Politicising triple talaq, Sabarimala

Aditya Aamir

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f India was an Islamic republic, triple talaq would have gone without a trace and nobody, including Asauddin Owaisi, would have shouted because “what is wrong in theology cannot be right in law, Sharia”. But India happens to be a multi-religious democracy, with multiple political parties, and Owaisi has the luxury to take cover of that and say, “Not as long as there is Islam, only over my dead body.”

Rahul Ishwar, member of the Thazhamantantri family, which runs the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, gave a similar over-my-dead-body ultimatum when told to follow the Supreme Court verdict and not oppose entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa shrine. Both Owaisi and Rahul Ishwar have a conflict of interests. The Member of Parliament heads a Muslim party, represents a largely Muslim constituency, speaks in Urdu and has taken upon himself the onus of protecting Islam in a secular multi-religious country.

Rahul Ishwar’s intransigency on women’s entry into Sabarimala stems from his family’s stake in the shrine. He says he is a Hindu right-winger and draws inspiration from the RSS ideologue Guru Golwalkar who, according to ‘humble brother’ Ishwar, declared that a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) will “destroy India”, what is required is “unity”; that ultra-right forces, which want to impose UCC on unsuspecting Indians, are behind the “assault on Sabarimala” and the attempts to criminalise triple-talaq

Owaisi and Ishwar are geniuses. The Owaisi family’s interests lie in “protecting Islam”, the Thazhaman family’s in “saving Sabarimala”. It is another matter that the Ayyappa temple and triple-talaq issues are poles apart; like Rahul Ishwar says, “They are like comparing apples to pineapples.”

Granted, but both are prickly, like the pineapple skin. But then, women barred from entering Sabarimala Ayyappa temple are not condemned to hunger and penury. Triple talaq lands a Muslim woman in instant trouble. Triple talaq is a mental trauma and physical, too. The Supreme Court made triple talaq unconstitutional in December 2017. In the year since, there have been 477 instances of ‘instant triple talaq’. And none of the perpetrators have been punished!

One-party rule

Everybody praises China for “transforming” in 30 years. And it’s one-party rule in China. Proof that over-populated countries, if the people of such countries want to get out of the poverty-rut, should be one-party rule. With a prayer on the lips that the guy at the top turns out as benign as a pineapple; prickly outside, with a soft-core inside. If the bill was discussed in China, it would be ‘okay-okay-okay’ to whatever the ‘boss’ says, on triple talaq or the ban on cow slaughter.

Cover for political gains

At least, in Sabarimala, hundreds of violators of the Supreme Court order have been arrested and sent to jail, even those who sat and chanted “Swami Ayyappa”. Muslim men who go about triple talaqing wives for a “roti burned” or being “overweight by a kilo” are going scot-free because it’s not a “criminal act”, only an annulment of a “civil contract”, and Muslim marriages are civil contracts.

Now, it’s no secret that both Sabarimala and triple talaq have been politicised. Political parties are not different from Owaisi and Rahul Ishwar, Owaisi’s AIMIM and the Ishwar’s Tazhaman Kudumbam. Political parties are using issues of gender equality and triple talaq as cover to achieve political goals. Law minister Ravishankar Prasad saying in the Lok Sabha that “there is no politics in triple talaq” is patent political falsehood.

That said, democracy is a playground for politicians. Apart from Shahnawaz and Naqvi, not many Muslims must have voted for the BJP, but 31 per cent of mostly Hindutva folks did and the agenda is to remove ‘durachars’ in Muslim Personal Law. So, if the MGB gets elected, by say 49 per cent of the electorate, then how about a law banning the ban on cow slaughter? That will be tit for tat. Democracy!

•Democracy sounds fine but nothing gets done. Democracy is full of spelling mistakes.

•Triple talaqed begums must have died a thousand deaths on Thursday evening as the Lok Sabha discussed the bill.

•Triple talaqing mians must have offered five-time namaz, hanging on to every word spoken in the Lower House, pulse racing and hearts going ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’.

•Holy cows only feature in democracies. Blame it on planet Earth! So varied, it mirrors democracy. There is no dictatorship, but Nature can be capricious, and whimsical.

What the MPs said

 The Triple Talaq Bill is not about politics but empowerment and justice for women. This bill is not about any specific religion and community. The bill is about humanity and justice.’ -Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister

 In the name of empowerment, you (the government) have given nothing but a criminal case to women… the aim of the bill is not to empower Muslim women but to penalise Muslim men.’ -Sushmita Dev, Congress

 You don’t have a problem when the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality, […] when adultery is decriminalised, but you want to criminalise triple talaq. When a Hindu man can be jailed only for one year, why should a Muslim be imprisoned for three years. When you oppose Sabarimala judgment on the basis of faith, why do you interfere in my faith.’ -Asadduddin Owaisi, AIMIM

 You treat Muslim men as second class citizens, and you are talking about justice for Muslim women? Crocodile tears are being shed on behalf of Muslim women.’ -Mohammed Salim, CPI(M)

(Author is a senior journalist)