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An assault on Muslim Personal Law

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed an amended Triple Talaq bill after a four hour-long debate, but the Congress and some other parties walked out before the vote because their demand to refer the legislation to a joint select committee was spurned by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. The Centre now faces an uphill task in pushing the bill through the Upper House, where the NDA doesn’t have a majority. Without going into the merits and demerits of the bill, it is fraught with a serious political implication. There is every reason to believe that the move is a part of Hindutva agenda to do away with the Sharia laws governing social and personnel issues of Muslims in India. BJP and its satellite groups are using “sympathy for victims of triple Talaq’ as a reason for bringing in the law in parliament but it is anybody’s guess that Muslim women are not the only sufferers after marriage. Breakdown in marriages among Muslims is the lowest in India. To be statistical, it is less than one percent (1%).

But among Hindus the practice is prevalent more than five percent. That way, it is Hindu women who are the worst sufferers. Jashodaben, the wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a case in point. She has been a sufferer right from the day she got married some 50 years ago. Last year Indian Express carried her interview in which she said that she was still expecting her husband accepting her someday. It is the most pathetic case that can melt a stone-hearted person. Nothing can be more torturous for a woman than to live the life of a widow even as her husband is very much there. Abandoning own wife and showing concern for other women must not be without a political design. Doing away with religious identity of Muslims is core to BJP’s Hindutva agenda. It is anybody’s guess that this is a brazen effort to put an end to the Muslim identity and bringing them under a uniform civil code alongside other religious identities in the country. Triple talaq is a Sharia practice of divorce.

Though it is not something desired or preferred practice to end one’s marriage but once executed it makes the marriage invalid. Making it a criminal offence is a direct intervention in Sharia law. Earlier, no Indian government has dared to broach this subject so brazenly. Muslim Personal Law Board and other sections of religious leadership of Muslims are genuinely worried over the BJP government conduct with regard to Muslims. Hindu extremists’ designs apart, the Muslims have to blame themselves only for the situation they are caught in. Sayed Jalaluddin Umri, Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami (Hind) sometime back has rightly said that Muslims should revert to the spirit of Islam to prevent any damage to their religious identity. “There will be no dispute or discord if Muslims follow the Sharia law in true spirit with regard to the issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance, Mehar (right of a wife) and Nafqa (monthly stipend)” he said. It goes without saying that the Muslim personal law is a balanced law and it helps and promotes healthy family traditions. It not only gives respect and freedom to women but also protects their dignity and rights. But what needs to be done is to stop the arbitrary use of these laws.

It requires a massive social campaign by setting up counselling centres to provide advice and guidance to Muslims with regard to marital and inheritance issues. Otherwise, only God can save the Muslims. The new law would provide yet another weapon for harassing and humiliating Muslims. The disregard for Muslims can be understood from the fact that not a single Muslim was consulted while formulating the bill by the government.