Who Speaks for Muslims in India?

Who Speaks for Muslims in India?
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The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017

By M J Aslam

As was expected, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 (Triple Talaq Bill) http://164.100.47.4/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/Asintroduced/247_2017_LS_Eng.pdf has been passed by the Indian Parliament with the overwhelming majority of RSS-BJP members voting for it on the 28th day of December, 2017. The Bill was, a month before, sent to the States and opposition parties for their “urgent” comments and views. A number of amends were suggested by opposition parties and members including AIMPLB. But all suggestions about amending the law to make it more acceptable to the Muslim community have been totally rejected by the India’ ruling party (RSS-BJP). If the law was to be passed in such haste, then what was the point of sending the draft law to opposition parties and States for suggestions? If it was to be passed in this manner of without consulting the Muslim Community to whom the law pertains, it raises many eyebrows about. Alt this suggests that the law in contention is a “politicized law”.
However, one may rightly feel that this law is sure to be challenged in the Supreme Court of India for its most shameful, painful and arbitrary provision of criminalizing Triple Divorce by punishing husband with a three year jail term. If the punishment of Muslim husband was the objective of the Law-Makers (RSS-BJP), then, where comes the good intention of rescuing the Muslim wives slapped with the Triple Talaq ? It blocks all re-conciliatory steps between estranged spouses. A husband jailed by the Court at the complaint of wife will hardly think of reconciling with her. The harsh provision will further harm the already strained relations between the spouses concerned. The issue is not merely hypothetical; it is very real!
The law was passed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Shayara Bano v. Union of India , https://indiankanoon.org/doc/115701246/ wherein the Supreme Court declared the practice of triple Talaq as unconstitutional. Section 3 of the Act states that “Talaq-e-biddat” shall be ‘void’ and ‘illegal’. It is followed by section 4 that contains the consequences of such void and illegal Talaq which is three years imprisonment of the husband. The Act, as stated above, has been hurriedly passed without consulting Muslim Personal Law Board of India.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill state that an urgent suitable legislation was necessary to give some relief to those who continue to receive arbitrary Triple Talaq. It is like making a mountain of a mole hill. The Statement does not specify how many thousands, hundreds, of Triple Talaqs were pronounced by Muslim husbands in India after the said SC ruling in Shayara Bano case. It simply states that the law is passed to “redress the grievances of victims of illegal divorce….to prevent the continued harassment being meted out to the hapless married Muslim women due to Talaq-e-biddat…..”. It shows «Law-makers» grave concern for «constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help sub-serve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment.” By destroying the chances of reconciliation between the spouses by punishing the husband for three years imprisonment, it blocks the possibility of reconstruction of the family. The law will do more damage to the family concerned.
National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, and PDP’s Muzaffar H Beigh, two Parliament members preferred silence while the Bill was passed by in the Indian Parliament. ttps://cnskashmir.com /2017/12/29/er-rasheed-condemns-farooq-abdullah-muzaffar-beigh-silence-parliament-triple-talak-bill/ The only “prominent” Muslim who represented Muslim community of India was M J Akbar https:// en. wikipedia. org/wiki/M._J._Akbar, a Minister of State Foreign Affairs of the ruling BJP party of India. On the required consultation with All India Muslim Personal Law Board before passing the law, the BJP Parliamentarian derisively commented: “What is the credibility of All India Muslim Personal Law Board? Who chose them to be community representatives? This slogan ‘Islam Khatre Mein Hai’ was used before independence to divide India and is now being used to divide society, poison is being spread.”
It is agreed that All India Muslim Personal Law Board has failed http://kashmirwatch.com/failure-indian-muslims-allowed-others-intervene-matter-triple-talaq/ to come up to the expectations of the Muslim community of India over decades by coming out with some legislation to curb the menace of Triple Talaq and so, to redress the grievances of the Muslim women in this regard. But, if they lack representative character, does M J Akbar represent Muslim Community of India, is a mega intriguing question to be answered?

—The author can be reached at: mjaslam09@gmail.com. Views expressed are strictly personal.

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