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Analysis

Triple talaq bill politically motivated, feel Muslim intelligentsia, women’s groups

Is the saffron party indeed serious about addressing the root issue of the social evil called instant divorce, and wants it stopped, or is it indulging in political posturing?

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The triple talaq bill, unilaterally drafted and brought by the Narendra Modi government, is politically motivated, feels the Muslim intelligentsia cutting across sectarian lines and schools of thought — but they are happy that the controversy has created awareness in the public mind about the evils of the practice.

Is the saffron party indeed serious about addressing the root issue of the social evil called instant divorce, and wants it stopped, or is it indulging in political posturing? The latter, say an overwhelming majority of stakeholders — from “fundamentalists” to liberals, Islamic clerics and women rights activists.

They think that the bill in its present form cannot stand judicial scrutiny.

“It’s an atrocious piece of legislation which is against the constitution because it discriminates on the basis of religion,” Irfan Ali Engineer, Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, told IANS.

Irfan, son of acclaimed reformist-writer and social activist Asghar Ali Engineer, and a petitioner in the Shayara Bano case, explained: “It is discriminatory on the ground that if a Muslim man divorces his wife in a particular way, he would be jailed. But if a man of other religion abandons his wife, there is no legal action against him.”

He said there is “no doubt” the legislation is “politically motivated”.

Jamat-e-Islami Hind General Secretary Mohammed Salim Engineer said he could not understand the objective of this legislation.

“If the said bill had held three talaqs (divorces) as one, it would have made some sense. Which would mean that a divorce will not take place no matter how many times a man utters the word ‘talaq’ in one sitting, and which is in consonance with several schools of Islamic jurisprudence,” he said.

All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat Chairman Navaid Hamid had a similar view: “This bill is clearly faulty. In many Muslim sects, talaq pronounced thrice is treated as only one talaq. But this bill would hold a person of any sect guilty no matter if as per his belief irrevocable talaq has not happened.”

The government moved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill — which proposes a three-year jail term for a man pronouncing irrevocable triple talaq — in the Lok Sabha on December 28 last year and got it passed the same day despite opposition’s pleas to send it to a parliamentary committee. However, the Bill was stalled in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP and allies are in a minority. The government has said it is open to “suggestions” if these are “reasonable”.

Yasmin of Awaz-e-Niswaan, a women rights collective and an intervener in the triple talaq case, said that she and other activists had welcomed the Supreme Court’s August 22, 2017, decision to ban the triple talaq but the legislation brought by the government serves no purpose other than “furthering the BJP’s agenda”.

“We are against criminalistion of talaq. The Domestic Violence Act and the Section 498A of IPC are already in place to deal with any atrocities or violence against women, and which equally apply to Muslim women. So there is no need for a separate law… It looks like a conspiracy,” Yasmin told IANS.

Other women’s bodies such as Bebaak Collective and the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) have publicly slammed the triple talaq legislation for its flaws and inherent contradictions.

Interestingly, the Muslim organisations that are against banning the triple talaq, activists and women bodies which wanted it banned and the opposition parties in Parliament have expressed concerns over the consequences of sending a man to jail for as long as three years.

Who will provide for the woman in her husband’s absence? Shouldn’t the government form a corpus for such women’s financial assistance/pension? Will the marriage remain intact even after the husband is jailed purportedly on the complaint of the wife? Are women’s rights safeguarded through this law in cases of other forms of divorce?

These are some of the questions raised by the critics of the bill and the political opposition inside Parliament. The government hardly attempted to assuage such tangible apprehensions and mostly resorted to an abstract emotional appeal that “the bill gives Muslim women their rights and dignity”.

Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, who is opposed to instant divorce and wants it abolished, could not find a reason to justify the penal provision in the bill.

“In Shias, there no such thing as talaq-e-biddat. The penal provision is not right, but so is not talaq-e-biddat. Even our Sunni brothers say that this is sinful,” he said.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the most vocal body in matters pertaining to Muslim Personal Laws, has already denounced the Modi government’s attempt to “encroach through this bill upon the Muslims’ fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution” and has termed the bill as uncalled for and unnecessary after the Supreme Court ruling has rendered triple talaq as null and void.

“In case your government considers it necessary to enact a law in this respect, consultations must be held with AIMPLB and such Muslim women organisations which are true representatives of Muslim women,” the AIMPLB has said in a letter to Prime Minister Modi.

The plea highlights the general grouse — that nobody was consulted while drafting the bill. Let alone the hardline Muslim clerics, even the liberal opinions including those of various women bodies, were not sought by the government.

People like Irfan Engineer feel that a law is required to address the issue, but it should be “comprehensive”.

“We need a comprehensive legislation, one that safeguards the rights of women in case of divorce, but at the same time it should not make the divorce process cumbersome and unendingly long,” he opined.

However, amid the heat of discussion on tripel talaq, Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor of fortnightly Milli Gazette, sees something positive in the whole discourse.

“One benefit of this entire brouhaha has been that common people have got some awareness about the evil of triple talaq. Also, clerics have started accepting that triple talaq is wrong and it should be weeded out. In fact, all of us want this practice banished,” Khan said.

He also advised the Muslims to “not react” to and “ignore” the bill. “Because provoking Muslims to polarise the society precisely seems to be BJP’s objective,” he added.

(Asim Khan can be contacted on [email protected] )

Analysis

Rafale, a political bomb for Modi

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Rafale deal scam

Within 48 hours after former French President Francois Hollande’s remarks re-ignited the allegations of crony capitalism over the Rafale deal, Modi government has remained on the back-foot, relying on weak denials and resorting to evasive narratives which places blame on the previous UPA government.

Over the past few days, there have been various statements from India’s defence ministry, the French government, from Dassault Aviation, a couple of political party press conferences and most recently a statement put out by the Finance minister Arun Jaitley.

At the end though, this is where these stakeholders stand:

1. Modi government claims it had no role in selecting an offset partner.

2. French government also claims that neither it had any role in selecting an offset partner.

3. Dassault Aviation says that the selection of Reliance was their choice.

4. Former French President Hollande, the one who negotiated deal said that Reliance was forced upon them by the Indian govt.

Now, if we look at the timeline and connect all the missing dots, we reach to the following conclusion. In March 2015, Anil Ambani’s Reliance acquires Pipavav Defence, an acquisition that it has used as a justification for being chosen as an offset partner in the Rafale deal, claiming to be a leader in different areas of defence manufacturing.

A month later, in April 2015, the Prime minister suddenly appears in Paris and announces a huge change in the earlier Rafale deal, that by all accounts, takes everybody by surprise. Anil Ambani, who attended Modi’s meeting with defence chief executives in Paris, reportedly held a long discussion with Dassault chief Eric Trappier.

While formal incorporation of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd took place last year in February, the joint venture between Reliance and Dassault began functioning as early as May 2015, a few weeks after the announcement. All this lends credibility to Hollande’s full remarks to AFP, which state that Reliance’s name came in the context of a ‘new formula’ of negotiations in the Rafale deal, decided by the Modi government after it replaced UPA at the centre.

Hollande made this disclosure to refute the allegation that he may have favoured the Anil Ambani led Reliance group as a quid pro quo for a business deal struck by his partner, Julie Gayet. Last month, the leading Indian daily. The Indian Express reported that on January 24, 2016, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Entertainment entered into a deal with Julie Gayet’s firm Rouge International to jointly produce a French film and within next two days Hollande, who came as a chief guest for the Republic Day parade inked a memorandum of understanding with Narendra Modi for the purchase of 36 Rafale jets in New Delhi.

Subsequently, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence officially became part of the offset programme of Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal through the Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited — a company in which Ambani holds a 51% share and Dassault the remaining 49%. However, the ex President did not reveal the name of person who proposed Ambani’s firm but the way he asserted himself, points the finger of suspicion towards people in high places that had direct access to the Prime Minister.

In spite of government’s stonewalling the information on the Rafale deal, questions on the controversial contract have kept rising in recent months. Most of the opposition parties have accused the Prime minister of bypassing the well structured process to strike a deal with France which involved a three times higher price per aircraft than the price negotiated by the earlier UPA Govt. The no of aircraft also by magic dropped from 126 to just 36, HAL, the Public sector undertaking being replaced by Anil Ambani’s firm with zero experience in defence equipment manufacture.

The government could have easily avoided the controversy and stopped it from becoming a major scandal by taking opposition leaders into confidence about the details of the agreement or it may have appointed a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to go into the details of the deal. On contrary, it has used a combination of silence — a dogged refusal to reveal the price of the aircraft and blaming the earlier UPA govt for its failure to finalise the deal. It kept on harping that it got a more competitive price than agreed upon by the UPA Govt without even revealing the actual price.

This tactic of obfuscation has begun to unravel. On one hand, the ex-President of France has forcefully contradicted the government’s claim that it had nothing to do with the choice of Reliance as an offset partner, the ex-chairman of HAL has also refuted Defence Minister Sitharaman’s charge that it was poor health of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) which was partly responsible for the failure to clinch the Rafale deal during UPA’s regime.

The former HAL chief, T. Suvarna Raju, who retired on September 1, in an interview to Hindustan Times last week said, “If HAL can build a 25-tonne Sukhoi-30, a 4th generation fighter jet that forms the mainstay of the air force, from raw material stage, then what are we talking about? We could have definitely done it”. Raju further added that why only Sukhoi, HAL had maintained the Mirage 2000 aircraft, which was also manufactured by Dassault Aviation, for last 20 years and was involved in the Mirage upgradation programme as well.

The ex Chief while countering Sitharaman’s claim that HAL was dropped from the deal when the UPA was in power since it couldn’t agree on the terms of production with Dassault, said, “Dassault and HAL had signed the mutual work-share contract and given it to the government. Why don’t you ask the Govt of India to put the files out in public? The files will tell you everything.

Sitharaman gave another flimsy argument to justify Modi government’s decision to buy just 36 Rafale fighters in “flyaway” condition on grounds that the air force would not have the “paraphernalia” to induct more than two squadrons of 18 aircraft each at a time.

This argument falls flat in the face of the fact that four former IAF chiefs had asked for a minimum of 126 fighter planes, giving a valid reason that the air force is currently way too short of its authorized strength of 42 fighter squadrons and that it has ample experience of creating the infrastructure to accommodate the future induction.

You don’t have to be an expert to see through her claim that no due process was followed in securing the deal. The actual signing may have taken place in September 2016 after the cabinet committee on security formally approved it, but Narendra Modi jumped the gun in April 2015. On his first visit to France, Modi unilaterally announced that India would buy 36 Rafale fighters. Three months later, the earlier agreement with Dassault for 126 jets was cancelled, and HAL was cut out of the picture.

Back in April 2015, less than a year after his sweeping victory, Narendra Modi was on cloud nine who had the swagger of a conquering hero who could get away with anything — no questions asked. Now with the latest revelations tumbling out on Rafale every day, that promise of running a clean and transparent government is just evaporating in thin air.

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Analysis

Over 4.5 lakh entries in ‘sexual offenders’ database, NCRB to maintain record

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National Database Sexual Offenders

New Delhi, Sep 20 : In a first, the government on Thursday came out with a National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO), containing a list of 4.5 lakh convicts with photos of about 3.5 lakh of them available.

The offenders face charges of rape, gangrape and eve-teasing.

The database, which was rolled out by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) along with Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) here, will be maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

The NDSO which is accessible only to law enforcement agencies will assist in effectively tracking and investigating cases of sexual offences and employee verification.

The registry which was approved by the Cabinet in April 2018 makes India the ninth country in the world to set up and maintain a national database of sexual offenders.

According to MHA, the state police have been requested to regularly update the database from 2005 onwards. The database includes name, address, photograph and fingerprint details for each entry. However, the database will not compromise any individual’s privacy.

MHA has already released a grant of Rs. 94.5 crore to states/UTs for establishing cyber forensic-cum-training laboratories to strengthen cybercrime investigation and conduct training programmes to enhance capabilities of police officers, public prosecutors and judicial officers.

According to the WCD ministry, the sex offenders listed in the database will be classified on the basis of criminal history to ascertain if they pose a serious danger to the community.

“It is a matter of great pride and joy as two initiatives that my Ministry (WCD) and I had been pursuing for three years have been executed. The launch of National Registry of Sexual Offenders and Cybercrime Reporting Portal is one more step taken by our government for the safety of our women and children,” Union WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi said.

Another web portal, “Cyber Crime Prevention Against Women and Children (CCPWC)”, an initiative under the Nirbhaya Fund was also launched which will enable complainants in reporting cases without disclosing their identity.

“Government has taken several measures to check crime against Women and Children, including provision of stringent punishment and creation of modern forensics facilities to improve investigation, creation of the Women’s Safety Division in the MHA and launching of Safe City projects for Women’s Safety,” Union MHA minister Rajnath Singh said.

The complaints registered through this portal will be handled by police authorities of respective State/UTs and complainants can also upload the objectionable content and URL to assist in the investigation by the state police.

The NCRB will proactively identify such objectionable content and take up with intermediaries for its removal. For this NCRB has already been notified as the Government of India agency to issue notices under the IT Act.

“A positive aspect of this portal is the provision for anonymous reporting, which will encourage more people to come forward with such complaints. This portal comes as a relief by providing time-bound solutions to a huge number of women and children who are being exploited in cyber space,” Gandhi added.

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Analysis

Saab is interested in Indian fighter jet deal: Swedish official

The Saab Gripen will be contesting with the likes of the Russian MiG 35, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A 18 and Lockheed Martin F-16 for the upcoming deal.

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Rafale deal scam

Amid the raging controversy over the Defence Ministry’s procurement of the Rafale fighter aircraft from French firm Dassault Aviation, a senior Swedish official has said that his country’s firm Saab, in its Gripen aircraft, has the requisite experience to contest for the upcoming Indian deal for manufacturing 110 new fighter jets under the Make in India programme.

“I know that Saab is interested, they want to be a part of this procurement,” Teppo Tauriainen, Director General for Trade in the Swedish Foreign Ministry, told IANS in an interview here.

“They think they have something good to offer that will be of interest to India,” Tauriainen said.

“They, of course, know what the expectations of the government is in terms of local production and cooperation with a local partner.”

India is expected to select by the end of this year one fighter aircraft that will be manufactured by the private sector under the Make in India programme for supply to the Indian Air Force.

The Saab Gripen will be contesting with the likes of the Russian MiG 35, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A 18 and Lockheed Martin F-16 for the upcoming deal.

While MiG has already said that it will have state-owned Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL) as its local partner, Indian companies like Tata, Reliance Defence, Mahindra and Adani are in the fray for local partners in the project that is expected to be worth over $20 billion (Rs 1.44 lakh crore).

Tauriainen said that for Saab, contesting for the deal will be nothing new as it has signed a similar deal for Gripen with the Brazilian government with Embraer as its local partner.

“I have myself visited the Brazilian partner, Embraer, and seen there are a lot of spin-offs locally in the Brazilian economy from this fighter jet deal,” he said.

“So, I think for Saab, as a company, it won’t be unusual to do it the way the Indian government wants it to happen.”

During his visit to Sweden in April this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that defence and security have emerged as an important pillar of the India-Sweden bilateral partnership.

“Sweden has been a partner of India in the defence sector for a long time. I am confident new opportunities for cooperation in this sector will arise in the future, especially in defence production,” Modi said.

During that visit, an India-Sweden Partnership was also announced with a fund of 50 million Swedish kronor (around $5.6 million) for innovation cooperation in the fields of smart cities and sustainability.

Asked what steps have been taken in this connection, Tauriainen said that the dialogue for these projects has started though none of these projects have started operating.

“But we have come quite far to identify areas where we think there is a potential to do cooperation,” he said.

He said that sustainable technology is a broad area and is very much related to how cities are built in terms of transport, energy, waste and waste water.

“There we have some interesting experiences and I hope that is of relevance to India,” Tauriainen said.

“Some technologies we have already tested in Sweden. Other technologies will have to be adapted to Indian conditions,” he added.

In Sweden, waste is actually used to generate power and only one per cent of the waste goes to the landfill.

Asked about the presence of around 180 Swedish companies in India and their role in the Indian economy, Tauriainen said these are doing good business despite “some limitations”.

“They wouldn’t mind if those limitations are taken away. But they are interested in the Indian market and most of them are interested in expanding,” he said.

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at [email protected])

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