mentioned ‘khoon ki dalali’, one of his senior leaders had uttered the word ‘neech’ to address the PM with. The parties which intend to form a Mahagathbandhan with Congress are no better. Sitaram Yechuri of CPI (M) mentions ‘pick-pocket’ in reference to Modi. Arvind Kejriwal, the epitome of sofa-based bravery, called Modi a “coward and psychopath.
When a Congress leader spreads the fear of a ‘Hindu Pakistan’, he ought to remind his party that even Pakistan has outlawed ‘triple talaq.’ So by appearing to support its retention, they actually plan to make India worse than Pakistan.