As many as 114 academics, lawyers, journalists, writers, artists and poets from the Muslim community have come together to insist that that they are against “instant arbitrary triple talaq as practiced in India”, even as opposing the BJP rulers’ effort to link it with the “need” to adopt a universal civil code (UCC).
Strongly disapproving the “highly objectionable” affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board regarding the triple talaq matter, they have said, “We believe that to suppress the progressive demands for equality, led by various Muslim women’s organizations, the most conservative sections of the Muslim community are creating a Shah Bano campaign-like situation.”
Saying that this is being done to keep Muslim women “subjugated and strengthen the patriarchal stronghold on the Muslim women”, the signatories of the statement say, the present NDA government and its earlier avatars have used UCC as a “stick to frighten and demonize the Muslim community and polarize opinion by projecting that the Muslims of this country are backward, anti-women and not open to any progressive laws.”
Signed among others by top historian Prof Irfan Habib, author and dramatist Shamsul Islam, social activist Irfan Engineer, scientist and film maker Gauhar Raza, journalist Jawed Naqvi, and academic Zoya Hasan, the statement says, UCC “has been always been projected by such regimes and right-wing politics as a Hindu v/s Muslim tool.”
“The fact of the matter is that many of the personal laws irrespective of which religion they belong to are archaic and anti-women”, the statement underlines.
Insisting on the need to “expose the nefarious designs of both the present regime as well as of the patriarchal conservative Muslims, who are colliding with the retrogressive forces to take the attention away from the most important issues, and the failures of the present government on all fronts”, the statement says, “no single organization or group of people/organisations can “claim to speak on behalf of the whole community”.
It adds, “Muslims and people of Muslim descent living in India follow different customs and celebrate a large number of festivals, some common to all and some different from each other, depending on the local cultural practices.”
Pointing out that they do not have “any faith in the sudden found ‘love for women’ and ‘gender justice’ as articulated by Venkaiah Naidu recently”, the statement says, “Since the new regime has come to power we have seen heavy budget cuts on schemes for women, we have heard horrendous statements about women which have gone unopposed by the members of the regime.”
The statement further says, “We have witnessed growing violence against women as well as dilution of gender just laws such as the Domestic Violence Act (section 498A)”, adding, “We do not believe that in a country with over 4500 communities and over 400 spoken languages uniformity or tweaking of present unequal laws can ensure equality for men and women.”
Underlining that social change is “a slow process for which conditions on the ground need to be created where people have basic needs of housing, employment, food and good education”, the statement says, “There is a need to first bring in progressive, gender just enabling laws which can be accessed by people from all religions.”
“We have a Special Marriage Act under which people from any community or across religious communities and castes can marry each other. People have a choice to opt for Special Marriage Act (which is also being diluted by various right-wing state governments by adding caveats to it)”, the statement says.
“Similarly”, the statement says, “the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act has now provisions for people of any religion to adopt a child, whether their personal laws allow it or not. More such laws which give equal rights to women in property and matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children etc. should be brought in.”