FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Triple talaq: It is an issue of gender equality, not religion, writes Rajdeep Sardesai
Updated:May 26, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Rajdeep Sardesai 
 
A good lawyer doesn’t allow personal convictions to get in the way of a challenging brief is one of the valuable lessons we were taught in law school. It is possible that a similar learning drew Congress lawyer-MP Kapil Sibal to argue for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in the historic triple talaq case in the Supreme Court and declare that triple talaq is a matter of faith for 1,400 years for Muslims which could not be subject to principles of constitutional morality and equity. But by placing his argument in such stark terms Mr Sibal, who prides himself as a true Nehruvian secularist, may well have revived a festering sore that has hobbled secularists and the Congress party in particular for over three decades now.
 
Sibal’s words echo the troubling narrative that was pushed in 1985 during the infamous Shahbano case, one that first led to the Congress party being charged with the tag of ‘minority appeasement’. Then the plight of a Muslim woman seeking maintenance after divorce saw the Supreme Court step in to protect her, only for the Rajiv Gandhi government to overturn the apex court order under pressure from Muslim fundamentalist forces. That abject capitulation gave the BJP the opening it was so desperately seeking to build a secular versus pseudo-secular counter-narrative and create a momentum for a resurgent Hindutva politics that would ultimately result in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the eventual political rise of the sangh parivar.
 
2017 though is not 1985. The BJP is now the party in power, led by an all-powerful prime minister whose government is determinedly objecting to all forms of triple talaq. If for Rajiv Gandhi, the Shahbano case exposed his political naivete, for the Modi government the triple talaq issue has become another weapon in its ‘justice for all, appeasement to none’ war cry. On the other hand, reduced to a rump in parliament, the Congress cannot afford any ambivalence on the issue. In the 24 x 7 news age and with an endless social media whirl, any Congress attempt to run with the secular hare and hunt with the communal hound will be immediately exposed.
 
Moreover, it is reassuring to find that the protests against triple talaq have been primarily led by Muslims groups, especially women. That many Muslim women have come out openly on television to reveal their anguish suggests a remarkable courage that stems from a growing sense of empowerment. Which is why, unlike in the Shahbano case, where there weren’t enough protests from within Muslim civil society to challenge the orthodox elements, this time there is a noticeable difference. The Muslim Personal Law Board in particular is no longer seen as the sole spokesperson for a community; in fact, it has been exposed as a cabal of mostly male obscurantists and almost forced by sustained public pressure to dilute its opposition to abolishing triple talaq.
 
In a sense, this is then the appropriate moment for every right thinking secular liberal to reclaim the space that was vacated in the aftermath of the Shahbano controversy and strengthen the brave voices within the Muslim community who are speaking out against triple talaq. The BJP may well claim that it is standing by Muslim progressives but their stand is misleading. After all, isn’t this the same party which has been insisting that faith be placed above the law in the contentious Ram Janmabhoomi case? Truth is, for the brotherhood in saffron, triple talaq is another convenient stick to beat the Muslim community with and push the stereotype of a religion that is steeped in archaic practices (why don’t I see the sangh leadership denounce public figures who still attend mass child marriages?).
 
Which is why the real challenge for unapologetic secularists , as the Supreme Court verdict is awaited, is to pull the triple talaq debate out of the political slugfest and place it squarely in the domain of gender equality. Muslim women need freedom from personal law practices that are inherently arbitrary and unequal. That freedom must come from the constitution that gives primacy to equal citizenship, not from a political order which has only used religious issues to divide and rule.
 
Post-script: A number of people on social media have been questioning the silence of prominent Indian Muslims on the triple talaq issue. Yes, they should speak up, but may I also ask: how many ‘eminent’ Hindus have spoken out when murderous gau rakshak gangs threaten and kill in the name of religion? The ‘crime’ of silence cannot be one-sided.
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
A top Chinese Army official on Sunday said negotiations with the Indian Army paved the way for the resolution of the Doklam stand-off on the India-China border.
 
read-more
A unique and passionate gathering of acrophiles, or mountain lovers, took place in neat and picturesque Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram state in north-eastern India in September.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
As about-turns in the three-year-old BJP government go, this must be among the shortest and most important tweets issued by any BJP leader. And although Prime Minister Modi spent Diwali with soldiers in Gurez less than a week ago, it was left to Home minister Rajnath Singh to announce a major policy shift on Jammu & Kashmir at 4 pm
 
read-more
  In his report at the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping redefined the principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the new era, namely between unbalanced, inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life. Providing this better life has become
 
read-more
As political roller coasters go, there is none as steep and unpredictable as the one shared by the United States and Iran.
 
read-more
In snap polls in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition has secured a two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament.
 
read-more
On “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century”
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive