The Congress and its supporting parties in Parliament have been checkmated for now by the Modi government promulgating an ordinance to ban the retrograde practice of instant triple talaq. Yet, it is still uncertain who will have the last laugh when the BJP goes back to Parliament within six months to seek to convert the ordinance into an Act. That the Congress chose to oppose the progressive measure to grant legitimate redressal to Muslim women who are living a life of male oppression is sad. But the true test of Congress vote bank politics will lie in how the party fares among Muslim voters in next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Morally, however, the Congress stands exposed totally by refusing to support the reform that could offer rare succour to Muslim women. That this has come
despite the BJP bending over backwards to accommodate three key amendments that were proposed by the Congress only goes to show that the Congress had never really intended to go along with the legislation to ban instant triple talaq which amounts to divorce being granted merely on the male repeating the word ‘talaq’ thrice in the presence of his wife.
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Whatever the mullahs may say, this practice is a later-day abuse of power and has no religious sanction going back to the days of Prophet Mohammad.
It is indeed a sad day for Indian democracy that expediency and vote bank politics have so dominated the political landscape that the Narendra Modi government has had to resort to an ordinance to outlaw this pernicious practice because it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP is outnumbered by the Opposition.
The government waited long enough for better sense to prevail but ultimately had to take the ordinance route when the Congress-dominated Rajya Sabha stalled the Bill yet again on flimsy grounds to pander to the Muslim male vote bank which nurtures the desire to perpetuate male domination in Muslim society.
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At least 22 other countries have placed restrictions on triple talaq, considering the old practice to be retrograde, and many progressive Muslims in India believe that their community must defy the religious heads by embracing liberalism on the issue.
While the BJP has done well to support the outlawing of triple talaq, there is however no denying that that party too had a political motivation to support the ban just as the Congress had to scuttle the reform. The BJP has been worried that it has poor support among the Muslims and thought that by endorsing the ban on triple talaq it could win favour with a substantial section of Muslim women and could therefore drive a wedge between Muslim men and women.
Future elections would show how much of a difference has been made to the virtually homogenous anti-BJP stance of the Muslim masses with this stratagem.
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Among the amendments incorporated in the triple talaq measure is a provision for an accused to approach a magistrate for bail before trial. A triple talaq offence would only be cognizable when the ‘victim’s wife’ or her relatives by blood or marriage file an FIR.
The offence is ‘compoundable’ so that there can be a compromise but only on the insistence of the wife and the magistrate will have to determine the terms and conditions.
Additionally, the ‘victim wife’ will get custody of minor children and will be entitled to receive maintenance from the husband for herself and the children, as decided by a magistrate. It is indeed to be hoped that better sense would prevail on the detractors and the moves of parties like the Congress to sabotage the reform in Parliament when it comes up for ratification would be given up in the interests of Muslim women who deserve a better deal from the men.