Opinion about the Supreme Court’s hearing of the controversial practice of triple talaq is divided but surprisingly apolitical
As the Supreme Court hears the arguments challenging the validity of the practice of triple talaq, voices in a Muslim neighbourhood in the heart of the national capital are divided but surprisingly apolitical.
The practice by which men can give unilateral, instantaneous divorce has hurt enough women here that the ongoing court hearing resonates well in the densely packed Nizamuddin Basti.
As I spoke to men and women on the ground, I found a glaring absence of the narrative floated by the orthodox clergy and Muslim politicians. Not one person mentioned the Uniform Civil Code. Not one person saw the state intervention in the practice as an insidious Hindutva conspiracy, as argued by some, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board – a body who not many in the basti seem to know of.
Even among those who staunchly defended the practice in Islam, none exhibited a sense of minority victimhood.
Rukiya Begum said the establishment has the undisputed right to intervene in a practice, which she believes renders scores of young girls and women helpless and distraught.
“What will the person whose life has been destroyed do with religion?” Rukiya asked. Seconds later, she bursts into tears. Her own daughter was divorced by her husband through triple talaq, and now is living with her, along with her two children.
“I have been waiting for the media to come to us and talk,” Rukiya Begum tells me, before she takes me through the web-like maze of lanes in the basti to talk to more women. “It’s not just my daughter, so many daughters of this settlement have suffered.” As we walk past shanties and shops of the basti, she urges young women to talk to me, telling them that their voices must reach the government. The people of the basti use the words “sarkar”, “courts” and “police” interchangeably. For most women, it seems, it is an abstract idea of the establishment that can protect them from what they regard as a horrific practice. I meet 28-year-old Rehnuma, who said she was given divorce by her husband for “no reason whatsoever” while she was pregnant.
“Of course, the courts should intervene”, Rehnuma said. “I was able to raise my child without any support, but not all women can”. Repudiating what she sees as a spurious argument of religion, she said the practice had religious sanction eons ago for different reasons, but now it has just become commonplace in the community.
There were no clear male-female divisions in the opinion either.
Mohammad Salaudin agrees with the court intervention in the practice. “These days, men pronounce divorce for the most bizarre reasons…The wife goes to her maternal home, they divorce her; there’s too much salt in the food, they divorce her.” But not all residents acquiesce with the argument. A man, who was rushing for namaz, stops by to tell me that triple talaq is sanctioned in the Quran, and women of the community are crying foul. “These days, women have started moving out of their homes, they do not keep the purdah…So, of course, men should have the right to leave them,” he says hurriedly. “No, no courts must not interfere.”
There are others, who call for a limited intervention by the courts. Yet, the community, in general, does not view the establishment as the “other”.
Even though the public discourse sometimes hinges on the demonisation of the Muslim community, it is these voices of the Muslim community, especially women, that must not be allowed to be go unheard in the cacophony of political turf-wars and television and Twitter debates.
-Sanya Dhingra is a Reporter with ThePrint. You can follow her on Twitter @DhingraSanya
Lead picture shows Rehnuma, a resident of Nizamuddin, Delhi, who was given triple talaq by her husband during her pregnancy.