Every application by a divorced woman under section 125… of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, pending before a magistrate on the commencement of this Act shall, notwithstanding anything contained in that code… be disposed of by such magistrate in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
This quote is from that spectacular, Congress party-created monster called The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986. That it was one of the chief factors leading to Rajiv Gandhi’s downfall is purely incidental, and depending on which side of the fence you are on, equally led to the rise of “Hindu fundamentalism.” Also, that the entire Red Spectrum rue till date that this Act was the undoing of about forty years’ of their “hard work” is also incidental. But all these are incidental because we see subtle portents that this phenomenon is eminently capable of self-renewal. All it needs is a simple perpetuation of the current political climate.
Presenting Shah Bano version 2.0.
In the recent judgment, delivered on December 4, a Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Deepak Verma and Sudarshan Reddy upheld the right of a divorced Muslim woman Shabana Bano to get maintenance from her husband.
I don’t believe in the supernatural but it’s slightly eerie that the latest victim of that Congress-party-created monster shares the same last name as her predecessor. That this news, crucial to the ailing health of our democracy, appeared in an obscure column in the Indian Express is also evidence of the fine mess we’ve created for ourselves. In the ‘80s, this was both front-page news and the subject of passionate editorials that played out for months.
Predictably, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has issued a veiled threat of sorts.
“The Supreme Court judgment is a direct interference in Muslim personal law. It is also against the Shariat, which states that marriage is a contract between two individuals and it becomes null and void after divorce,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid, a member of the board.
And to be sure, and in keeping with the times, it has pulled a buy-one-get-one-free stunt.
The AIMPLB will … apprise the government of its stand on two issue, the SC verdict awarding maintenance to Shabana Bano and the Liberhan Commission report,” Khalid said.
While the AIMPLB counts for next to nothing, it’s nevertheless better to be on guard and call its bluff before it decides to get bolder. Indeed, Shah Bano version 1.0 happened because we failed to nip such divisive calls in the bud. Perhaps the AIMPLB has forgotten that Indian Muslims are Indians first and everything else later. The AIMPLB’s statement can reasonably be interpreted as a sneaky attempt at encouraging and fostering separatist tendencies.
The Supreme Court doesn’t really care what the Shariat says and consequently doesn’t need to give a whit about “interfering” in the Muslim personal law. India is not Saudi Arabia.
To be sure, the AIMPLB’s attack of the Supreme Court’s judgment if anything, only highlights the plight of poor Muslim women and the urgent need to address this. The National Commission for Women (NCW) given its 17-year old history has done precious little to help these women. On the other side, we don’t see any “spontaneous” emotional outbursts from the secularist and women’s liberation quarters considering that Shabana Bano’s “crime” was that she was unable to bring in the dowry demanded by her husband’s family. To be fair, a lone article in the Indian Express welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgment but didn’t get to the fundamentals, something everybody wants to avoid.
And what everybody wants to avoid even mentioning is the fact that Indian society cannot survive for long unless a solid Uniform Civil Code is implemented starting now. But the history of Muslim appeasement that began under Pandit Nehru has, Frankenstein-like, spun out of control. The placation is only increasing with time and perhaps reached a miserable pitch when Manmohan Singh proclaimed that Muslims have the first claim to resources: the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has already granted 100% approval, and released funds for 21 districts in Uttar Pradesh to “uplift” minorities with more districts to follow.
In a way, the AIMPLB is irrelevant today because the UPA has taken upon itself the task to systematically bend to and satisfy every whim of the minorities before they even demand it. And so, if the combined clerical might of the Muslim lobby applies enough pressure, the UPA might “reconsider” the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of Shabana Bano.