Muslim women from across India came together in meetings throughout the month of February and March in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Maharashtra, MP, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamilnadu to demand accountability from all political parties in the 2019 elections. Women voters demanded that their voices be heard by political parties and their demands be included in their manifestos. Following are the demands made by Indian Muslim women:
1. It is obligatory for all political parties to support constitutional nationalism and not any other divisive narrow ideologies in the name of nationalism. India’s Constitution with its emphasis on democracy, social justice, gender justice, equality, pluralism, secularism, individual freedoms and non-discrimination should be adhered to by all parties. This must be clearly stated in the manifesto and any violation of constitutional principles in speech and practice should be condemned.
2. All political parties must promise action against hate speeches and religious polarisation. Although Islamophobia is nothing new, the muslims have been subjected to open hatred by many right-wing groups and individuals in the last 4-5 years. The heightened demonization, the “go to Pakistan” bogey and violence by gaurakshaks including lynchings have increased the insecurity and the alienation of muslims. All political parties must make a clear commitment against hate and division in society.
3. Healing Touch: Following discrimination of minorities, communal polarization and unfortunate incidents of lynching there is a sense of fear in minorities and Dalits. A healing touch by the government is called for to reassure minorities and Dalits about their being equal citizens in a secular democracy. This can be done through political statement, action in different legal cases and compensation to survivors, programs for social harmony and strengthening of ministry of minorities affairs. There must be a clear statement to this effect in the manifesto of every political party
4. Reinvigoration of PM’s New 15 Point Program: to begin with the Minorities Affairs ministry should provide an update on the status of MSDP in the MCDs and the PM’s New 15 Point program. This must include year-wise expenditure, number of beneficiaries scheme-wise, monitoring mechanisms, steps for universalization of programs, steps to sensitize functionaries to poverty, exclusion, backwardness faced by muslim citizens.
5. Economic & educational inclusion of muslims: Special steps must be taken for awareness, access and inclusion of muslims in schemes for poor including ICDS, health, livelihood, scholarships & education programs. The budgetary spending must be monitored to measure reach to minority citizens. Scholarships for muslims should be brought on par with those meant for Dalits. Something like a sub-plan for minorities can be thought of in the Five Year Plans and budgets.
6. Special measures for muslim women & girls: patriarchal mindsets have prevented political parties from looking at Muslim women and girls as citizens in dire need of support. All poverty alleviation schemes must have provisions for inclusion of muslim women & girls. Special measures must be initiated to support home-based women workers through living wages, social security, skill training, credit facilities and marketing support. More government girls schools with women teachers in muslim neighbourhoods are required.
7. Muslim Family Law: The parliament should pass a muslim family law to enable legal protection for women just as they have passed Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and other such laws under Hindu code. Along with education and livelihood measures, this would enable muslim women to live a life of empowerment and dignity and halt vested politics over gender justice. The conservative, patriarchal and misogynist voices within the community have been singularly responsible for the miserable state of the Muslim women and for the image of the Muslim community in the eyes of the larger society. Efforts towards Codification of the Muslim Family Law must be immediately undertaken and a law based on the Quran and the Indian Constitution must be made and implemented as soon as possible.
8. Revising the mandate of the national and state minorities commissions and allowing them to hear cases of discrimination will create a political space for the community to reach out to the state. Strengthen the constitutional status of the minorities commissions.
9. The time for 33% reservation is long over. All political parties must commit to 50% reservation for women in the Assembly and Parliament and they must implement this within a tangible timeline.
(Statement issued by Zakia Soman, Co-Founder, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; M: 9913333620)