Congress confusion redux

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Congress confusion redux

Party must not delay passage of triple talaq Bill; remember Shah Bano!

Congress President Rahul Gandhi would do well to pay heed to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's salutary warning to perennial and instinctive political fence-sitters — if you stand in the middle of the road you get run over. So, when the Government introduces the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 which criminalises instant triple talaq in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, the Congress will be given a second chance, three decades on from Shah Bano, to show India that its regressive pandering to the Muslim clergy and obscurantist elements of the community is a thing of the past. With Congress support, the Bill, already passed by the Lok Sabha, will get through the Rajya Sabha quite easily and become the law of the land once Presidential assent is obtained, providing a legal weapon to abused, abandoned and disempowered Indian women citizens who happen to be Muslims by faith.

But there are incipient signs that, following the hypocrisy of the so-called ‘secular' parties including the Trinamul Congress and the CPI-M in particular on an issue of women's empowerment, Rahul's Congress may fall in with the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and vote to refer the Bill to a select committee. That would in effect delay the passage of the Bill and prolong the hold of a misogynist, patriarchal order on the Indian Muslim community. For, after the Supreme Court in a detailed order held instant triple talaq to be illegal and ultra vires of the Constitution and the Government of the day, having subsequently observed that the instances of such triple talaq continued to plague the community despite the judgment declaring it unconstitutional brought in a Bill to ensure the ruling gets teeth, it makes no sense for a responsible national political party to delay the passage of the Bill that would ameliorate the lot of countless Indian women.

The Lok Sabha, of course, debated the Bill at length before passing it. Debate and discussion would be welcome in the Upper House, too, naturally, and the Congress ought to make its point effectively on the floor of the House and/or try to gather support for any amendment it wants to move from both the Opposition and Treasury benches.But it ought not to fall prey to the disingenuous logic being proffered by those who want to delay the Bill becoming law with one eye on a perceived minority vote-bank and/or dogmatic ideological position. The Indic idiom of contemporary and foreseeable-future politics in this country even as we simultaneously hone our democratic, inclusive and reformist traditions is an accomplished fact and one that Rahul Gandhi showed signs of having understood during the Gujarat election campaign. He would do well not to throw it all away. Remember what happened after Shah Bano.

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