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Appropriating Muslim Women’s Voices


Bebaak Collective (Voices of the Fearless) univocally condemns Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy’s comment in Mumbai on 27 October 2017 that the party could win the Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections because Muslim women believed that the BJP could save them from “triple talaq.” BJP leaders have time and again celebrated the recent judgment that invalidates the instantaneous practice of triple talaq, claiming it a victory to itself and strategically pointing to the silence of the Congress government during the Shah Bano case. In fact, BJP’s constant reference to the violent and gender discriminatory practice of triple talaq feeds into the imagination that the Muslim community is conservative and violent, creating fractures within the community and legitimising the targeted violence against the men of the community in beef cases or fabricated terror cases.

We strongly condemn the appropriation of the struggle of women’s groups, and reiterate that triple talaq could be declared unconstitutional owing to the sustained work of women’s groups in the community, and also because of the legal intervention made by grass-roots women’s groups in the apex court supporting Shayara Bano’s petition. Bebaak Collective, a campaign group working with several grass-roots organisations across states, was one of the petitioners to this case. On 22 August 2017, the Supreme Court adjudicated that instantaneous triple talaq will not be acknowledged by the law by a three–two majority in a five-member bench trial while maintaining the ethos of equality as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. This judgment is “historic” in that it provides legal acknowledgement to thedemands of Muslim activists across the country and also occults self-styled “authentic” representatives of the community, namely the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

In the aftermath of this judgment, there have been a series of occasions where the government has consciously tried to hijack the victory and misrepresent events. It must be remembered that it was women’s groups who approached the Court and not the current government who only filed an affidavit when directed by the Court. However, successive statements from BJP ministers congratulating Muslim women and projecting BJP as the sole messiah of the community has resulted in further polarisation within the community, and makes it appear as if the Muslim women’s leadership is aligned with the right-wing government on this issue. We strongly resist this appropriation and unabashed manipulation of the Muslim community and, especially, its women.

It is pertinent to ask whether thegovernment has made any real policy intervention to improve the social security of the Muslim community in general or Muslim women and girls in particular. In fact, as soon as this government came to power, it criminalised beef consumption and trading, and failed to rein in the increasing number of right-wing cow vigilantes. Incidents of the killings of Muslims and Dalits on the suspicion of beef possession are a much-reported reality, while the perpetrators of the violence against Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, and Junaid continue to roam scot-free.

Besides, where was this government when the incidents of mass rape during the Gujarat massacre and Muzaffarnagar riots were being orchestrated and, subsequently pushed below the carpet? What has the government done to recuperate the lives of several displaced Muslim families in the above incidents? What did the government do when Hindutva strategies like Love Jihad gained ground and anti-Romeo squads flourished in states like UP? Such protectionist agenda not only led to social segregation between the majority and minority communities, but also had an impact on the lives of Muslim women, whose mobility was further restricted within the walls of their homes.

Instead, we challenge this governmentto protect the rights of Muslims byensuring that they implement the SacharCommittee’s recommendations and pass the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011. Only if we see any progressive move in this direction can we believe that this government is interested in safeguarding the rights of Muslim women. Otherwise, these statements and empathy remain hollow, as the ruling dispensation has time and again demonstrated that Muslims are second-class citizens of this country and fall prey to both systemic and vigilante attacks.

The government is now shamelessly trying to capitalise on the 35-year long struggle of the women’s movement, which stood by the Muslim community. This statement is a reiteration of the strong voices of women activists within the Muslim community, an emergent leadership which cannot be squashed or appropriated by any force. It must be remembered that this appropriation of the judgment will not only mar the complex questions of gender rights but also reduce the role of progressive political forces as redundant ideas. We must fight against this.

Bebaak Collective


Hasina Khan, Roshni Reena, Geeta Thatra from Mumbai; Shabina Mumtaz, Reshma from Chitrakoot, UP; Rehana Adeeb, Shahdab, Rani from Astitva, Muzaffarnagar, UP;

Azma Aziz, Fatehpur UP; Shabina Shaikh, Amreeha, Azamgarh, UP; Hamida Khatoon, Nasreen, Kahkashah, Saira from Lucknow; Khairunisa, Samina, Parwaaz, Ahmedabad; Reshma Vohra, Sahiyar, Vadodara


Updated On : 3rd Nov, 2017


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