While the debate on abolition of Muslim Personal Law is raging, with the government stressing its desire to protect Muslim women from arbitrary divorce and polygamy it would be pertinent to note that this very ruling party at the centre now has not only failed to uphold many of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Muslim women but has also been an enabler in violation of those rights in the past.
The right to life and dignity, guaranteed by constitution to every citizen of India was violated at mass level in Gujarat during the 2002 riots when BJP was in power in the state. Thousands of Muslim women were raped and killed while the current Prime Minister was the Chief Minister of Gujarat according to revelations made by police officers had instructed them to let Hindus vent their anger.
Needless to say that the perpetrators of these ghastly crimes against Muslim women were never brought to book.
Zakia Jafri whose husband Ahsan Jafri was brutally killed by rioting mobs in Gulbarga society in 2002 is an Indian Muslim woman whom justice has evaded despite 14 years of legal struggle. Ironically she is struggling against those very people who are now trying to portray themselves as the greatest well wishers of Muslim women.
More recently three Muslim women of Dadri- the mother, wife and daughter of Akhlaq who was lynched on rumours of calf slaughter an year ago were deprived of their right to a peaceful life while one of Akhlaq’s alleged murderer (who succumbed to fever) was accorded the honour of being wrapped in the Indian flag like a martyr.
The twin murder and gang rapes of Muslim women (including a 14 year old child) in Mewat (Haryana) done in the name of cow protection were called a ‘trivial issue’ by Haryana’s BJP Chief Minister ML Khattar. Are arbitrary divorce and polygamy more severe injustices to Muslim women than rape and murder ?
While a miniscule percentage of Muslim women are affected by triple talaq and polygamy the percentage of female Indian Muslim victims of governmental indiscretion and apathy is enormous.
Anyone genuinely seeking to procure Muslim woman her rights should start from the mothers, daughters, wives and sisters of Hashimpura, Gujarat, Nillli, Muzaffarnagar, and move on to those who have lost their dearest men to the recent spurt in killings in the name of cow protection all over India.
Ironically the government so keen to protect Indian Mulsim Women from triple talaq and polygamy has nothing to say about the women whose fathers, brothers, husbands and sons are arbitrarily arrested under draconian Acts like POTA and incarcerated for decades before being declared innocent.
The same government while campaigning for the right of Muslim women on one hand has forced many of them on the other hand to take off their Hijab while appearing in various examinations. This was an act of clear violation of at least two constitutionally guaranteed rights-the right to freedom of religion (including practice) and the right to individual liberty.
Seen in the light of instances of ongoing violation of Muslim women’s rights , it becomes clear that the efforts towards implementing Uniform Civil Code and abolition of Personal Law has got nothing to do with women’s right but everything to do with blunting distinct religious identities in India.
This government is advocating against triple talaq to protect Muslim women, but what about Zakia Jafri, Bilkis Bano and Isharat Jahan ?