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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Abolition Of Triple Talaq – What Took Us So Long?

Team Being Cynical
Personal laws in India were always been a sensitive issue. When it comes to Muslim personal law, it is even double sensitive. Other personal laws have seen changes, amendments and restructuring over the years, either by the respective practicing societies or the courts but Muslim personal laws never could see any such changes. But this is just part of the story. The other part is why it has remained sensitive over the decades. In fact the issue isn’t actually sensitive on its own. This has been made sensitive by design. It was kept sensitive by will because it has very strong and vital political fallout. Both Congress and BJP, the two major political parties of India, kept the issue burning for their respective political benefits. The most contentious issue in Muslim personal law is the instant Talaq, better known as 'Triple Talaq'. For a prolonged time there has been multiple demands to relook at this insensitive practice. Most even wanted this practice to be abolished completely. But public demands seldom encourage our political class to get back to their work. Since last forty years no political party showed much agility in closing this long pending demand from many quarters, important being the Muslim women.

No one knows why 'Triple Talaq' never got a holistic look that it deserves. So many, both reformers and the sufferers alike, had (and still doing) raised their voices on this unethical and in all likelihood unconstitutional practice but nothing could move our powers that be to take the corrective measures. No, not even our courts who otherwise should have taken suo-motu cognizance of this social malice. One could only feel the apathy from the fact that our judiciary was also sleeping over this important issue until yesterday, without much of a concern. Even yesterday’s verdict in favour of banning this inhuman practice came after a lot of proverbial ‘dragging the feet’ in recent times. How silly it sounds? Let’s see if we have a history that backs our complete disinterest in addressing this particular social reform.

I have said this earlier – our forefathers did a grave mistake in blurring, both the social and constitutional outline of our nation. They were quite proud in assuring us that we are not a ‘Hindu’ nation but they never told what we are then. In not only words, even their actions post a bloodied partition was far from being convincing. Pundit Nehru with all honesty wanted a uniform civil code across the territory of India. Instead we were handed over with is Article – 44, that makes no sense and even lesser practical value today. Nehru could modify the Hindu laws but conveniently sidestepped when it came to reform the Muslim personal law. Parochial and downright inhuman practices, which even hard-core Islamic countries could abolish, but for us it became a tough nut to crack. It was even a tough nut for the astute Pundit Nehru too. Why Pundit Nehru never acted decisively? Was it Muslim appeasement or fear of losing the vote bank or both? There has to be some reason/s. Though we may never know the exact compulsions of Nehru to look the other way and here I want to give him the benefit of doubt since he may as well have valid reasons to go numb on it; but what the subsequent Congress governments did or didn’t is beyond any comprehension.  No one can exonerate Congress of their crimes in neglecting/forgetting this all important social reform government after government. They had a straight run till 1977 and most/all of the times they had more than sufficient numbers in both houses to address this issue.  But no Congress government did take this malice head-on. They simply abandoned the cause and so as the outcry for change. It can’t be anything except political callousness.  ‘Congress’s abdication of personal law reforms was a colossal, historical and moral blunder’, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta puts it.

Not only did they ignored to act on the reform, they also made sure that the issue gets dragged for donkeys years. In their pursuit to remain unaccountable, they thought of putting article-44 to a slow cooker, one of the safest political options for any escapist politician. When the guideline of the constitution was specific on what is expected of the government, Congress in other hand left it too late for a possible and amicable solution. Not only Congress let the issue wrongly get stuck in the muddied religious waters it also made sure that it becomes a political pawn too. And how did they manage to give it a thick political colour? Yes, by exploiting it for petty political gains. Saha Banoo case is one such instance out of many where Congress adversely crippled the road to UCC by fifty years at least. Had that insensitive blow from the Congress party not came around in Saha Banoo case, we would have the nefarious practice got banned much earlier than 2017. When the court ordered in favour of Saha Banoo, it was a golden opportunity on a platter. The then government should have taken advantage of the situation to roll out the UCC on the floor of the house; had there been any gill in bringing article-44 into practice. But it seems, not only the gill was missing in its totality, the government of that era rather had sinister plots in their minds to act adversely. Just to appease the ‘Mullhas’ and the ‘Maulabis’ Rajiv Gandhi government denied the justice to the woman, more so when she had already got the relief from the high-court. Rajiv Gandhi government used their brute power to amend the law and made the high court ruling null and void whereas they should have taken advantage of the situation and used their power to push through UCC mercilessly.

In contrast BJP was consistent with their demand for UCC in general and ‘Triple Talaq’ in particular. It always was a big political point in BJP’s scheme of things. They had their eyes on it since 1989. In fact BJP offered their support to the then National Front government in 1989 with a condition that the government would address their demand of enacting a common civil law. Unfortunately the said government couldn’t manage to survive long. Over the decades BJP and its members were seen debating on these issues, both inside as well as outside of the parliament. In the past they had put their political weight behind anyone who was fighting for a common civil law. Be it Shyra Banoo as an individual or ‘Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andoolan’ as a group, BJP always stood behind them firm. RSS in fact was a major party in the case that our apex court was hearing since May 2017. RSS too used its strong carder base to collect millions of signatures across India in supporting the ban of this bad practice. Narendra Modi too was quite vocal about his government’s preferences. In fact he was the first politician and PM who talked about ‘Triple Talaq’ from the ‘Red Fort’. As early as his 2017 Independence Day speech, Modi requested the courts to work towards a coherent and socially justifiable verdict. Uphold the constitutional values, he urged, exactly what the courts finally said while dumping this malicious practice to the dustbin. Though not in their national manifesto, ‘Triple Talaq’ was always an unwritten poll promise of BJP. To let know their seriousness, BJP in fact put the ‘Triple Talaq’ in their manifesto for the UP legislative elections.

Many would say BJP was just clever in managing the show to their advantage. Few even ask – why didn’t BJP make the legislation through parliament when they are enjoying majority in the lower house. Why go to the courts, asked one of my friends. I must say BJP did play it beautifully. A lower number in the upper house had made the option of legislation through parliament almost redundant. A solution through parliament would for sure have scaled the Secularism Vs Communalism debate to unimaginable idiocy level. Instead they choose to travel the judiciary route where there were cases already been filed before the court. All they need to do was to put their political power behind it. Couldn't have come any easier for BJP. They too agreed before the court under oath that they will pursue to bring in the required legislation once the courts confirm the constitutional viability of such a practice. No wonder BJP turned out clever here. Now that the court was severe in dismissing this uncultured practice, I am sure the secularities wouldn’t dare to question the wisdom of the apex court in fear of public and political humiliation. Of course BJP was clever in fighting for their poll promise covertly but what made other political parties to not act as cleverly as BJP did? What made them miss the bus? Where were the SP, BSP, Congress, TMC et. all? Why these parties didn’t act equally smart or clever? What were they busy at?

Not sure about other parties but Congress was busy defending ‘Triple Talaq’ as they traditional did over the years. While earlier the attempts were covert or at best ignorance, this time it was quite open. This time they pressed their in-house lawyers to do the damage directly. They deployed both Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal to destroy whatever minimal credibility they had vis-à-vis UCC. Even more bizarre is the kind of argument these lawyers furnished in the court. One gem of the many was - Since it is a practice for thousand of years one must continue with the filth. Perfect!! Perfect in a way that exposes what Congress always thought about UCC and ‘Triple Talaq’. Every religion has practices that not only are vicious but also are far from fitting into the prevalent times. Do the likes of Sibal and his party suggest all of us to continue carrying the rot to the next generation and beyond? What kind of logic that Congress wanted to bring through their leader-cum-lawyers? This is how the inherent and sinister idea of pseudo secularism fails you at the end. There were dozens of survivors of this pathetic practice that were fighting it out in the court while million other survivors were anxiously waiting to know what the nation gives them in return and Congress as a party decided to fail them, one and all. No reason, no substantive argument and abject disrespect to basic human respect are all that Congress could offer to the aspirations of millions of Muslim women. All that Congress could furnish to counter the debate were hilarious whataboutery which again were far from being the truth.

I equally blame the foot soldiers of the ecosystem for the misery that the Muslim women of this country had to suffer for this long. Like their masters, the footsies too survive purely on whataboutery; border line with absolute shamelessness. On a day the landmark judgment was delivered what these footsies found more relevant to discuss? Yes, when the rot in the Hinduism would be cleared up. Seriously? Does it even make any sense, much less any argument? Are these guys ended up being so jobless? Few even went ahead proclaiming and lecturing on the wrongs in Hinduism without a shred of knowledge on the facts and the developments in Hindu personal laws. Is this bimbo so dumb? Isn’t she aware that the point she is crying hoarse for the heck of it was already addressed way back in 2005? The guidelines of inheritance in Hindu laws has already been modified and equal rights were already issued a long time back. Did she get up just today or was she busy swimming in her pool when the courts did the required changes to the Hindu inheritance law? Not sure who got motivated by whom, street thug too had an advice or two for the PMO. I wonder when these guys would learn journalism. These are not the only distorted souls who had everything on fire. Scavenging wrong in Hinduism is what they could think of doing through the day. There were other useful idiots too. More than the verdict and the veracity of it, most of them were busy concluding how BJP shouldn’t be a party to the credit for this social success. Totally blind by hate, so much so that they conveniently forgot, the point here isn’t who is getting the credit but a section that now onwards would have their dignity restored. Hate has blind them to such an extent that they don’t know what real journalists do for a living.

To say the least, it is a massive, massive day in the history of our judiciary. It was equally massive and a huge boost to our fight for social equality as well. One of the longest fought nonsense is settled for good finally. Let’s congratulate the brave women who took the male chauvinism and historical parochialism head-on. Let’s congratulate all those who stood by these women in every thick-and-thin.  Let’s congratulate our courts too. They are the man of the match. One major social issue that looked impossible to fix is dealt swiftly by our apex court. In fact they did the heavy lifting. It is now up to the central government to formulate the desired legislation at the earliest and make it a law. A long fought war should have a satisfying ending. 

Over to you the ministry of Law, PMO, Narendra Modi and Ravishankar Prasad. Catch you at the other side.                   

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