Having shunned iftaars for four years of the Narendra Modi government, the BJP waded into it on Wednesday, with Minority Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi hosting one for Muslim women. Among the guests were a few victims of triple talaq — and not all of them were in favour of the law banning instant triple talaq, the BJP’s showpiece legislation for the welfare of Muslim women. Several Cabinet ministers attended the event, among them Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, and External Affairs MoS M J Akbar.
Asked why the BJP has succumbed to iftaar politics, Naqvi said: “This is not a political iftaar — it is about making Muslim women feel empowered. Theirs is political engineering, ours in social engineering.” The reference was to the iftaar being hosted by Congress president Rahul Gandhi a few kilometres away at a plush hotel.
Naqvi said his ministry is now planning to hold women-only “progress panchayats” in minority areas. Progress panchayats are an outreach initiative of the NDA government for Muslims in which the minister travels to areas with a considerable minority presence to discuss local development issues. Also present at the event was Moina Benazir, the first woman officer who will be sent to Saudi Arabia this year for the management of Indian Haj pilgrims. An integrated financial adviser at the defence accounts office, Benazir had applied for the job and has been selected.
While happy at being selected, she said, “There will also be a lot of work.” She leaves later this month.
Among Muslim women brought by the “mantris” at local BJP offices were Yasmin and Nayra. Both had been given instant triple talaq and, as the more articulate women in the guest list, voiced their concerns about development issues for the community such as education and employment.
Yasmin still breaks into tears talking about the time her husband left her and their two children. “He left one fine day…he said the words (talaq talaq talaq) himself, and also later conveyed them through his mother,” she said. “What is the point of a (new) law? The men need to understand the implications of what they do — a law will not help.”
Since her talaq — instant triple talaq — Nayra is working at selling of “ladies’ goods”, but she does not make enough money to give an education to all her four children. “Two of them go to school, because my mother pays (their school fees). The other two do not go to school,” she said. Nayra said the law banning instant triple talaq will make a difference because it would give some time for reconciliation. “Men would not just walk out of marriages…like it happened in my case,” she said.
Naqvi said that the BJP-led government had made it possible for women to go for Haj without a male companion.