Shedding crocodile tears for his “Muslim sisters”: Modi’s latest jumlaa

Written by Madhu Prasad | Published on: May 10, 2017

But let no one, least of all the PM and the ruling party, seek to gain political mileage for their anti-minority, majoritarian campaign from such a progressive step against triple talaq.



There is a distressing irony in the recent statements of the Prime Minister expressing deep concern over the status of his “Muslim sisters”. His advice, much publicized in the print and electronic media, to the leadership of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and maulanas on the one hand, and to secular political parties and forces on the other, to resist the temptation of `appeasing’ the minority `vote-bank’ and join the RSS-BJP in taking a common stand against `triple talaq’, is both alarming and intimidating.

Modi was the Gujarat Chief Minister holding the home portfolio in 2002. To date, he has not uttered one word of remorse or sympathy for the unprecedented brutality visited on his “Muslim sisters” during the genocidal pogrom carried out under his watch.

Even common decency was sacrificed when he mockingly `justified’ his government’s refusal to provide relief to the victims by referring to the camps set up, funded and managed by the beleaguered community itself as `factories for producing babies’. The coarseness of the slogans, e.g. `Hum do, Humare pachees’ (A Hindutva canard alleging that Muslim men marry four women, and the five together produce 20 children per family) which routinely peppered his public speeches was certainly not reflective of gender sensitivity or concern.

Have the responsibilities of the high office which he now occupies, drawing both national and international attention, finally tempered his patriarchal Hindutva mindset? This would be a welcome and sobering shift if indeed it had been so. But again, reality rudely intervenes.

Are the widows of Mohammed Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan, killed by murderous mobs, and the mother of Najeeb Ahmed, the still `missing’ JNU student, excluded from the category of “Muslim sisters” deserving of the PM and the nation’s respect, consideration and compassion? Why is the PM silent on their suffering?

Are the widows of Mohammed Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan, killed by murderous mobs, and the mother of Najeeb Ahmed, the still `missing’ JNU student, excluded from the category of “Muslim sisters” deserving of the PM and the nation’s respect, consideration and compassion? Why is the PM silent on their suffering?

Why has even the occasional, perfunctory rap on the knuckles for the Sangh Parivar’s vigilante lynch mobs, the infamous gau rakshaks striking terror within the minority and Dalit communities with impunity, come so late from a PM who’s Twitter responses even on the most trivial issues are being constantly updated? And all this is happening now, when we have apparently “moved on” from Gujarat 2002.

Led by the PM himself, with senior ministers following suit, the present central government is politicizing an issue- the outrageous practice of `triple talaq’- which is already before the Supreme Court in the form of a petition by aggrieved Muslim women. The hearings are scheduled to beginon May 11, 2017.

The Sangh Parivar has always projected the constitutional recognition granted to the personal laws of minority communities in a completely partisan manner.

Promoting the Hindutva conception of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) which is based on imposing the dominant pattern of behavior and social practice of the majority Hindu community on all citizens, this seeks to deny minorities and ‘lowered castes’ their constitutional right to observe their own `personal law’ in matters of customary and even dietary practices.

The constitutional provision is intended to protect the diversity and autonomy of socio-religious conventions but not at the expense of the constitutional rights granted to all citizens. Individuals can and do, as in the case of the present petition, appeal to the courts for redressing their grievances.

The landmark Supreme Court judgment granting maintenance to the divorced Shah Bano (1986), asserting the supremacy of her constitutional right and refuting the interpretation of Muslim personal law by the maulanas, was ill-advisedly overturned by the central government during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as PM in a partisan political manoeuvre of unconcealed opportunism.

A similar manoeuvre, having strong communal overtones, is now being provoked by the Hindutva forces. The Muslim community, already demonized and targeted on the issue of cow protection, is now sought to be isolated and made the scapegoat for all gender oppression. The sub-text of this stratagem is the forcible codification of a `uniform’civil code.

But what has been the impact of codifying laws which ban child marriage, dowry, honour killings, khap panchayat impositions of brutal punishment and social disgrace, caste oppression and exploitation? Marital rape is not even acknowledged because Hindu marriage it is claimed is a sacred bond!  

From the PM down to the last constable, from the opinion-building media to community and caste organizations, and political leaderships across the board, everyone either looks the other way when partisan interests are involved or supports majoritarian prejudice when a political backlash threatens access to power and influence.

Until this nexus is broken, the constitutional rights of the oppressed and the marginalized across castes, gender and religions, will remain vulnerable. Unless patriarchal mindsets and practices are firmly resisted and eradicated no amount of crocodile tears shed for “Muslim sisters” will change the humiliating conditions of oppression in which all Indian women are faced with a denial of their fundamental rights.

Let the Supreme Court uphold the constitutional rights of the petitioners against ‘triple talaq’. All enlightened opinion supports them. But let no one, least of all this PM and the ruling party, seek to gain political mileage for their anti-minority, majoritarian campaign from such a progressive step.

The writer is Member Presidium, All India Forum for Right to Education.
 
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The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sabrangindia.