Column: Political Circus
The day before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) waxed eloquent on the triple talaq bill in parliament, saffron bullies confronted a group of Muslims offering namaz (prayers) at a park in Noida, UP.
The attitude of the storm-troopers was both mocking and threatening. Today you are offering namaz, tomorrow you will build a mosque here, they said jeeringly to the obviously intimidated Muslims.
The BJP’s television warriors supported the saffronites during a debate on the subject, arguing that permission has to be taken before “occupying” a public place.
Where the BJP and the Sangh parivar are concerned, there is no question of showering petals from helicopters on the namazis as was done in UP on the kanwariyas or the worshippers of Lord Shiva as they marched along the roads and highways with or without formal permission.
These contrasting attitudes of the party in power at the centre towards Hindu and Muslim devotees – lenience towards the former and sternness towards the Muslims – do not conform to the BJP’s outpouring of concern for the Muslim women who may be victims of the admittedly ludicrous and abhorrent practice of Muslim men summarily divorcing their wives on flimsy grounds.
If the BJP is genuinely concerned about the welfare of Muslim women, its feelings of benevolence and sympathy should be reflected in its attitude towards the entire community and not only towards a particular section.
Since this isn’t the case as the vituperation directed at Muslims by the trolls shows, along with the advice of saffron stalwarts like Vinay Katiyar who want the Muslims to leave India for Pakistan or Bangladesh, or the urging of a BJP MP to dig up the Jama Masjid to uncover the hidden temples, the suspicion wiill be that the BJP’s focus on the triple talaq issue is guided more by political than humane, gender-based considerations.
The party’s calculation apparently is that since the Muslims as a whole are unlikely to vote for it in view of the parivar’s nine-decade-long preference for a Hindu rashtra, it can be politically useful to wean away at least some of the women.
Another objective of the party is to offer a Hobson’s choice to its opponents where opposing the bill will depict them as anti-women while supporting it will mean meekly endorsing their adversary, the BJP’s stance, much to its delight.
For the present, sections of the opposition evaded the trap by walking out of the Lok Sabha before the voting took place. But the issue will come up again in the Rajya Sabha where a clear-cut stance will have to be taken.
As of now, the opposition wants the bill to be sent to a joint select committee since some of the provisions need to be modified, especially the one relating to criminalising the “offence” of divorcing the wife.
Undoubtedly, this is the sticking point, for it is absurd to criminally prosecute a man for a divorce even if his act is whimsical