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Hope No One Faces My Ordeal, Says Odisha Triple Talaq Victim

Bhubaneswar: Najma  Bibi of Kantabania in Bhadrak district had a reason to rejoice when the bill that made Talaq-e-biddat or instant divorce a criminal offence was passed in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Talaq in drunken daze had turned her life upside down.

In 2003, Sheikh Mohammed uttered triple talaq to Najma Bibi in an inebriated state. He realized his mistake the next morning and decided to live with her.

“We fought over buying baby food for our daughter. In a fit of rage, he walked out of the house muttering something to himself,” recalled Najma speaking exclusively to Odisha Bytes.

However, the Mullahs issued a Fatwa declaring that the couple was divorced the next day.

If Najma wished to live with her husband she had to perform ‘Halala’, which meant she must marry another man, consummate the marriage, then divorce and re-marry Sheikh Mohammed. Najma refused to do so and went to court against it.

The struggle went on for almost three years as the Muslim community resisted their decision to stay together again and she was left to fend for herself and her four children.

“We got an order from the High Court but they refused to accept it. We were constantly tortured by the community who also ostracized us. Those were very difficult times,” she said.

Later, the couple knocked on the door of Supreme Court for justice.

In 2005, the top court allowed them to stay together and ordered the Odisha government to provide police protection to the family.

The ruling said: “No one can force them to live separately. This is a secular country. All communities — Hindus or Muslims — should behave in a civilized manner.”

“To avoid any backlash, we moved to Champara and lived there under police protection for a year before moving back to Kantabania,” she said.

In August 2017, a five-member bench of the apex court declared the practice of instant triple talaq unconstitutional and pronounced that a divorce by uttering talaq three times in one sitting is not integral to Islam, banned in law and lacks approval of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).

Najma had then said the practice should be completely abolished so that other women do not undergo the same trauma like her.

“I am very happy that it has finally happened. The three-year jail term will definitely act as a deterrent and men will be forced to think twice before pronouncing the three curse words,” she said.

In Support Of the Bill

Like her, Sk. Tahir Mohammed, a practicing lawyer of Bhadrak, too welcomed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, which once gets President Ram Nath Kovind’s approval, will replace the triple talaq ordinance promulgated last February.

“If a Muslim country like Pakistan can ban triple talaq when why cannot we? Talaq is ‘Haram’ (forbidden) in Islam and ‘Halala’ is the punishment prescribed by Mohammedan Law for it,” he said.

He further said Talaq al-bid’ah or instant triple talaq reflects pre-Islamic divorce customs rather than Quranic principles. “The Islamic law allows two waiting periods of three months before the divorce is final in order to give the husband time to reconsider his decision,” he said.

He further said being Indians, it is important to abide by the law and the constitution. “In Islam, the marriageable age of a girl is 15 years. The Indian law has prescribed 18 as the legal age of marriage and we follow it,” he said.

He said there is a general fear among the Muslim community that the BJP may try to dilute other aspects, including the inheritance claim, of the Muslim Personal Law and therefore the protests.

Tahir also was in agreement with Najma on jail term of three years under the triple talaq bill.

Against The Bill

However, social activist Sayed Barkat Ali Tanwir strongly opposes the clause in the bill that criminalises the practice with a jail term of up to three years for the husband. “This is politically-motivated. When a marriage would no longer end on pronouncing talaq trice then how is it a crime? It is only meant to harass Muslim men,” he said.

Besides making declaration of talaq-e-biddat in spoken, written or through SMS or WhatsApp or any other electronic chat illegal, the triple talaq bill gives a police officer powers to arrest the offender without requiring a warrant.

The social activist said that under the garb of giving Muslim women more rights, the NDA government has robbed them of it. “Islam prescribes phase-wise talaq and it has given more rights to its women than any other religion. A Muslim woman has the right to go for ‘khul’, a procedure through which she can divorce her husband,” he said.

Unlike Hindus, marriage in Islam is a social contract. There are procedures for amicable separations, he noted.

“Among all divorces, only 1 per cent constitutes instant triple talaq. What is the government doing about women of other religions abandoned by their husbands and the widows who are tonsured and left on the streets of Benaras?” he asked.

He also blamed the All India Muslim Personal Law Board for not taking a stand on instant triple talaq after the SC verdict on it.

Tanwir said several laws have been passed against wrong practices in the country, but they have failed to act as  deterrent. “Mob lynching is on despite law against it. Proper implementation and conviction in cases of wrongdoings are more important to create fear against taking law into one’s own hand,” he added.

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