Triple talaq is now a crime. Indeed, it deserved to go away long ago. Since Shah Bano’s battle for alimony, way back in 1980s, to the recent Supreme Court judgement, the struggle for gender justice within the Muslim society has seen many ups and downs. Initially, the Muslim conservatives, led by Muslim Personal Law Board, had their say in similar matters as they forced the then Rajeev Gandhi government to introduce a legislation to undo Supreme Court judgement in the Shah Bano case back in 1986. But once the Modi-led government assumed power in Delhi in 2014, there were swift developments in the decades -old debate around triple talaq.
Some Muslim women groups knocked on the Suprem Court gates to seek gender justice that was being undermined in the guise of triple talaq practised by Muslim men. It changed the legal focus from being religious or personal law issue to an issue of gender justice. It made the court job easier as triple talaq clearly violated women rights granted to all without religious distinction. So, we had the Supreme Court judgement delivered a few months back banning the medieval practise of triple talaq. All change-seekers felt relieved. The issue seemed settled once for all, after the Supreme Court judgment.
But the Modigovernment, sometime during the Gujarat election campaign, announced that Centre would introduce a bill in Lok Sabha to prosecute Muslim men who still practised triple talaq. Keeping its commitment, the Modi government introduced the bill in the lower house of Parliament last week and got it passed without any significant resistance from even almost all the so-called secular parties, including Congress, which had stood by the Muslim conservative lobby on the issue in 1985.
This has been the brief history of a significant issue of Muslim women rights within the largest Indian minority community. Social change is a difficult process, indeed. It always takes many twists and turns before the change is brought about on the ground. Triple talaq issue was no different either. Muslim society, being conservative and clergy-led, was more difficult for lawmakers to deal with. Bringing about a change in the community was never going to be easy. But the Modi government broke barriers and took a firm stand that triple talaq would be undone come what may. It pitched the Muslim women rights issue and decided to go against it, both inside the court of law as well as in Parliament.
It was a great surprise for many both inside the Muslim community as well as among liberals, who have been seeking change. Frankly, Narendra Modi has no love for the Indian Muslim, either man or woman. It was during his stint at the helm in Gujarat that India’s worst ever anti-Muslim riots took place in 2002. Even worse, there were confirmed reports of mass rapes of Muslim women during the pogrom. Many of those women are still seeking justice in courts and their cases are being resisted by the BJP government in the state right from the Modi days. That Prime Minister Modi had a change of heart on Muslim women after assuming power in New Delhi is completely misleading and mischievous. Narendra Modi loves to hate Muslims, cutting across gender divide.
Indian Muslims have never lived in fear of their life and dignity as much as they have been under the Modi raj. From mob lynching to beef ban to almost daily indignities being heaped upon them while Modi looks the other way, life for an Indian Muslim has never been more difficult.
So, it is plain bunkum that Modi was moved by the reform spirit leading him to bring about a highly ‘progressive’ piece of legislation to legally ban triple talaq. What else could have been Modi’s consideration in rushing to introduce the bill criminalising triple talaq? Modi is always moved by two considerations ,as it is evident now. His first consideration is how to ensure victory in next round of elections? Secondly, he is conscious of implementing the Hindutva agenda, both because of his personal ideological commitment as well as to please the Sangh lobby that works overnight to ensure a BJP victory in elections. Modi’s strategy so far has been to carve a Hindu vote bank by raising the Muslim bogey to win elections. He does it sometimes in a subtle manner and sometimes rather crudely.
The recent Gujarat assembly election saw the worst of Modi , as he attempted to form a Hindu vote bank to win his home turf. Twenty eighteen is the year of many important electoral battles. Important states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and others are going to polls soon.
Electoral battles are no longer a cake walk for Modi. He did manage a victory literally from the jaws of defeat in Gujarat, despite a resurgent Congress under Rahul Gandhi’s charge putting up a stiff fight to the BJP there. Naturally, it has put fear of defeat in his heart and mind. A desperate Modi is now much more in need of a Hindu vote bank to sustain the BJP in power.
Criminalising triple talaq is one of Modi’s subtle messages to the hardcore Hindutva constituency that he could alone fix the Muslim ‘enemy’--- be it triple talaq or their beef-eating habit. It will also gladden RSS’ hearts, which had been demanding a ban on triple talaq for demographic reasons and not for reform considerations. The long and short of the triple talaq law is nothing but Modi’s move to fix Muslims for his personal electoral considerations rather than bring about gender justice to Muslim women. Those who look the other way when Muslim women are being raped in a communal riot can never be sincere towards any reform for the same lot.
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