No party can claim to be Caesar's wife when it comes to reforms in the Muslim community
All the parties that stood up for and against the legislation seeking to criminalise the practice of instant divorce (triple talaq) among Muslims denied that politics governed their respective positions. But behind this social reform attempt is a mountain of vote-bank politics. The strategies are pretty straightforward.
The BJP, which has often found to be ignored by the Muslims, wants to divide what it calls the ‘vote bank’ (a euphemism for Muslim votes) of opponents. The Congress and the so-called secular block don’t want to antagonise Muslims by forcing a reform as they prefer the matter to be dealt with by the community internally. Religious politics is a tinderbox and any tinkering with social norms has its own consequences. Rajiv Gandhi learnt it in a bitter way in the Shah Bano case, which opened a Pandora’s box that the Congress was never able to shut.
The Supreme Court has already made ‘triple talaq’ illegal and it is left on the legislators to back the apex court ruling. The BJP is pursuing the issue with top priority hoping to garner Muslim votes in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The other parties, including the Congress, preferred to soft pedal the issue denying the BJP any electoral advantage.
The Modi government has sent a major signal by getting the legislation passed in the Lok Sabha knowing well that it will be an uphill task to get it through the Rajya Sabha where the opponents of the bill have an upper hand. Many in the BJP feel the legislation to help Muslim women can prove to be a game changer.
The RSS had always pitched for bringing reforms in the Muslim personal laws. It has always propagated the narrative around high birth rate among Muslims. The BJP has been a strong advocate of bringing a uniform civil code in the country, which is a far more sensitive issue than triple talaq. By moving against the practice of instant divorce, a beginning has been made. Even within the Muslim community, opposition to the move is more governed by politics. It’s the single-most important reform that has ever been carried out through legislation in Parliament. The human aspect of the issue can’t be ignored as thousands of women are seeking justice.
The practice of triple talaq is unique to the subcontinent and there is intense debate within the community if such a provision is relevant today. The Mulism intellectuals have also supported the legislation as it directly benefits women. Whether it proves to be a political game changer or not, the issue has found resonance with Muslim women and there is bound to be a positive impact.