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Ishrat Jehan ready to campaign, contest for BJP, but has pressing problems — no job, money for son’s school 

Expected to be the much-needed Muslim face of the party not only in Bengal, but also in other parts of the country, and even contest polls, Jehan’s immediate worries, however, are a much-needed job and her son’s education. 

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya | Howrah |
Updated: January 3, 2018 2:35:33 pm
Ishrat Jehan Ishrat at the BJP office in Howrah, Tuesday. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

INSIDE her 12-by-7-foot room with an attached veranda that serves as her kitchen, 30-year-old Ishrat Jehan is in a hurry as she gets ready to visit the BJP party office 2 km away in the congested bylanes of Pilkhana in Howrah. Life for Jehan, one of the five petitioners behind the Supreme Court banning instant triple talaq, has become more hectic after she joined the BJP on Saturday. Expected to be the much-needed Muslim face of the party not only in Bengal, but also in other parts of the country, and even contest polls, Jehan’s immediate worries, however, are a much-needed job and her son’s education.

“I know nothing of politics but I am learning. I plan to help out Muslim women like me and rally for their cause. I will do what the party says… I am ready to campaign, highlight the plight of Muslim women and even contest polls,” said Jehan. She added that BJP Mahila Morcha leaders had been in touch with her since the SC verdict in August 2017. “Sometimes, I visited them at the BJP office, but there was no talk of joining the party… When the Bill banning triple talaq was introduced in the Parliament, it was time for me to join the party… Finally, I realised that BJP is serious about bringing change in the lives of Muslim women. Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought the Bill, which will save lakhs of women like me and their children,” she added.

“No party, be it Trinamool Congress, Congress or CPM, came to me… neither when I was fighting alone for my rights as a victim of triple talaq nor after the SC verdict when most people in my community and neighbourhood ostracised me,” she added. And with her joining BJP, Jehan is aware of a possible fallout — more ostracism.

“My financial condition also remains the same. My sister sends Rs 2,000 or Rs 3,000 every month. But it is not enough… If only I could get a job and send my son to school. I have to live and eat and my son needs to study. I could not admit him to any school because I don’t have the money to pay fees,” said Jehan.

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Another headache is the jewellery she had kept as security with a money lender while taking a loan to fight her case in SC. Jehan had married Murtaza Ansari in 2001, when she was 14, in Bihar. Soon after, they shifted to Howrah. Trouble began when Jehan gave birth to a girl. Though her next three children were boys, her relationship with her husband never improved. Ansari later left to work in Dubai. In April 2015, he allegedly gave triple talaq to Jehan over the phone and later remarried. Three of their children at present stay with him in Bihar.

In June last year, two of the children — Shayesta (13) and Zaid (7) — came to live with Jehan in Howrah. The next month, Jehan lodged a police complaint alleging that Ansari had kidnapped the children. Within a few hours of lodging the complaint, Ansari dropped the children at Golabari police station in Howrah. Shayesta later returned to her father, while her Zaid currently stays with Jehan’s relatives in Bihar.

Since joining BJP, every morning, Jehan hurries to the party office in Howrah where leaders and mediapersons wait for her. After a series of interviews and meetings, she returns home late at night.

Sanjay Singh, a state BJP general secretary, said: “We had been in touch with her for more than four months. She had approached us and our party decided to accept her. She is here to help out women. The Opposition says we are anti-Muslims… we have leaders like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain. Now, Ishrat Jehan has joined us.”

With an eye on the panchayat polls later this year, BJP plans to showcase Jehan in rallies and campaigns to woo Muslim women, championing the Centre’s welfare projects for minorities. Her first stop will be the BJP’s minority conference on January 11.

Sources said she also figures in the list of probable candidates for the Uluberia Lok Sabha bypoll on January 29.

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