In April 2014, Ishrat Jahan, a mother of four children, received a phone call from her husband in Dubai, who uttered the word talaq three times — "talaq, talaq, talaq", he said over the phone, and her life virtually came to an end. Her 15-year marriage ended in one snap. But it didn't end there. Her husband, who had allegedly married another woman by then, also took their children away from Jahan. But instead of surrendering herself to her fate, she chose to fight it legally.
Jahan was one of the five petitioners who moved the Supreme Court following a similar battle with triple talaq — the others being Shayara Bano, Gulshan Parveen, Aafreen Rehman and Atiya Sabri.
On 22 August, 2017, in a historic judgment, the Supreme Court banned the controversial practice that allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly by uttering the word talaq three times. A five-judge bench ruled that the practice of instant triple talaq was unconstitutional and against the teachings of Islam.
The NDA government took it forward, and the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriages) Bill 2017 on 28 December, making instant triple talaq illegal with up to three years in jail for the husband.
Jahan, now 31, a resident of Howrah in West Bengal, where she lives with her eight-year-old son, joined the state BJP on 30 December. Speaking to Firstpost, the anti-triple talaq crusader narrated her ordeal, her reason for joining the BJP and her future plans.
After Supreme Court's verdict in August, you were considered a crusader against triple talaq. But what made you join the BJP? Was there any pressure on you to do so?
No, there was no pressure from anyone. I joined the BJP on my own as I deeply believe that the triple talaq bill that the government has introduced will prevent Muslim women from receiving instant talaq. I'm very happy with this move because no political party has taken the initiative to address this problem though Muslim women have been facing this for decades. It's Modiji who showed the resolve to solve our issue. Hence, I decided to join the BJP and work for this cause.
Several Muslim clerics and Opposition parties like Congress, AIMIM, TMC etc have raised concerns over the bill and demanded the 'criminality clause' be scrapped.
They have opposed the bill because they don't want to hurt their vote bank — the Muslim population, where males are the decision-makers. It's nothing but vote-bank politics, and no one cares about the pathetic condition of Muslim women who face instant talaq.
But these parties have justified their stand saying that if the accused husband goes to jail, he would be deprived of an income, and therefore have reasons to not pay compensation to his wife.
The law should be such that the accused husband should first be made to pay compensation to his wife and then sent to jail. The man must be jailed for causing so much harassment and mental agony to a woman by uttering the word talaq.
Did West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee support you?
It was really surprising that our chief minister Mamataji, despite being a woman, one who speaks for the Muslim cause, didn't even bother about my suffering. Forget lending support, nobody from TMC even approached me to enquire about my condition. I fought the battle all alone, with no support from any quarter.
Why did you choose to join a political party rather than work as a social activist?
While fighting my case, I realised how difficult it is to fight alone, especially in a male-dominated community. I joined politics so that I can work for the betterment of our Muslim sisters. It's the BJP which has understood the pain that we Muslim women undergo due to triple talaq. You always live under a threat that your husband may utter talaq three times as per his whim and your life will end there. The All India Muslim Law Board (AIMLB) knew well that this practice was against the Quran, yet they didn't stop it. It has been going on for decades, making the condition of Muslim women deplorable.
Why didn't you approach any cleric or maulana after your husband uttered talaq over the phone from Dubai?
I didn't know any cleric or maulana. Nor did I know anything about the law. Why didn't a maulana contact me after learning about my problem? It's because they didn't want to go against this prevailing social evil. I wasn't ready to accept the situation. I wanted justice and wanted my children back from my husband. I wanted maintenance for their upbringing. That's when I decided to take legal help. My lawyer moved my petition to the lower court and then to the Supreme Court.
What was the reaction of the people you know from your community, after they learnt about your decision to move court?
I was virtually ostracised. Nobody spoke in my support, as it was expected. After the Supreme Court's verdict last year, I was insulted, threatened and abused by neighbours and my in-laws. My character was targeted. It was an ordeal.
Were you supported by your family members?
No. Even my parents, who live in Bihar, did not support me. It was a lonely battle that I fought alone with my eight-year-old son.
Are you planning to contest elections in West Bengal?
No, I don't have any such plan right now. At present, I only want to work for my Muslim sisters, or anybody facing a situation like I did. I am confident once this bill becomes law, it would provide a massive safeguard to Muslim women against social evils such as triple talaq, dowry and domestic violence.
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Updated Date: Jan 02, 2018 17:01:21 IST