Home Deliberation Social Reform, Muslim Women And RSS-BJP Agenda

Social Reform, Muslim Women And RSS-BJP Agenda

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In a historic judgment the Supreme Court gave the verdict that instantaneous triple talaq (Talaq-e-Biddat) is invalid as per the law. (22nd August 2017) Giving this verdict Court invoked the ethos of equality of Indian Constitution. This judgment has been path breaking as it upholds the demands of many Muslim women’s groups on the subject. Just to recall this verdict was in response the petition filed by Shayra Bano, a victim of triple talaq and many Muslim women groups who approached the Court in this matter. The Court asked the Government to file an affidavit on the matter. Government in its submission asked for abolition of triple Talaq, Nikah Halala and polygamy on the grounds that they inhibit gender equality. (1) Interestingly now many a BJP leaders and ministers are trying to take the credit for the same and projecting as if BJP is the one to come forward as a guardian of Muslim women’s interests. They also make it appear as if the Muslim women’s leadership aligned with the right-wing BJP government on this issue.

Muslim women’s groups dismiss the claim that they are allied with BJP on the matter and also state that it is due to their efforts that such judgment has come forth. They point out that statements like that of BJP leader Subramanian Swami saying that BJP won UP elections as Muslim women felt that it in only BJP which could save them from triple talaq, is totally contrary to facts. (2) In sum and substance, statements like this and the one by Prime Minister that his government is committed to upholding the rights of Muslim women, does not have much meaning. Such outpourings on part of BJP leadership are just for sayings sake, are opportunistic ones’ meant for electoral purpose only.

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Muslim women have dissociated with the statements of BJP leaders, “Muslim women’s rights activists have condemned the continuous attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party to appropriate the movement against instant triple talaq practiced in the community and its efforts to make the recent Supreme Court judgment against it a political victory for the party.” (3) It is true that many of those belonging to RSS-BJP have been shedding big crocodile tears on the plight of Muslim women, the ill effects of Muslim personal laws on women in particular. As such in practice they have done precious little to ameliorate the condition of Muslim women at social level and have done nothing as far as legal provisions are concerned, on the contrary the implications of their politics is the big curse for Muslims as a whole including Muslim women. It is the initiative of the women like Shayra Bano and many Muslim women’s groups who have braved the odds to reach the courts to quash this practice which is not only against the principles of Indian Constitution but also against the principles of Indian Constitution.

Triple Talaq as a Practice: As a Part of Muslim Personal Law:

While the Triple Talaq as a concept in Islamic practice has various limitations, the interval at which the word talaq can be pronounced is well defined; the process of mediation which must be brought in the interim period is the core part of Islamic practice. As it got distortions, courtesy the helpful Maulanas, many men used this provision to get rid of their wives by pronouncing three talaqs in a single go or even by using other means like SMS, whatsapp messages etc. This is a vulgarization of the practice which came to be part of Islamic practices at places. Enlightened Muslim men and large sections of women have been talking to throw away this practice by a process of social and legal reforms.


In India Hamid Dalwai, the social reformer was among the first one to raise his voice against this. “Fifty years after radical Muslim reformer Hamid Dalwai led the first street protest against the practice of triple talaq in Bombay (now Mumbai) along with just seven women,” (4)  Now his younger brother Husain Dalwai a Congress MP, has introduced a private member bill in Rajya Sabha titled the ‘Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Bill, 2016’, which is pending. Triple Talaq has validity as it is a part of Muslim personal law. At another level the personal laws, Hindu, Muslim Christian and Muslim are separate and have a legal sanctity.


Personal laws under British administrators were drawn from diverse sources. It reflected the gender prejudices of its times since the interpreters of “religion” have been mostly men. The process of reforming regressive practices also began during the British rule. Reformers struggled to end practices like Sati and child marriage. Conservative sections in the society opposed these reforms and insisted that these be preserved for the “defense” of religion.

These laws were drafted at British times and carried on in Independent India. After independence Pundti Nehru set the ball of social reforms rolling. Ambedkar took up drafting of Hindu Code Bill (HCB). The idea was that since Hindus are the largest community, once these laws are reformed, other communities will follow suit. Somehow as the draft was published, there was a big uproar against provisions of HCB and they were opposed by the conservative sections of society, led by the likes of RSS. As the draft was strongly opposed, including by those who were in the ruling party, the draft was diluted and passed in a milder form. This saddened Ambedkar, who deiced to resign from the Ministry.

HCB was used as a pretext by Hindutva forces to project that the Government is opposed to the interest of Hindus and is appeasing the minorities, as their laws are not being touched. A bit later after Mathura rape case, the women’s movement picked up and put forward the demand for reforming the laws, calling for Uniform Civil Code (UCC). These laws cover the marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance. Gradually it dawned upon the women’s movement that uniformity can be gender unjust, laws can be made uniform by taking up different laws which are gender unjust. (5) So from The UCC, large section of women’s movement rallied to the call for the Gender Just Civil code. Among Muslims, the major body opposed to social reforms has been the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Muslims in India

Muslims in India are facing a paradoxical trajectory. Majority of Muslims are coming from poor socio economic background. The formation of Pakistan has been a big tragedy for the sub continent as a whole and for Muslim in particular. It has affected the Indian Muslims to the worst possible extent. The anti Muslim violence picked up badly after partition, peaking from the decades of 1980. The Muslim community came to be faced with the problem of equity and security. Due to this the problems related to social reform among Muslims took a back seat as the Muslim leadership kept struggling to focus on the issue of security, which became of paramount importance. It is in this background that when the issue of Shah Bano came up, the large section of society stood to oppose it, leading the Government to go for legislating Muslim Women Protection Bill. This gave a further pretext to Hindutva elements to step up polarization in the society and to intensify the issue of Ram Temple, furthering the degree of violence, further pushing the Muslim community into shell. This in turn pushed the issues of reforms to the margins of community’s concern.

Efforts of Muslim Women

Despite this section of Muslim women started taking up the issues of gender equality. There are many groups, like Awaj-E-Niswan, Bebak Collective, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan to name the few. The basic premise for some of these groups was that Islam gives justice to women, while others took the battle on the ground of Indian Constitution. The latest in these moves had been the campaign launched by Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), (6) a campaign against triple talaq. Its survey had shown that 92 per cent Muslim women are opposed to this abominable practice. It collected the signatures of 50,000 Muslim women to oppose the triple talaq and also to oppose talaq halala. In triple talaq, a man can pronounce talaq three times and throw his wife out of the house. In talaq halala, if the husband decides to take her back, she has to get married to someone else, consummate the marriage, and then divorce the new husband before she can return to the earlier husband. Many maulanas offer this service of being “temporary husbands”. As per the BMMA, both these practices are un-Islamic. It points out that such practices are not mentioned in the Quran.

A memorandum submitted to National Commission for Women mentions that, “The instant method of divorce has no mention in the Quran. In fact, the Quranic method requires a 90-day process of dialogue, reconciliation and mediation before divorce takes place.”(7)Many Islamic scholars endorse the BMMA’s stand. However, the Muslim personal law board and Jamaat-e-Isalmi did not agree with the BMMA. The Jamaat has been opposing the campaigns of Muslim women for reforming personal laws. There are many progressive groups, prominent activists and writers from the community, who have declared solidarity with the agitating women. However, these people are being dubbed by conservatives as supporters of Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a pet theme of the BJP and the RSS.

The fact is that triple talaq is banned in over 21 Muslim majority countries including Pakistan. The rights of religious minorities for culture, right to life and affirmative action need to be supported. At the same time, the process of reform within the community must also be upheld and supported on moral, social and legal grounds.

BJP-RSS and Reforms of Laws Pertaining to Muslim Women

The demand for personal law reforms by Muslim women and the BJP-RSS call for UCC are not comparable. The RSS-BJP combo is inherently patriarchal and its pro-UCC stance is merely to intimidate the religious minorities. The same RSS had opposed the HCB, which was striving towards gender just laws for Hindu women. (8) The politics of this combine has adversely affected to social-political life of the Muslim community as a whole and Muslim women in particular. The communal violence, in many of which some affiliates of RSS are directly implicated by Inquiry Commission reports, is based on the propaganda which is led by RSS combine. In the violence most of the victims are Muslims and after every major act of violence the ghettotisation of Muslims become much worse. Now the situation is that in major cities like Ahmadabad, Mumbai and others the Muslim areas are well marked, in the these areas the civic and modern amenities do not reach; are inadequate. The hold of conservative elements opposing reforms in ghettoes goes up.

The actions of BJP leaders directed to Muslim women are aplenty. In most of the acts of communal violence, women are a big victim. Narendra Modi in the after math of Gujarat violence got the relief camps closed down on the pretext that the refugee camps are ‘factories producing children’ (9). The current hero of BJP, the UP chief minister Adityanath Yogi once went to the extent of saying that Muslim women should be dug out of grave and raped. One such incident also took place. He also was to say that if one Hindu girl gets married to a Muslim boy, 100 Muslim girls should be made to marry Hindu boys. (10), (11)

Ideological Foundations of Hindutva and Muslim Women

The ideological root of RSS-BJP is Hindutva. This was brought to fore by Savarkar in his book, ‘Hindutva or who is a Hindu?’ Savarkar had a very aggressive take on Muslim women. While commenting on the incident of Muslim woman, brought to Shivaji as a gift who was sent back and the incidents of rape of Hindu women in the context of partition of India, Savarkar’s comment is articulated by his biographer, Dhananjay Keer, ““He (Savarkar) said that Pakistan’s inhuman and barbarous acts such as kidnapping and raping Indian women would not be stopped unless Pakistan was given tit for tat. Two years earlier Savarkar had expressed similar opinion that the liberal policy adopted by Shivaji in case of Muslim women was wrong, as this cultured and humane treatment could not evoke in those fanatics the same feelings about Hindu women. They should have been given tit for tat, he observed frankly, so that they might have realized the horrors of those brutalities.” (12).

The projection that BJP is concerned about the welfare of Muslim women is a pure opportunist stance. Most of the campaigns launched by RSS-BJP are directed against Muslims in general and in turn are directed against Muslim women. The campaigns like Love Jihad, beef, linking of Islam to terrorism are affecting the lives of Muslim community and Muslim women in turn.

Muslim women need parity with the men, but still they are Muslims. BJP politics is based on anti Muslim tirade which is the foundation of their Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalism has been contracted against religious minorities, Muslims in particular. The major ideologues of RSS Golwalkar regard Muslims as a threat to Hindu nation. (13)

While Muslim women do want the reforms to come in, they are also aware that BJP voicing these concerns is a pure case of opportunism. They are just using the reforms to frighten the Muslim men, who are dominant with the Muslims as a whole. Progressive Muslim women are walking a delicate balance. On one hand they are for reforms on the other they know the current ruling party will try to use it for their political goals. Their claims that Muslim women voted for them in UP elections (2017) is a claim which is unverified and made so as to gain the political mileage. It is far from truth.

Summing Up

Muslim community has been facing tremendous pressure of insecurity. It has lagged behind in social and economic parameters, as pointed out by Sachar Committee Report. Due to these constraints; section of Muslim leadership has been focusing on the issues of equity and security and ignoring social reforms. Despite odds; Muslim women’s groups have been struggling for reforms, gender equality. RSS-BJP are inherently based on patriarchal norms, that’s why RSS opposed the Hindu Code Bill’s original draft by Ambedkar. Muslim women are a big victim of the politics of RSS-BJP. The Hindutva ideology (Golwalkar) sees Muslims as a threat to Hindu nation. While BJP has no interest in the welfare of Muslims-Muslim women, it is using the issue of triple talaq in an opportunist manner.

 Foot Notes

  1. https://thewire.in/72697/triple-talaq-islamic-law/

2.http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/muslim-women-felt-only-bjp-could-save-them-      from-triple-talaq-says-subramanian-swamy-4909858/

  1. https://thewire.in/192909/muslim-womens-rights-activists-condemn-bjps-appropriation-historic-triple-talaq-judgment/
  2. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/LsHfiKKArFEALIqF2HKBgP/Hamid-Dalwai-the-man-who-led-triple-talaq-stir-in-1967.html
  3. https://www.saddahaq.com/uniform-civil-code-why-and-how
  4. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/after-triple-talaq-win-bmma-proposes-muslim-family-law-based-on-quran-and-constitution-4833411/
  5. https://www.indiatimes.com/news/world/50000-muslim-women-sign-a-petition-against-triple-talaq-854997-317149.html
  6. https://thewire.in/156331/triple-talaq-muslim-lynching-bjp/
  7. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modi-baits-Muslims-on-relief-camps/articleshow/21699241.cms
  8. https://www.scoopwhoop.com/news/hate-speech-once-more/#.cnung4l1d
  9. http://www.sify.com/news/adityanath-asks-supporters-to-convert-100-muslims-for-1-hindu-girl-news-national-oi0xDpiebfeea.html
  10. Keer, Veer Savarkar, Popular Prakashan, 1966, p. 539
  11. https://thewire.in/123008/india-hindutva-narendra-modi-rss-muslims/