Talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq is an uncouth reflection of our patriarchal Indian mindset. There are several similar acts of misogyny in every community, particularly among Hindus, who abandon wives and widows and do not hesitate to kill daughters who make independent choices. More than religious mores these are mere societal ills. Yet, the newly elected triumphant BJP chose of all things the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill, 2019, as its first piece of legislation. There was a division and the ayes had it 186 to 74. This was smart political symbolism at its cynical worst and the Opposition walked into the government’s trap.
Triple talaq, right or wrong, is a symbol of the old Indian elite’s readiness to allow the Muslim community to carry on with medieval customs in the name of religion so long as it voted as required. Another one is polygamy, which at times even powerful, wealthy and famous Hindus use by getting converted, only to seek the protection of the Muslim religion against the common law. These practices and others among various communities have to come to an end. But the NDA government’s intent is not empowerment of women. It is only to portray the Muslim community as regressive and the Opposition as its accomplice. This could have got exposed had the Opposition supported the Bill seeking similar women-friendly provisions against the abandoning of wives and widows or against the khap panchayats. Why should not a Hindu husband be arrested for abandoning his wife without maintenance or a family be penalised for exiling a widow to Vrindavan?
Instead of fighting for the expansion of the scope of this legislation to include all communities and all acts of cruel abandonment by breadwinners, the Congress and the Left were reduced to doing what they know best: to keep the semi-literate mullahs happy. The Opposition has to think beyond minority votes and the self-proclaimed minority vote contractors, and only then would they be successful in creating a national discourse to defeat the BJP’s polarising agenda. Till then, the BJP would succeed in labelling the Opposition as a bunch of opportunists bending over backwards to please the corrupt clergy.