By Kalyani Shankar
Is there politics behind the Triple Talaq Bill, which the Modi government is keen to push through in the ensuing Monsoon session? Will it be passed or sent to the select committee for further scrutiny or will it be buried? The Lok Sabha passed the Bill in December 2017, where the BJP has majority but it is difficult to get it through in Rajya Sabha where NDA does not have the numbers. While the measure was allowed to sail though in Lok Sabha, the Congress led opposition now wants the bill to be sent to select committee. The government obviously fears that if it went to the select committee it would undergo changes but there is clearly an absence of a reach-out in building a consensus.
The Triple Talaq bill is part of the BJP’s political gambit ahead of 2019 polls. If the bill were passed, the government would tom- tom its success. If the Opposition blocks it, then the government would malign the Opposition parties as pseudo-secular and the real enemies of Muslim women. Either way, it is a win-win situation for the BJP. The Congress does not want to be seen as playing a repressive role it had played three decades ago in Shah Bano case. Also the opposition cannot go beyond a limit, as it is a social reform bill, which is why even while stalling the bill, it played a lip service for need to end the practice of Triple Talaq.
The demand to send the bill to select committee has the support of parties like the Congress, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and TRS. Even the NDA allies like the Shiv Sena have opposed it. TDP, which has quit the alliance, also has joined them. The Left, the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are also opposed to it in its present form.
The proposed bill aims to outlaw the practice of Talaq-e-biddat making it a cognizable and non-bailable offence with a three- year jail term for erring Muslim husbands. Many political parties point out the flaws in the bill arguing that some of the provisions could be misused. While Congress, SP, BSP, Left parties, RJD and others argue that this is a religious issue and should not be tinkered with, Modi government came out with an unambiguous position in public and in Supreme Court. The argument in favour of the bill is that making “Triple Talaq” an invalid practice under the civil code and has not really worked even after the Supreme Court rendered the practice as void in August 2017and had asked the government to frame a law on it. After this only the government came up with this bill.
Why should the BJP bat for the Muslim women? Why should the secular parties like the Congress, Left and Samajwadi Party, oppose it? It is all vote bank politics, as every political party wants the Muslim votes. Even the BJP is looking for these plus votes it might need in 2019. Muslims have decisive presence in 90 districts, 100 Lok Sabha constituencies and 720 Assembly seats of India. Traditionally, the Muslims have voted against the BJP and voted for secular parties. In the Modi regime, they have experienced several incidents of anti-Muslim communal violence, cow vigilantism and persecution in the garb of love jihad, which have created fear in the community.
Modi had pitchforked on the issue and used it during the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election by declaring that he, his government and his party are for the abolition of Triple Talaq. The BJP claims that it has got them some Muslim votes. He is also trying to get the backward Muslims on board.
Significantly, in his recent Azamgarh rally Modi said: “I want to ask if Congress is a party only for Muslim men or also for women? Is there a place of respect and dignity for Muslim women? They stop the Triple Talaq law, create ruckus and don’t allow the Parliament to function.”Modi’s attack on Congress is understandable. In the run-up to the 2019 elections, the BJP wants to isolate the Congress. Even Rahul Gandhi meeting some Muslim intellectuals recently has been portrayed as Muslim appeasement. The Congress has not been able to counter this although it tried to adopt a soft Hindutva stand in Gujarat and Karnataka Assembly campaigns.
Unfortunately, the Triple Talaq is not the only problem faced by Muslim women as the real problem is of their education and employment and overall empowerment. If they really care for their empowerment, Modi and the opposition should also think of measures to empower Muslim women. According to the Census 2011, 52 per cent are least educated among the Muslim women and only very few reach the graduation level (2.75 per cent). This vote bank politics and making it a gender issue alone will not help the Muslim women as much more needs to be done. Triple Talaq could only be the beginning. (IPA Service)