'I Was Thrashed And Given Talaq For dowry'

Akhtari was married to Rizwan in 2015. When her husband could not find work, he asked Akhtari to arrange money for a taxi. Soon the heated arguments turned into brutal physical torture. When her brother tried to sort out the matters with elders’ help, things only went worse. Akhtari’s in-laws locked her in a room without food and water for days as punishment. They also told Rizwan that if he divorced her, they will get him a new wife and dowry. Akhtari was kicked out of the house with her one-year old in arms. She waited outside the house, begged her husband to let her in. But it didn’t happen. She is enraged at how women in Indian families are treated like dirt. She wants justice and has approached UP Police:   I belong to Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh. My parents fixed my marriage in 2015 when I was 24. I was told that my prospective husband worked as a chhota doctor in Delhi. My family believed that he was probably a Unani medicine practitioners or maybe an assistant to a doctor. My parents felt lucky for me and spent beyond their reach on the marriage and dowry. But when I moved to Delhi with my husband, Rizwan, I found that he drove a taxi. He told me there was more money in this ‘business’ and soon he will be running a fleet of taxis. I didn’t believe his words but accepted it as my fate. Less than two years after the marriage, Rizwan shifted back to Meerut since he was barely able to make two ends meet in Delhi. I was pregnant at that time. Unable to find any work in Meerut, Rizwan began pressing me to arrange money and a car for him so that he could runs his own taxi in Meerut. Every time I told him that my family was unable to meet these demands because my father was no more, there will be heated arguments and he would beat me with fists. His mother, father and brother, instead of intervening, further incited him to punish me. They had little concern for my condition. I gave birth to a girl child in 2017 and my brother and sister-in-law came to visit me. When they saw the bruises on my body and heard about the torture I had suffered, they tried to reason with Rizwan. After several rounds of talks, when my brother realized Rizwan was not going to budge, he agreed to arrange the money for the vehicle. This cooled down things for several months. But, when my brother was unable to arrange the promised money, thing went from bad to worse. My in-laws told Rizwan that if he divorced me they would find him a girl which will bring enough dowry for a car. When I countered them, they locked in a room for days without food and ensured that I was could not speak to my family. They probably wanted to starve me to death. But with some outside help, I managed to convey my condition to my brother, who immediately arrived at our home with some relatives. The elders in both the families sat together and decided that the matter must be settled within the confines of family and there should be no domestic violence. It had an adverse impact on Rizwan. My beatings only increased and got more brutal. On July 18, there was another argument in the house. My in-laws began thrashing me up and calling me names for making the family matters public. Rizwan told me that he was leaving me for good and uttered the dreaded talaq word thrice. I was kicked out of the house with my one-year-old child in arms. I waited outside the house for several hours, hoping that they will accept me back once their anger subsided. All this time, I kept begging them to forgive me and let me in. Several neighbours came to my help but Rizwan’s family told them that I had been given talaq. The neighbours could do little after that but they arranged my journey to my brother’s house later in the day. My brother tried to speak to Rizwan’s family but they just didn’t listen. Some elders in the vicinity advised us to approach police. Some said the government has brought a law which makes verbal triple talaq illegal. We went to police to file a case against the talaq but the police told us there was no law against triple talaq. However, they filed a case against my husband and his family under sections of domestic violence. SSP (Rajesh) Pandeyji himself heard out matter and has assured us of safety and other assistance prescribed under law. I have studied only Urdu at a madrasa only for one or two years but I have heard Muslims women speaking against talaq on TV. My question to powers-that-be is not about religion, but justice. Hindu women are also troubled for dowry and sometime burnt alive. Muslim women also face such harassment but they burn for life. I want most stringent laws against those who torture their wives and daughters-in-law for dowry and leave them at will.

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The much-sought and aggressively fought Gujarat polls have sent out conflicting signals for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Victory it certainly is,  but it may prove pyrrhic if he fails to surmount a combination of caste, religious, organizational and individual obstacles in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, barely 15 months away.   The new year has begun with two significant developments. The government could not push through the legislation to ban and criminalize Talaq-e-Bidat, popularly called triple talaq, a practice that places Muslim women to great disadvantage when divorced. Passed through the Lok Sabha, it was stalled in the upper house. The Opposition wanted changes to remove some serious lacunae and be referred to parliamentary for deeper discussion and wider consultations,   Naive though this suggestion may appear, could the government not have accepted the changes? Despite frequent incidents of violence against Muslims and campaigns like “ghar wapasi” and “love jihad” by Hindu rightwing vigilantes, the liberal classes, and by government’s own assessment, a bulk of the Muslim women, want this to become law. Here is a case of a good move at gender justice gone awry.   In the second development, age-old fault-lines surfaced in Maharashtra. Dalits, the lowest of the low castes, part of a British force, celebrating the bicentenary of their victory against the Peshwa at Bhima Koregaon, were attacked by upper caste groups.   Modern-day celebration of a British victory against an Indian ruler is certainly a rarity, going by the history of colonial India. But neither the celebrations, an annual affair for long, were new, nor is the caste friction that they represent. But violence, that quickly spread to other parts of Maharashtra and spilled over to neighbouring Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, was a new development.    [caption id="attachment_24114" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Pune: Protesters stage a demonstration during a Maharashtra shutdown called by various Dalit parties against Koregaon-Bhima (Maharashtra) violence, in Pimpri of Pune on Jan 3, 2018. large (Photo IANS)[/caption] Seen politically, it has eroded the support among the Dalits that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nurtured through long years of effort, living down its image of an upper caste party.   Viewing this through the BJP prism, again, is incidental since it is power. India as a whole and Indians have a long, unenviable record of undermining their own social ethos for narrow and short-term political gains. This is the reason why it got colonized in the first place.      Modi’s silence on these and other sensitive issues is deafening. It adds grist to the mill of his friends and foes. The end-2017 saw Modi’s friend-turned-inveterate foe Pravin Togadia being elected President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a key arm of the Sangh conglomerate that works under the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) umbrella.  The two have been at logger-heads for five years and Modi, on becoming PM, had all but sidelined him. A medico turned Hindutva hardliner, Togadia won against retired judge VS Kogaje and Jagannath Shahi who were reportedly proposed by Modi’s camp.  Significantly, Gujarat is the political backyard of all three – Modi, BJP chief Amit shah and Togadia — and could become a key battleground, yet again, as the elections approach.  Inexplicably, neither the pro-government sections of the mainstream media, nor the critics, took serious enough note of this development that, given the way the Sangh Parivar works, could not have occurred without a tacit nod from the RSS.  Does that indicate RSS’ declining confidence in Modi and impatience when it has made no secret of its desire to push its Hindutva agenda before the parliamentary polls?         It needs recalling that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had in January 2015 suggested that construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya ought to be initiated. Its Pratinidhi Sabha had adopted a resolution to that effect. However, Modi has been silent on this for two years now. Nor has he changed his development agenda that places building toilets over the temple.  If the temple is to be built on the disputed site, it remains mired in litigation the course of which the Modi Government has been unable to alter. There is speculation that the government may promulgate an ordinance, but such a course is fraught with serious political risks.  Modi cannot take the RSS’ unquestioned endorsement of his leadership for granted. Continuance till after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls of Shah, Modi’s principal political ally, as the BJP chief, remains uncertain. Shah’s term ends in August. His getting a third term is against the party’s norms. Will they be tweaked?  Undoubtedly, Modi is unbeatable as of now and there seems no alternative to him to head the next government. But the Sangh that, in the first place anointed him in 2013, may take a different view. Political logic states that the temple and other agenda of the Sangh could become the litmus test for Modi’s continuance.  The Gujarat outcome has shown that the BJP is weak in rural areas. The urban infrastructure has not percolated to the countryside. Principal rival Congress upturned BJP calculation by bagging 70 of 123 rural seats. The BJP could reach its lowest tally in over two decades of 99 only because it could bag 46 of 59 urban seats.   Now, with Karnataka being an exception, all other states going to the polls this year – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – are hugely rural. They suffer from rural indebtedness and poor infrastructure, besides deep caste and sectarian cleavages. Both Modi, the principal polls campaigner, and the BJP, will have to learn lessons from Gujarat while strategizing for these states.  The issues even for the rural areas in these states are different. Gujarat, along the sea coast, is relatively advanced and prosperous when compared to the land-locked Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The BJP has been in power there for long, attracting the incumbency factor.  Impoverished tribals dominate Chhattisgarh. Tribal population in Rajasthan’s southern parts is not happy that the Vasundhara Raje Government attempted to win over the agitating Gujjar community. Land owning and relatively prosperous, the community has a record of oppressing the tribals and dalits. Unwilling to suffer incumbency, Rajasthan voters have been alternately changing the ruling party.  Lastly, the economic factor. BJP circles cite last year’s unprecedented victory in Uttar Pradesh as political validation of the twin measures —  demonetization and the GST. But an impoverished UP stands in contrast to Karnataka or to Gujarat where  the urban voter bowed to Modi’s appeal for “Gujarati pride”. The “our man is in Delhi” factor worked.  In a diverse India, beyond a point, people in Gujarat do not get carried away by emotional appeal and people of Uttar Pradesh cannot be carried away with material and practical issues.            Modi had promised rapid economic development in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. That had helped him to sweep all four states that will go to the polls this year. Large parts of the country voted him to office.  The initial 18 months of his tenure saw his efforts to deliver on his electoral promises. Statistics, and the way the critics view them notwithstanding, the political perception is that the ‘toilet’ agenda has taken numerous hits from ‘temple’ and its aggressive proponents.  How will Modi tackle them? What will he promise to the people in  the summer of 2019? // ]]>

Cabinet clears Triple Talaq bill for Winter Session

#TripleTalaq is now a cognizable and non-bailable offence. Punishable of 3 years Jail + Fine. BJP-PDP should introduce the law in J&K Assembly (India’s only Muslim majority state). Next is Uniform Civil Code for India.

— Anshul Saxena (@AskAnshul) December 15, 2017 Women activists on Friday sought support of all political parties in converting the triple talaq Bill into law in Parliament, even as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) termed the Bill a “direct interference in religious matters”. The women activists said the Bill to ban triple talaq — oral divorce by Muslim men — should be converted into law in Parliament’s Winter Session so that its victims can get justice. The AIMPLB said it is against ‘Shariat’ and asked the Centre to consult the Muslim organisation before making any such law, after the Bill was approved by the Cabinet. Activist Zakir Soman claimed the board and the Muslim community are not taking proper care of triple talaq victims, and such women should get justice from the law.  “If the community and the board were doing enough, why would triple talaq victims be approaching women’s organisations?” asked Soman. “We will not give up our constitutional and legal entitlements. We are all citizens of a democracy and living in the 21st century. We are entitled, educated, and empowered, and want justice as per the law of the land…,” the activist said. According to Soman, they have written to Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury for support in ensuring the passage of Bill in Parliament. “It is not a matter of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress or any other political party. It is the responsibility of all political parties and their representatives and all women in this country,” she said. Opposing the proposed law, AIMPLB member Maulana Khalid Rashid said: “As far as the divorced women’s rehabilitation is concerned, the Muslim community is already doing it. So, we consider the Bill as a direct interference in the religious matters of our community. It is an attack on our religious freedom…” “Women are not being tortured in the name of triple talaq. Muslim women have said they do not want changes in the community’s personal laws, including on triple talaq. If certain people are misusing such laws it doesn’t mean you will completely end it. It is part of our ‘Shariat’. The government should at least have consulted Muslim organisations before making any such law.” Woman activist Hina Zaheer said: “According to the Quran, there is no provision for instant talaq… So, it should not be a matter of prestige for the board. Since the board failed to resolve the issue, a lot of politics has been done on it.” According to the draft Bill sent out to the states earlier this month, it was proposed that triple talaq be made a cognisable and non-bailable offence, attracting three years in jail.  The draft law was prepared in the backdrop of the August verdict of the Supreme Court that struck down the practice of “instant” divorce as illegal. (IANS) // ]]>

Winter Session to begin: What we can expect

A bill to provide Muslim women the right to seek maintenance from the ex-spouse after divorce and another aimed to end discrimination against the transgenders, among other proposed legislations, are listed for taking up during Parliament’s winter session starting on Friday.

At least 14 new bills are set to be introduced during the session, according to a list compiled by think tank PRS Legislative Research. Here are some of these bills: * The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill: The legislation will lead to establishment of a Resolution Corporation, which will monitor financial firms, anticipate risk of failure and take corrective action, according to the brief of the bill. The Resolution Corporation, which will be a regulator for the financial sector, will categorise based on failure risk, and resolutions, which will depend on the categorisation, include options like merger, transferring assets, or liquidation. The bill has been criticised for diluting the Reserve Bank of India’s role, and concerns have been raised over the status of money deposited in accounts of customers in case a bank collapses. * The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill: The Government of India has promulgated an ordinance to amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The Code defines a resolution applicant as a person who submits a resolution plan to an insolvency professional. The ordinance amends this provision to define a resolution applicant as a person who submits a resolution plan after receiving an invite by the insolvency professional to do so. * The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016:  The bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in November 2016 and sent to a Standing Committee, prohibits commercial surrogacy, while allowing altruistic surrogacy. The bill bars foreign nationals from having a baby through surrogacy in India and also bars any financial transaction for surrogacy. As per the bill, the surrogate mother has to be a relative of the married couple who wants a child, and fulfil certain conditions for it. The Standing Committee, in its report, has suggested several amendments, which include allowing compensation to the surrogate mother, and also points out possible implications of the surrogate mother being a close relative. * The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016: Defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. In addition, the person’s gender must not match the gender assigned at birth, and includes trans-men or trans-women persons with intersex variations and gender queers. It also requires a transgender person to get a certificate for this from the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a screening committee. A Standing Committee that examined the bill has said the definition given in the bill is against global norms. * The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017: The bill has been popularly called a bill on ‘Triple Talaq’, a form of divorce orally among the Muslims, and according to government sources has provision for punishment for such form of divorce. According to PRS Legislative Research, the bill will give women the right to seek maintenance in case of Triple Talaq. * The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017:  The bill will allow for proxy voting by overseas electors. * The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017: The bill amends the Specific Relief Act, 1963, to simplify procedures for ease of doing business. A five-member expert committee was formed by the government last year to review the Act and suggest changes to remove bottlenecks in the execution of contract-based infrastructure development, public private partnerships and other public projects. * Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016: The bill is presently under examination by a Standing Committee which is supposed to submit its report on the first day of the winter session. * Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013:  The bill, which has been passed by the Rajya Sabha but is pending in the Lok Sabha, makes bribe-giving an offence and also modifies the definition of taking a bribe.

And political fireworks

The Winter Session of Parliament beginning on Friday is likely to be stormy with the opposition parties all set to corner the government over a range of issues like the Rafale deal, the adverse impact of GST and demonetisation on the economy, the plight of farmers and religious intolerance. The session, which was delayed due to the Gujarat Assembly polls, is also likely to be hit by the poll outcome along with that of Himachal Pradesh.  If the BJP retains Gujarat and snatches Himachal Pradesh from Congress, the grand old party under its new President Rahul Gandhi would find it difficult to corner the government over the issues they raised during the polls. But if the Congress wins Gujarat, even if it loses Himachal Pradesh, the opposition party would take on the government over the issues that have raised the political temperature. The winter session, which lasts about a month, is normally called in the last week of November and concludes days before Christmas. This year, Parliament is meeting from December 15 to January 5 — with December 25 and 26 being declared holidays on account of Christmas. Seventeen Opposition parties led by Congress, which have joined hands to put up a united fight against the ruling NDA, would meet here on Thursday at Parliament House to chalk out the strategy to corner the government. TMC leader Saugata Roy said: “Bad impact of GST and demonetisation on economy, religious intolerance, killing of a West Bengal labourer in Rajasthan will be the major issues which we will raise in Parliament.” He said the opposition parties would coordinate over the issues to be raised and would definitely take a call on the issues pertaining to corruption. The Opposition parties that include the Congress, CPI-M, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, BSP, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and DMK among others, have already clarified that they will have floor coordination in Parliament to corner the government. Congress leader K. C. Venugopal said that it would raise the issues like impact of GST and demonetisation, Rafale deal, linking of Aadhaar with PAN and other documents. CPI leader D Raja said: “Damage caused due to cyclone Ockhi, farmers distress, increasing hate crimes, inflation, GST and fallout of demonetisation” would be raised. The government has convened an all party meet to discuss the agenda of the session. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will meet the leaders from all parties on Thursday evening over dinner on the eve of the session. A bill to provide Muslim women the right to seek maintenance from the ex-spouse after divorce and another aimed to end discrimination against transgenders, among other proposed legislations, are listed for taking up during Parliament’s winter session starting on Friday. At least 14 new bills are set to be introduced during the session, according to a list compiled by think tank PRS Legislative Research.
(IANS) // ]]>

Govt plans Bill to ban triple talaq in Winter Session

Instant Triple Talaq has been held unconstitutional by SC;Banned by 3/5 judges;other two wanted it banned for six months till government introduces new law after consultation.Such a law must be welcomed by ALL-Must only deal with Instant TT not all kinds of talaq

— Shehzad Jai Hind (@Shehzad_Ind) November 21, 2017 “In order to give effect to this order of the Supreme Court, the government is taking the matter forward and is considering to bring about a suitable legislation or amending existing penal provisions which shall make instant talaq an offence,” a senior government functionary said. Recently, a few cases where the Muslim husbands divorced their wives unilaterally through social media or phone came to light such as that of an Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) professor who divorced his wife through WhatsApp and SMS. “In spite of advisories to the members of the community against this archaic practice, there seems to be no decline in the practice of divorce by Talaq-e-biddat. This could be because of the lack of knowledge among Muslim men of the Supreme Court’s decision. It could also be because of lack of deterrent punishment for the act of Talaq-e-biddat,” the government source said. “As the law stands today, the victims of Talaq-e-biddat would have no option but to approach the police, but even police are helpless as no action can be taken against the husband in the absence of punitive provisions in the law,” he said. “It is to this end that the positive step being taken by the government of enacting a legislation will go a long way in deterring the Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives and empowering the Muslim women who find themselves helpless against the use of the practice of triple talaq”,” he explained. Many sects among the Sunni Muslims and the Shias do not permit instant talaq and the practice is majorly found among the Hanafi Muslims. Congress says ‘Brahma’ Modi alone knows dates of session The Congress on Tuesday alleged that the government is delaying the Winter Session of Parliament to avoid questions from the Opposition on issues like unemployment, corruption, GST and allegations against Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, which could expose them in the Gujarat polls. The party leaders also called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “Brahma” — the creator, who alone knows when the session will convene. The party said it would also communicate with President Ram Nath Kovind on the delay in summoning of the Winter Session and urge him to take notice of it. It said the government had turned Parliament into a “joke” and they were “scared of getting exposed” if they convened the winter session of Parliament before the Gujarat assembly election. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “I have spoken to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister (Ananth Kumar) several times and asked him to tell us a date as to when the winter session is going to begin, so that we can make preparations accordingly. “But he had no clue since it was not confirmed by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office),” said Azad. Azad also said the reasons why the government was not summoning the winter session was because they do not want to face the questions of unemployment, Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation and corruption. “We wanted to ask the government about their formula of giving jobs and earning revenue where one can earn Rs 80 crore from Rs 15 lakh. If the BJP President (Amit Shah) has this formula for his company, then he should share it with the people of the country as well. That is the Gujarat model,” said Azad referring to allegations against Jay Shah. Azad also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his election campaigns saying: “No PM in the past 70 years has campaigned from panchayat elections to parliament polls. He uses defence aircraft and helicopters for his visits. What is the cost of these visits? This is also a scam which will run into thousands of crores.” “The central government has become an election machinery and the cabinet ministers are busy campaigning for elections all the time,” he added. Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma hit out at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for his statement that the winter session was delayed in the past too. “His statement was a knee-jerk response. He should have checked the facts. He is factually wrong and we reject what he said that in 2011 a similar situation was there.”
(Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)
He further said: “At least in this century it has not happened. In 2011, the date of summoning the Parliament was on November 3. The session formally convened on November 22 and concluded on December 30. The session was prorogued on January 5, 2012. “There were elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat like now in 2012. The polling in Gujarat was on November 9, 13 and 17 in 2012. The winter session was summoned on November 2 and it was formally convened on November 22, 2012 and continued throughout the election period till December 20, to be prorogued on December 24,” he added. Sharma also said: “The Prime Minister and his ministers have mastered the art of untruths and half-truths, mislead and confuse the people.” He also called the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister “hypocrites”. Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge said: “They do not want discussion in Parliament, so they are giving different excuses for delaying the winter session. “If they convene Parliament session and hold discussion, then they will be exposed. So they are trying to convene the session after the Gujarat polls,” said Kharge. He said whatever was happening under the Narendra Modi government was an “attack on democracy”. He added that this year there had been only 38 sittings of the Lok Sabha — the lowest in the past 70 years. “Even ministers of this government and the Speaker do not know when the session will be convened. Only one person knows about it — who is ‘Brahma’… You cannot be whimsical in running a democracy,” he said. (IANS) // ]]>


August 22 was a Red Letter Day for Muslim women and gender justice in India. The Supreme Court struck down the controversial practice of talaq-e-bidat, or instant talaq, which gives husbands the power to end a marriage by simply uttering – even without uttering, through letter or SMS message — “talaq” to their wives three times in succession. Five judges, all belonging to different faiths, ruled to end the obsolete and oppressive custom prevailing for long in the country’s largest minority community that is also the third-largest globally. This can only happen in India. That it was a split 3-2 judgment in which Chief Justice J S Khehar, a Sikh along with Justice Abdul Nazeer, a Muslim, was in minority is symbolic of the freedom to interpret on a complex issue.    The minority view in the court was that instant divorce has been in vogue among the country’s Sunni Muslims for centuries and that reforms to ‘personal law’, irrespective of which community it pertains to, especially with reference to socially unacceptable practices, should come about only by way of legislative intervention. The judiciary rightly did not wish to take it upon itself the task of enacting a law that belongs to the legislature. The judgment reinforces the rule of law. Without saying it, it has upheld the right to rule on a practice that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Sunni seminaries claimed is integral to Islam and its tenets and was sought to be placed beyond its jurisdiction. Indeed, Justice Rohinton Nariman, a Zoroastrian, who wrote the main judgment located the practice of instant divorce in the fourth degree of obedience required by Islamic tenets, namely, makruh, or that which is reprobated as unworthy.     The judiciary deserves commendation for undoing the gender injustice implicit in the practice so effortlessly, within constitutional parameters as well as the Islamic canon. It has once again risen to the occasion and reasserted its position as protector, enforcer, and guardian of citizens’ rights when governments have failed in their jobs. Just two days after this ruling, another nine-judge bench, delivering a landmark judgment, unanimously held that right to privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.  Leaving out the Sunni Muslim seminaries and the clergy, the verdict has received an overwhelming support across the nation. It speaks of the democratic ethos, howsoever flawed, that India has come to evolve in the seven decades of freedom. The first spark was lit in 1966 when an activist from Maharashtra, Hamid Dalwai, led seven Muslim women to the then chief minister to demand a ban on triple talaq. But successive union and state governments have ducked the issue. Looking back, it took the country over three decades to reverse a trend that set when relief provided by the Supreme Court to Shahbano Begum, a hapless divorcee seeking maintenance from her former husband, was undone through law. Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, essentially a modern, well-meaning man but a political novice, was ill-advised. The community and the country as a whole paid a heavy price since it fanned sectarian discourse and violence. Indicative of the changed times, the judgment is a testament to the grit of Shayara Bano and four other women who last year decided to the take the issue head on and approach the Supreme Court. Several Muslim groups, especially of women, came out in protest against instant triple talaq. This is perhaps the first time that Muslim women challenged an Islamic practice. Whichever way the judgment is viewed, the ball is now in the court of the Narendra Modi Government to legislate on this issue. It needs to carry along all sections of the public.  To its credit, the government had kept religion and its tenets out and treated the issue as one of gender justice. In doing so, it adopted before the court a wholesome, if clever, approach. Considering the anti-minority bias of its party, one can only hope that it would rise above it. This judgment suits the political establishment. Modi has been very vocal in his support for the Muslim women and did so from the ramparts of the Lal Qila on the 71st Independence Day. But a condescending approach only to the Muslim women that is visible in the way th4 ministers, BJP leaders and sections of the media could be self-defeating. For the government, a politically divisive approach may win him votes and short-term gains, but it is bound to add to the ill-will that its majoritarian approach has fomented in the last three years.        Going by across-the-board public support the court verdict has received, the government and the BJP are most likely to gain politically, something akin to the way Barak Obama gained after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.   But the churning has only begun. There is no last word on the verdict. The Muslim religious lobby in India has responded with fury to the court’s ruling, declaring that as far as they are concerned the status quo remains. The Muslim clergy and the community’s political class that play the Pied Pipers to the masses are not inclined to give up. They see the talaq issue as beginning of more to come and will want to protect their turf.   There is speculation that the government, enjoying majority in both Houses of Parliament, may attempt to bring in the uniform civil code. Given its aggressive approach built with propaganda and media blitzkrieg, even a good measure runs the risk of being misunderstood. India is in for a long period of political and social turmoil. To tell the truth, reforms are also needed in other communities and they ought to take the cue from these brave women. Don’t child marriage and the custom of keeping concubine(s) co-exist with laws that ban them?   For, laws and court verdicts can alter existing conditions only this much and no more, if the society does not embrace notions of modernity, equality, gender justice and a lot more. // ]]>