A long walk to irrevocable divorce freedom in India : From Shah Bano to Saira Banu

Issue of Triple Talak has been a kind of center of attraction in Indian politics for more than two decades. This beautiful journey starts from one of the popular Shah Bano cases. The story starts in 1932 when Shah Bano got married with a well-known advocate of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Mohammed Ahmad Khan. They had five children from the marriage. After 14 years Khan married with another younger woman as second wife. After some years Mr. Khan threw Shah Bano at the age of 62 years with her five children who was first wife. In 1978, he stopped giving her the promised amount of Rs 200 per month. She did have any other source to sustain her life with her kids. She filed a petition at a local court in Indore for asking compensation amount of Rs 500 to sustain her life with kids.

After this her husband gave an irrevocable divorce to her which was his prerogative under Islamic law. Mr. khan took up the defence that Bano had ceased to be his wife and therefore he was under no obligation to provide maintenance for her as except prescribed under the Islamic law which was in total Rs 5400. Verdict from all different level of courts came into the favour of Shah Bano only. Initially in 1979, the local court directed Khan to pay a sum of Rs 25 per month to Bano for maintenance. Then High court of Madhya Pradesh enhanced the amount of maintenance to approximately Rs 180 per month. Then Mr. Khan filed a petition to appeal before the Supreme Court claiming that Shah Bano is not his responsibility anymore because Mr. Khan had a second marriage which is also permitted under Islamic Law.

The third and final verdict of supreme court attracts India’s attraction and create history. Khan’s argument was supported by all religious institution of Muslim community like All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind which contended that courts cannot take the liberty of interfering in those matters that are laid out under Muslim Personal Law, adding it would violate The Muslim Personal Law Application Act, 1937. When the case reached the Supreme Court of India, seven years had elapsed. The Supreme Court invoked Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, which applies to everyone regardless of caste, creed, or religion. It ruled that Shah Bano be given maintenance money like alimony. This judgement accumulated huge public attention and it became national issue.

This case of Mohd. Ahmad Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum also called the Shah Bano case is one of the milestones in Muslim women’s fight for rights in India and the battle against the set Muslim personal law. It laid the ground for thousands of women to make legitimate claims which they were not allowed before. Judgment elicited a protest from many sections of Muslims who also took to the streets against an attack on their religion and their right to their own religious personal laws. Muslims felt threatened by what they perceived as an encroachment on the Muslim Personal Law, and protested loudly at the judgment. Then vote bank politics came into the picture. Muslim community approached their beloved political parties to get into it. In 1984 Congress won with absolute majority in parliament.

Many leaders insisted Rajiv Gandhi to enact a law in parliament overturning the supreme court judgement. He was threatened of facing decimation in the polls ahead. Shri Gandhi did the same what their leaders wanted to do. He made a law to overturn the Supreme Court judgement. He definitely pleased the Muslim community but also appeased people of other communities. Reaction of this act became so significant that it strengthened the opposition. Opposition called it another act of “appeasement” towards the minority community by the Indian National Congress. This pseudo secular tactic of congress gave birth of New political party called as BJP. From that incident, it becomes a kind of significant event of women right. Political parties got a great mileage from this event to polish their political structure.

It has been repeatedly talked on about Triple Talak issue on prime time. After more than two decade once again similar case came before the Supreme Court. This case is Shayara Bano Vs Union of India, which has popularly come to be known as the “triple talaq case”. This case, in which the constitutional validity of certain practices of Muslim personal law such as triple talaq, polygamy, and Nikah Halala has been challenged, has created political controversy across the spectrum.

Sound of dissents has also been in the centre of discussion where Muslim institutions like All India Muslim Personal Law Board has warned secular authorities against interfering with religious law. In August 2017, Supreme Court gave verdict whether the practice of triple talaq among Muslims is fundamental to the religion. Supreme Court concluded the hearings on the abolition of triple talaq in response to the petitions filed by Shayara Bano. It has been once again supposed as a historical verdict.

Now what this triple talaq is all about? Basically ‘Triple Talaq’ is a procedure of divorce under the Sharia Law which is a body of the Islamic law. Under this, a husband can divorce his wife by pronouncing ‘Talaq’ thrice. We may wonder to hear that a woman gets divorced by simply saying Talak thrice in Muslim community. Medium of purposing Talak has also been unique. ‘triple talaq’ delivered through new media platforms like Skype, text messages, email and WhatsApp have become an increasing cause of worry for the community.

It could not be acceptable in 21st centuries where India is tending to fetch world power. I think supreme court did justice to all Muslim women who had been facing the pain on instant Talak. It has been abolished even in Muslim countries like UAE, Qatar and in our neighbour Muslim majority country like Pakistan and Bangladesh. So, it was necessary time to ponder upon. Almost all political parties along with Muslim women community welcomes this beautiful verdict.

One thing must be cleared that everything can’t be justified only on the culture and tradition. If it true then other societies must also be allowed to follow each and every tradition and customs irrespective of its outcomes in present. In Nagaland, there is tribe community commonly known as “Konyak Tribe”. Their Tradition was to behead the enemies and brought their head to villages. It was supposed as a kind of honor. For this work tattoo was drawn on their face as reward. Can this be allowed in modern society for the sake of tradition? Even they are feeling repentance of what they did in past.

I came to know this fact via Shyam Sunder, Journalist on Rajya Sabha Television when he was talking to those community on his program “Mai Bhi Bharat” on Rajya Sabha television. I believe culture and tradition is one of the most important component of our diverse country which connects all the society irrespective of caste, religion and class. It must be preserved. But we must introspect the things what we have been following for many years and centuries. Is it relevant to modern society or not?

Many evils in our Indian society in Hindus were existing in past like Jauhar Pratha, Sathi Pratha, Devadasi Pratha etc. At the moment when it was trying to eradicate these evils from the society then huge thrust was being generated to oppose by the male Hindu society. It was supposed as an honor where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre. Some parts of our country were practicing Devadasi custom where a girl was “dedicated” to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life.

A combination of superstitions and wrong believes were practicing in our Indian society. Most of them have been eradicated from root. It became possible only when people belonging to this community raised their voices and speak up against the wrong tradition which was forced to follow by a group of people and community. Time has been changing so we must change ourselves only after self-introspecting.

Several examples have been quoted in past by the people that even many Muslim countries have banned such sorts of things. In fact, we must abolish such thing before them since we are democratic country which dictates the equality for all in our constitution. But Unfortunately, several political parties are opposing it just to fetch votes. Triple Talak in India has never ever been related to primarily religious stuffs but it had been directly connected to the notion of male-dominated society. Male always try to dominant over women.

Here religion acted as a medium to set the target. Time has been changing, people’s need and their facilitation have been changing. Changing of time must be anticipated and appreciated in society for the betterment of people. We all are equal irrespective of sex, cast, religion and culture. If we failed to anticipate the changing pace of time then we would have to be ready for the future shock.

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