The Constitution of India, inspired by the lofty ideals of the wise women and men who made it, clearly mentions that there will be no discrimination on the basis of gender. The Fundamental Duties highlight the need to renounce practices that are derogatory to the dignity of women.
Yet, for 72 long years since we began to breathe the air of freedom, the practice of triple talaq remained in our system, an ugly aberration and a living testimony to the power of fundamentalism over rationality. By and large, previous governments accepted this as a part of faith and refused to correct this wrong. Recently, the Supreme Court of India made important observations on triple talaq as well.
It took a determined push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that this archaic practice is finally abolished in India. PM Modi is perhaps amongst the only leaders in the last several decades to publicly talk about ending triple talaq. He did so during his years as Gujarat chief minister but this stand became stronger after he assumed office: He used his 2018 Red Fort address to assure Muslim women that this practice would become history.
The manner in which Modi has ensured this practice is abolished provides a lesson or two in political will, statesmanship and bipartisanship. Many leaders espouse many causes but during the journey from ideation to implementation, there lie huge gaps.
The potential setbacks Modi faced since he actively began talking about ending triple talaq were many. Critics saw his utterances only as election-related. Initial attempts to clear the Bill in the Rajya Sabha were not successful and the conservative Muslim elements had a field day in branding Modi as “anti-Muslim”. Yet, he did not lose will and persisted till the very end: This was a personal commitment and he would not accept inability as a way out.
For Modi to use so much of his political capital for a community perceived to be hostile to him manifests a welcome spirit of statesmanship. After all, vote bank politics can be a deadly pill. The manner in which Rajiv Gandhi pandered to conservative elements in the aftermath of the Shah Bano judgment is a masterclass in political cowardice and social indifference. He had a great opportunity to turn a wrong into a right but instead, he was more bothered about a handful of votes.
It must not be forgotten that all this while, the Modi government and the PM himself, have been talking about ending triple talaq knowing fully well that the numbers in the Rajya Sabha are not in their favour. On previous occasions, the Bill could not even be introduced in the Rajya Sabha. However, the vote in the Upper House on July 30 gives valuable lessons in floor management and consensus building. Parties not with the NDA were roped in as well and the Bill was passed.
The bankrupt politics of the Opposition, especially the Congress, came to the fore once again during the Rajya Sabha debate. Frivolous issues were invented to defend a medieval practice. From preventing the Bill from being introduced to filibustering, their antics stand exposed. They too, like the BJP today, had a strong majority in Parliament: But while they used it to defend patriarchy, the BJP went the extra mile to fight for gender justice.
When the history of our times is written, it will be said that just before India’s 73rd Independence Day, the Narendra Modi government, powered by the zeal of the prime minister, gave real freedom to Muslim women who were subjugated to exploitation and terror for no fault of theirs. May this struggle inspire us to overcome many social evils and move towards a more progressive and gender sensitive society.
The writer is a spokesperson of the BJP