Triple Talaq Row: The debate switches to political dimensions

New Delhi, Oct 15: The triple talaq debate, apart from being classified in the gender equality and religious platform, has now got into a new dimension i.e. political with uniform civil code.

The centre has intervened by submitting an affidavit to the Supreme Court on October 8, asking that triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy – all part of Muslim personal law – be removed, citing that they fundamentally inhibit gender equality, which is uncompromisingly unconstitutional.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) lauded the Centre’s step, which they believe will elevate the conditions of Muslim women in India on par with their sisters from other religious communities.

Though, they have backed the centre’s stand, a sect of women from the community worry that the ignited debate would switch its character from religious to totally political agenda for Sangh Parivar.

Unlike the rationalist feminists in Muslim community, the BMMA activists demand for gender equality sticking to the norms within the ambit of Islam. For them, the matter of concern is the nature of Islam itself.

The members of this organisation has constantly raised voices against the practices of triple talaq and polygamy arguing that those are un-Islamic. However All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) cries foul and says the demands that these women are making it un-Islamic.

S.Q.R. Ilyas of the AIMPLB, told that the board is against the abolition of triple talaq and it has already submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court in opposition to the Centre’s move.

With BJP being in the centre, AIPMLB fears that the gender justice issue will become a prime topic to attack the Muslim community.

On April 15, 1994, Justice Hari Nath Tilhari of the Allahabad high court had held that triple talaq was discriminatory towards women and therefore, constitutionally, the divorce was not valid. On the face of it, it looked like a victory for progressive gender justice. But writing in Economic and Political Weekly in May, 1994, Gautam Navlakha pointed out that Tilhari was not so very just. Navlakha wrote:

The issue that is of interest is that justice Tilhari who pronounced such a momentous judgment is the same judge who delivered the infamous judgment which allowed darshan at the spot where communal-fascists of the RSS had demolished the Babri masjid and had then gone on to construct a make-shift temple. This judgment was based on the specious plea that Ram is a “constitutional entity” since his photograph was there in a copy of the constitution bequeathed to justice Tilhari by his father! One is also surprised because justice Tilhari has not shied away from describing himself as a “Hindu nationalist”

Tilhari was meant to be judging a land-ceiling case, but since the couple in question claimed to have divorced orally, the case became about the validity of their divorce and by extension, the extent of their jointly- and/or individually-owned land. His judgment on triple talaq in this context was seen as exceeding his purview.

In contradiction, the BMMA believe that the Centre doesn’t seem to have any hidden agenda, with the language of the affidavit filed. However, with the submission of affidavits, there has been an intensive campaign with #OneNationOneLaw in social media.

Many of the citizens took the platforms to raise their voice against the ‘special treatment’ given to the Muslim community in the nation. However, they seem to have missed the fact that every religious community in India has its own system of personal laws; for instance, the Hindu Marriage Act.

BMMA’s Zakia Soman cited that theproblem with Muslim personal law is the lack of amendments.

The Shariat Application Act of 1937 has been retained unchanged. Soman said, “The act doesn’t mention about any of the important aspects like the minimum age for marriage, triple talaq, share in property, etc. It’s an archaic law which has to be reformed with the equal rights for men and women.”

Muslim personal law in India, she believes, has largely been patriarchal misinterpretations of Islamic religious texts and especially with regard to triple talaq, she said, “There is no mention of it in the Quran.”

The Centre’s affidavit lists 10 countries with Islam as their state religion that have interpreted and codified the shari’a depending on what suited their needs. Soman suggests that a similar process is long overdue in India. “Islamic law in India should be codified based on Quranic frames and in consonance with the values of the constitution,” she said.

Effectively, this makes the debate not about what is Islamic or what isn’t, but about what kind of Islam fits the present needs of its adherents.

Ilyas, however, said that if there is a need for the law to be codified, it should be the AIMPLB that does so.

Critics of the board note that it is essentially a self-appointed body that has no locus too speak on behalf of all Indian Muslims and especially Muslim women.