Muslim Women’s Rights Activists Condemn BJP’s ‘Appropriation’ of Historic Triple Talaq Judgment

“BJP leaders have time and again celebrated the victory of the judgement on triple talaq and the leadership have often claimed the victory to itself”.

Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Muslim women’s rights activists have condemned the continuous attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party to appropriate the movement against instant triple talaq practiced in the community and its efforts to make the recent Supreme Court judgment against it a political victory for the party.

The condemnation has come in response to a comment made by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in Mumbai on October 27, in which he claimed that the party could win the Uttar Pradesh elections because Muslim women believed that it was the BJP which could save them from triple talaq.

Prior to Swamy, BJP president Amit Shah had tried to claim a political victory on the Supreme Court judgment. Referring to the Narendra Modi government’s affidavit supporting the cause, Shah, immediately after the judgement was delivered by the five-judge bench on August 22, told the media in New Delhi, “I thank the prime minister and the BJP government to place the Muslim women’s version before the Supreme Court in a wise and judicious manner”.

In a statement issued on October 30, Mumbai-based Bebaak Collective (Voices of the Fearless), one of the petitioners of the triple talaq case, said, “BJP leaders have time and again celebrated the victory of the recent judgement that invalidates the instantaneous practice of triple talaq and the leadership have often claimed the victory to itself, strategically pointing out the silence of the Congress government during the Shah Bano case.”

“The enormous media debate, after the judgement, underplayed the efforts of women’s movement and turned it into a game of political rivalry between the BJP and the Congress. In fact, the BJP’s constant reference to the violent and gender discriminatory practice of triple talaq seems to feed into the imagination that the Muslim community is conservative and violent which also creates fractures within the community and legitimises the targeted violence of the men of the community in beef cases or in fabricated terror cases.”

The statement added, “We strongly condemn the appropriation of the struggle of women’s groups and want to reiterate that triple talaq could be declared unconstitutional owing to the sustained work of women’s groups in the community and also, because of the legal intervention made by grassroots women’s groups in the apex court supporting Shayara Bano’s petition who challenged the validity of unilateral triple talaq in the court. Bebaak Collective, which is a campaign group, and works with several other grassroots organisations across states, was one of the petitioners to intervene in the court supporting Shayara Bano.”

The statement went on to say that though it was the women’s group which filed the case in the Supreme Court – and the Modi government filed only an affidavit in its support – it is the government which “is shamelessly trying to capitalise on the 35-years-long struggle of women’s movement, which stood by the Muslim community.”

Calling the judgement “historic” as it gave legal acknowledgement to the demands of the women activists and “occult the self styled ‘authentic’ representatives of the community – All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)”, the rights body said, “This statement is a reiteration of strong voices of women activists within the Muslim community, an emergent leadership which cannot be squashed or appropriated by any forces.”

The statement further asked the government whether it has made any “real policy level intervention” for improving the social security of the Muslims “or even whether the government is bringing any schemes or policies to change the material realities of the Muslim women and girls in particular who seem to have evoked this government’s sudden empathy.” It also pointed out the government “criminalising beef consumption and trading, increasing the number of cow vigilantes under the patronage of the government and other right wing forces, incidents of killing of Muslims and Dalits on suspicion of beef possession”, that “the perpetrators of the violence against Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Junaid Khan are roaming scot free.”

“Besides, where was this government when incidents of mass rape in Gujarat massacre and Muzaffarnagar riots were being pushed below the carpet or orchestrated? What has the government done to recuperate the lives of several Muslim families who were victims during Muzaffarnagar riots and those who migrated to neighbouring villages and towns? What did the government do when the Hindutva strategies like ‘love jihad’ were getting strengthened and anti-Romeo squads were functioning in the states like Uttar Pradesh? These protectionist agenda not only led to the social segregation between the majority and minority communities, but also impacted the lives of Muslim women whose mobility was restricted further within the walls of their home.”

Soon after the Supreme Court judgement, Zakia Soman of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, one of the petitioners of the case, also expressed displeasure at the BJP’s attempt to hijack their movement. In a discussion with The Wire, Soman had said, “It is wrong for a political party or the government to try and take credit for something that the women activists has been fighting for years. It would be belittling the struggle of the Muslim women activists in this regard.”

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