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  Opinion   Oped  30 Apr 2017  360 Degree: Talaq, Talaq, Talaq

360 Degree: Talaq, Talaq, Talaq

Dr Achala Nagar has scripted movies on social issues like Nikaah, the first film on triple talaq, Baghban and Baabul
Published : Apr 30, 2017, 6:04 am IST
Updated : Apr 30, 2017, 6:23 am IST

Denying education to Muslim women and vote-bank politics are the primary causes.

Muslim women had cast their vote to the BJP during the UP elections with high hopes.
 Muslim women had cast their vote to the BJP during the UP elections with high hopes.

Every married Muslim woman dreads these words. But of late, cases of victims approaching the police have started coming to the fore, even in backward states. The Centre, too, is striving to abolish the practice. However, some clerics have argued this is interference in their religion. The Asian Age looks at both sides of the issue.  

I recall an interaction in Dhule where my unit was invited to celebrate Nikaah’s completion of 100 days in theatres. At the gathering, two women came to me after I had ended my speech and their eyes, which were covered by a veil, were filled with tears. One of them, who had once been married to a professor, was subjected to triple talaq for serving lunch later than usual, while the other had received a letter from her husband that simply read ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’.

Nikaah and the Shah Bano case are certain milestones in the open discussion of triple talaq. In more than 30 years now, I believe that while a lot has changed for the better, a lot more still needs to be changed. You see in the news today cases of Muslim husbands declaring triple talaq via post, letters and phone calls. This was happening 34 years ago too. As long as we end up sitting on an issue, no discussions would amount to any significance. The BJP government has done a good thing by re-igniting the debate on triple talaq and fighting for the equal rights of Muslim women, who are hoping that this government might just uplift them from this adversity.

I had heard that during the UP elections, Muslim women had cast their vote to the BJP with high hopes. It is very crucial that we, debarring religious grounds, stand up for the rights of women altogether who were put through this practice and unrightfully disowned by their husbands and families. Considering that the increasing modes of communication that have helped educate Muslim women have also become a source for virtual triple talaq, the government must bring laws curtailing the misuse of social media for triple talaq.

What is triple talaq? The way Muslim men practise it, it is to demean a woman by pushing her away abruptly and then, if it suits the husband, dragging her back through another filthy process — halala. This is something that many Muslim women believe too and have been raising voice against in tandem. Some of my acquaintances from the Muslim community have shared another aspect of how triple talaq should ideally be practised. I remember papa (B.R. Chopra) was sitting with some of his Muslim friends who shared that originally a husband can say ‘talaq’ only once in a month, which makes it a three-month process. This, to some extent, ensures that if the couple sincerely supports each other, the husband wouldn’t go beyond the first talaq and would be able to buy some time in order to rethink his decision before repeating talaq in the second and third month. However, I was adamant on the view that it is an unfair practice against women for which no justification could ever be accepted.

The combination of a writer’s curiosity and an artist’s philosophy led me to write a screenplay on triple talaq. While I was on a reading spree, looking for interesting matters with a twist, I came across a news article of about 100 to 150 words in the magazine Mayapuri. It read that Sanjay Khan, who had divorced Zeenat Aman, now wanted to resume their marriage for which Zeenat would have to undergo halala. As I did not understand this ritual, I asked a colleague, who shared how triple talaq and halala are practised and why. I was taken aback by this crude practice. The story had never been discussed before; it was time it did, and the rest is history.

However, history is witness that whenever a voice was raised from within Bollywood, it had to undergo not only the censor board’s review but also public scrutiny to some extent. Especially, when it speaks of a particular community and its traditions. I — with immense love for papa’s considerate nature — will narrate an instance right before Nikaah’s release. Rumours were doing the rounds that Nikaah spoke against Islam and portrayed it in a bad light. Following this, papa gathered a group of maulanas, showed the movie to them before it released and requested a fatwa (ruling) on this issue. A fatwa was issued the next day that the film did not violate the religion and that viewers must watch it. An image of the fatwa was printed in newspapers back then. That the intention was and is not to question Islam gets pretty clear through this instance. But one might ask, if not religion then what is it that led to the practise of this social evil. Denying education to Muslim women and vote-bank politics are the primary causes. The Shah Bano case is example enough for us to see how one woman’s rights had lost significance under the pressure of vote-bank politics from the Muslim Personal Law Board. Although, more and more Muslim women are receiving education today and fighting this practice, triple talaq is still too deep-rooted an issue to be resolved, even in these progressive times. It is a gradual process wherein a social issue like triple talaq has to be tapped every time it seems to have been silenced. Had there been as many opportunities for Muslim women to pursue education as today, this fight could have garnered just as much column space in the ’8os even.

Read: The Vanguard of Triple Talaq

Bollywood’s role today in educating viewers about this social issue isn’t impressive with the way issues are being portrayed, if at all they are. The element of the discussion inspired by a movie is missing these days. Earlier, people used to step out of cinema halls discussing, debating; I don’t see that happening today. Experienced and highly acclaimed directors and producers have the highest outreach to the audience. It is important that they make a statement on this issue through their art. A woman, or even a man for that matter, would cross all limits and go to any extent for the well-being of his/her loved one. If I rewrite a screenplay on triple talaq, I would portray the willpower of the woman today who undergoes humiliation and social taboos and, yet to get back to the one person she loves the most, willingly puts up with what is nothing less than an assault.

Cases that grabbed headlines

  • In April this year, a national-level netball champion Shumayala Javed was divorced for giving birth to a girl. Javed, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, was married to Azam Abbasi for three years and was allegedly being tortured by her in-laws and husband for dowry. 
  • A 25-year-old Jaipur woman was in May 2016 sent a triple talaq via the speed post system. Afreen Rehman, who married in 2014 after finding a match through a matrimonial portal, was being harassed for dowry by her husband. He had allegedly beat her up and asked her to leave the house. 
  • In November 28, 2016 a Hyderabad-based woman, Sumaina Sharfi, alleged she had received a message on WhatsApp from her Non-Resident Indian husband, Owaisi Talib, stating triple talaq. Sharfi claimed that Talib had kicked her out of their house after they got married in 2015. She also said she had tried reaching out to Talib, who would go to Dubai, but in vain.
  • In 2016, a woman in Kolkata was divorced by her Dubai-based husband who called and said talaq thrice over the phone. The woman, aged 30, identified as Ishrat Jahan and her husband Murtaza had been married for 15 years and had moved to Howrah from Bihar with him. He was allegedly unhappy that she had given birth to three daughters despite him wanting a son. 

Shabana, Javed back UCC, gender justice
Not someone who will mince their words, actor-cum-activist Shabana Azmi and noted lyricist Javed Akhtar have also spoken on the ills of triple talaq. Last year, in a tweet, Ms Azmi said that India is one among the only three countries in the world that allow the controversial practice of triple talaq in one go.

Ms Azmi’s tweet read: “Of 52 Muslim countries only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait n India practice Triple Talaaq in one go Even Pakistan n Bangladesh dont allow it why shud we (sic).”

Many people feel that the practice  is anti-women. In fact, Ms Azmi opined the need for a Uniform Civil Code, provided it brings gender justice. “Have always done so (supported UCC) but it should be common civil code based on gender justice,” she posted in another tweet. 

As told to Pragya Bakshi

Tags: triple talaq, bjp government, zeenat aman, uniform civil code