‘Shaheen Bagh Inspired Kadru Bagh In Ranchi’

Khushboo Khan, 32, explains how she used her HR skills to recreate a Shaheen Bagh-like site in Ranchi’s Kadru area where women have been holding sit-in protests since January 19

Ranchi is a small city when compared to Delhi or Kolkata. Women here are also a little inhibited in coming out on street to protest. However, people have realised that this is a momentous time when one needs to show the courage to speak up. Ab nahi bolenge, to kab bolenge? (If not now, then when will we speak up?)

Therefore, inspired by the brave women from Shaheen Bagh, our committee, named Hum Bharat Ke Log (We, the people of India) started to come out and register our protest against Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizen. Our protest began on January 19, at a small ground near Haj House in Kadru area. As we are growing in strength, we have named it Kadru Bagh, so that people know our resolve is as strong as that of our sisters from Shaheen Bagh.

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We are protesting against CAA-NRC not only on the grounds that it is discriminatory, but also because we believe that our country isn’t equipped to take on any more people from outside and be able to give them job opportunities, health benefits etc. For, our own countrymen are not getting jobs, access to good health, transport facilities etc. We have slid down as a country on various indices, right from economic growth to women’s safety (a huge issue in Jharkhand), to food safety etc., but the government is busy trying to create a rift between communities to hide their failures.

I worked as a human resource professional for many years before I decided to quit and launch an NGO called ‘She’ that imparts vocational training to women. I must admit that my HR skills came handy in leading this protest against the divisive CAA-NRC. I have been coming here every day for 12 hours and with each passing day people are attending in huge numbers. We are braving 4-5 degree Celsius temperature and some of the protesters are having health issues too but we are ready to risk everything to be heard.

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Ever since this (BJP) government came to power, we as Muslims have been at the receiving end of communal taunts, snide remarks and insulting messages. We remained silent at many instances when our community was directly targeted: the Triple Talaq law, abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the court verdict on Ayodhya. But we decided to break our silence when Citizenship Bill was passed because we saw this an attack on the Constitution and constitutional rights of the people.

It is heartening to see common people from all religions protesting against CAA-NRC, because frankly everyone can read between the lines when it comes to this government.  Human beings are losing precious lives and peace in this situation. This government knows only raj (to rule) and not neeti (policies). It must learn to engage with people sincerely. The media must also help the government in its engagement with the people. For now, Shaheen Bagh has shown us the way, and we are going to follow the path of truth sincerely and tirelessly.

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Demonstration by Muslim-women Demonstration by Muslim-women[/caption] Take divorce or talaq. The first thing about this is that it was a humane practice introduced at a time when divorce was almost disallowed. Consequently men simply abandoned women without support or ceremony in those ages. Women suffered both economically and socially. The principle of divorce was introduced. And according to some scholars and schools, divorce or talaq is available to both men and women. This was a tremendously progressive step at the time.  Couples cold escape bad marriages. Let us not forget that it was not until twentieth century that divorce was permitted in western and indeed Indian society.  Islam was way ahead. The second principle of talaq is even more progressive  and thoughtful. It has been the practice in every society to make divorce somewhat difficult. But the modern legal system of divorce is a one step legal action. Even in the western divorce system, some countries, such as UK, Israel and many European countries have compulsory or near compulsory mediating services that couples have to take before going to court. In others it is a voluntary step. Couples divorce, get into different relationships and then some regret having taken the dramatic step of divorce in the first place. The Triple Talaq is based on principles that modern society is still trying to work at. The very fact that talaq is not a one step action but a three step action suggests that the couple or the divorcing partner is being given time to rethink a decision made in haste. Many a separation in marriage has taken place after an emotional bust up, only for the couple to come together again after some regrets. But this does not always happen. Pride comes in the way and a single separation quickly escalates into divorce. The triple talaq is a triple lock on the marriage. The couple have at least two chances to rethink and reflect before taking the final step of divorce. Surely that is the principle that Islam established in the system of divorce. So how can three quick claps offer time for reflection! This practice has been abolished in nearly 22 Islamic countries who consider three claps in one go as one clap! There has to be a reasonable period of reflection before moving on with each step. Many Islamic countries have put this gap between the three stages in law including Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. In some countries, such as Iran and Egypt, the state along with the clergy puts a period of at least three menstruation periods, or three months between each step. A decision made in haste and anger has three months before going to the next stage. Even then it is not final. But reflection cannot be left to the individual or individuals themselves. There have to be supporting structures or institution to assist with reflection and looking at the decision from several perspectives. Hence the role of counsellors and experts who can mediate between the couple. Most Islamic communities have the provision of trained and experienced mediators or clerics. Many Islamic countries, such as Iran and Malaysia, have interpreted the principles of divorce and codified them in state legal systems. There is no reason why this cannot be done in India. There is no reason, for instance, why the three stages cannot be instituted in a proper court where the judge has to be satisfied that the mediation service has been availed, that the period between the three steps has been met and that the grounds of divorce have been in accordance with permitted reasons. Once the judge is satisfied then the person divorcing can be given permission to clap and say I divorce you, only to return three months later to go through the same steps until the third and final clap and statement is made. Malaysia for instance does not recognise divorce which hasn’t gone through its court system. Obviously the first clap is intention, the second is expression of seriousness and the third is that having taken all steps at avoiding divorce,  there is no other option. There are two other principles around divorce that have to be considered. The first is that women were given significant rights in Islam. In a world where women work and earn wages, divorce cannot be a one way system. Women too should have the right to initiate divorce as they do in some Islamic countries and communities. The other principle is that of Mahr. It is more than a gift and is given by the man to the woman. It is the personal property of the woman. Its principle surely is that a woman has been given the means to support herself in case of a divorce or widowhood. This was important during an age when women did not earn wages. In any triple talaq, the judge should be able to establish whether the ‘mahr’ is sufficient to support the divorced woman. If not then surely the principle can be met by compulsory financial support from the man imposed by the court. The debate around triple talaq should not rotate around discussion about modern human rights etc. This offers an opportunity for the conservatives to site religious freedom. The debate should be taken to the very ground of the conservatives and challenged from the principles that Islam had established. To reiterate, these principles simply are, divorce is permissible but has to be thought out very seriously going through stages of reflections and mediation, thus the three step system. Divorce is not the prerogative of men only, but women can also initiate it. Thirdly there has to be adequate financial support for the divorced person from the person divorcing.  These exist in several Muslim countries. Jaitley is right in one statement. If other Islamic countries have instituted legal framework around divorce based on these principles, why can’t the same be done in India. That is the debate that the Indian Muslim community needs to have seriously rather than hide under the pretext of right to culture while violating the very principles on which the progressive institution of divorce was formed. // ]]>