How should we look at the Supreme Court verdict on #TripleTalaq, delivered on 22nd August 2017? There are various dimensions to it and let’s consider some of these.
1. The Muslim Women
No one should underestimate the courage and the fortitude with which the Muslim women fought this case to its logical conclusion. I witnessed a debate on the topic on Times Now just a day before the judgement (21st August). The venom that the self-appointed guardians of the religion had for women, on Live TV, who were fighting against Triple Talaq was to be seen to be believed. It is to the great credit of the women that they fought for the change, sought all help that they could get – from the government and from civil society and media – and ultimately triumphed.
2. The Congress Party and its Ecosystem
Everyone you may have seen till now who is a “Professional Secularist’ was unsurprisingly in favor of Triple Talaq. The most prominent lawyers batting for the most regressive elements and filing their absurd pleas were all top Congressmen. The extended ecosystem of Congress party – the busybodies that we see on TV, the astro-turfed columnists in print and self-appointed rights activists – all were doing their best to sabotage the fight against Triple Talaq by indulging in irrelevant ‘whataboutery’ or indulging in communal rhetoric. Even now, post judgement, their rhetoric is still not to celebrate it as a victory for women but more on how to communalize the discourse.
3. The Modi Government Stand
There are two strands to this. First is that of Women Empowerment. If one looks at the trend of 3 years+ of Modi government, an unmistakable thrust in most of the high-profile policy positions has been this – Women Empowerment. Think of the massive drive to build separate toilets in schools, lack of which was one major reason for high drop out rate among girls. Or think of Mudra Yojana – of the over 8.6 crore people funded so far for small businesses, 70% are women. Or consider the Ujjwala Yojana where 2.7 crore women in BPL families have been given smoke-free lives. All these schemes have been designed and delivered to empower women. Similarly, the unambiguous stand of the government, that Triple Talaq must go, was driven by the same urge of empowering women. The practice was arbitrary, unfair, and unconstitutional – violative of Article 14. The Supreme Court has agreed with all the arguments made by the government and has thus delivered its verdict and struck down Triple Talaq.
There is, however, a political strand as well in the government’s position. Remember Shah Bano judgement in 1985? Then too the SC has been on the side of women. But the Rajiv Gandhi government had not been. In fact, it used its brute majority in Parliament to overturn the SC judgement. THAT is the difference between that majority government of Rajiv Gandhi and THIS majority government of Narendra Modi. That this government was willing to put its money where its mouth is. That this Modi government was willing to stand up to the ‘secular’ and ‘liberal’ brigade and the regressive elements. The government ran the risk of being painted by the Lutyens’ brigade as being driven by communal considerations. But it takes an unshakable belief in one’s core belief – of women empowerment – to stand up to what is right, even in the face of possible adverse fallout. And the SC ultimately came down on the right side of the debate.
4.The Turn of History
Beyond the immediate context of the judgement, if we pan out to May 2014 and see in a snapshot of all that has happened since, or is in the process of happening, we would see that the turn of history on topics which were once presumed to be unsolvable or intractable has been on the side of resolution, one-by-one, issue-by-issue. Border agreement with Bangladesh pending since 1947 (East Pakistan till 1971) – resolved. OROP pending since 4 decades – done. Netaji files declassification – done. Triple Talaq – gone. In some senses, we are living through historic times – the momentum of history is shifting right in front of our own eyes. Issues that have hobbled us in the past are being tackled one-by-one, as the country is finally shedding its sloth and gearing up to punch commensurate with its size, aspirations and civilizational heritage.