Sunday, 26 March 2017

Muslim women voting for Yogi Adityanath should be the last nail in the coffin of triple talaq

It is claimed that many Muslim women in UP voted for Yogi Adityanath's BJP. Yes, the Yogi whose supporters, in his presence, asked Hindus to excavate graves of Muslim women and rape their dead bodies. They voted him, it is said, because Adityanath promised to protect them from the scrouge of triple talaq.

If there is even an iota of truth in this claim it should have dealt a huge blow along the spine, if they have any, of the community compelling them to seriously work on the issue of triple talaq and other laws and practices oppressive and unjust to women.

I don't see any reasons to disbelief this claim as something similar happened during the first part of 20th century. This was before passing of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939. Muslim law as it was practised at that time didn't provide for ways to get rid of husbands even if it was not possible for the women to continue to live with their husbands except by committing suicide, or becoming apostate. The later was far more easier as Christian missionaries also came to their rescue. Women only need to utter some words declaring their unbelief of Islam. Muftis would declare them apostate and consequently their marriages dissolved. Women increasingly resrted to this device.

This dealt a huge blow to the Muslim leaders and intellectuals of the time. The philosopher and poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal led a campaign for reforms of relevant parts of the Muslim law forcing a conservative Deobandi Mufti like Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi to revise the laws/fatwas. In 1931, after several years of extensive consultations with muftis in India and abroad, he published a long fatwa entitled "al-Hilat al-Najiza li'l-Halilat al-'Ajiza" (A Successful Legal Device for the Helpless Wife). In the revised fatwa, Maulana Thanvi argued that apostasy did not annul the marriage contract and could not be used as a legal device. He agreed that judicial divorce might be used to provide relief to Hanafi Muslim women, invoking Maliki doctrine in support of this point. (See Muhammad Khalid Masud, "Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and Their Fatwas" (Harvard University Press, 1996) Chapter Sixteen, pp. 193-203.)

This booklet provided the basis of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939. The Act provides for ten grounds for Muslim women to obtain a decree of the dissolution of marriage from a court of law. A decree for dissolving marriage made avaialable for the reasons that for a term of four years the particulars about the husband are unknown, the woman has been abandoned by the husband or he failed to provide maintenance for the woman for a term of two years, the husband has married another woman contravening the provisions of Muslim Family laws Ordinance, 1961, the husband has been subject to imprisonment for a term of seven years or more etc., the nonperformance of marital obligations, impotency, insanity, leprosy, virulent venereal disease, cruelty etc. or any other legal causes can be taken as ground for getting divorce. This Act is still in force.

It is obvious that this time there is no Muslim intellectual who has the courage to follow the foot steps of Allama Iqbal and lead a campaign and force the likes of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi to revisit the laws and abolish triple talaq and polygamy.


Friday, 3 July 2015

Assam: Farce of NRC updation may lead millions to statelessness

Updating process of NRC (National Register of Citizens) is going on in Assam. Those who have their names in 1951 NRC, any electoral rolls issued upto 1971 or any other of the 14 documents mentioned in application form are eligible to be included in the updated NRC.

Parts of 1951 NRC and some electoral rolls of pre-1971 period have been made available online and termed "legacy data".

The NRC which is under preparation is not a new NRC. It is an updating process of 1951 NRC which was prepared on the basis of census data of 1951. However, section 15 of the Census Act, 1948 says that records of census are not admissible in evidence notwithstanding anything contrary in the India Evidence Act, 1872. Moreover, 1951 NRC data for many areas of the state are not available. Not prepared at all or subsequently destroyed.

Not all electoral rolls upto 1971 are available. Only electoral rolls of 1966 and 1971 have been made available online. But they also don't cover the whole of Assam. For many areas electoral roll of 1966 is not available.
Legacy data for the districts of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills, the Naga Hills and the Mizo Hills, which were part of Assam until they were separated in 1972 are not made available.

Apart from variations in spelling of the names and other anomalies in legacy data it has now came to light that names of many people are not found. Adivasi organisations are claiming that around 80% of their people does not have names in legacy data while authorities says that only about 10% does not have. My guesstimate is that about 20% of people of all communities may not find their names in legacy data.

The other 14 documents that can be submitted must be pre-1971 origin. How can one accept that poor people of villages in this flood affected state to preserve their pre-1971 papers. Assam is the state with highest IDPs in the world. Then, there are lakhs of landless and homeless people.

This farce of updation of NRC based on an inadmissible document, if carried to its conclusion and is taken as the basis of citizenship, may drive about 20% of about 31 million people to statelessness.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Supreme Court diecrtives regarding arrest of accused by police for offences punishable with seven years imprisonment or less

Supreme Court Guidelines regarding arrests of the accused by the police in cases punishable with 7 years imprisonment or less issued Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar and Another (Criminal Appeal No. 1277 of 2014):

1.All the State Governments to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down above flowing from Section 41Cr.PC;

2. All police officers be provided with a check list containing specified sub- clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii);

3. The police officer shall forward the check list duly filed and furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest, while forwarding/producing the accused before the Magistrate for further detention;

4. The Magistrate while authorising detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer in terms aforesaid and only after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorise detention;

5. The decision not to arrest an accused, be forwarded to the Magistrate within two weeks from the date of the institution of the case with a copy to the Magistrate which may be extended by the Superintendent of police of the district for the reasons to be recorded in writing;

6. Notice of appearance in terms of Section 41A of Cr.PC be served on the accused within two weeks from the date of institution of the case, which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police of the District for the reasons to be recorded in writing;

7. Failure to comply with the directions aforesaid shall apart from rendering the police officers concerned liable for departmental action, they shall also be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted before High Court having territorial jurisdiction.

8. Authorising detention without recording reasons as aforesaid by the judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court.

9. We hasten to add that the directions aforesaid shall not only apply to the cases under Section 498-A of the I.P.C. or Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the case in hand, but also such cases where offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years; whether with or without fine.

10. We direct that a copy of this judgment be forwarded to the Chief Secretaries as also the Director Generals of Police of all the State Governments and the Union Territories and the Registrar General of all the High Courts for onward transmission and ensuring its compliance.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sex work: To criminalize or to decriminalize?

National Commission for Women is pushing for a bill to legalise sex work. Activists argue that it will not address the problems faced by the women in flesh trade. According to them, it will increase the exploitation of sex workers by those who manage brothels as well as by the law-enforcement officials, as it is happening now. They are concerned that in a country like India where farmers are driven to commit suicide and tea workers are literally dying of hunger, legalisation of sex work will increase trafficking in women and children. It will be difficult to determine who are forced into the trade and who have freely chosen it as an occupation when they are living in a condition of famine and slavery.

By the way, speaking of free choice, I am reminded of the public stand of present NCW chief on the matter. She is on record saying that women should not assert their autonomy because they may face backlash from the biased society. It is another matter that the statutory body headed by her is mandated to protect the rights of women against the prejudices of society and not the other way around.

This NCW wants to legalise sex work apparently to protect rights and interests of women in the trade.

However, before we take any legislative actions we need to understand what is involved in flesh trade and how it is infringing rights of women.

Radical feminists hold that prostitution and pornography are aspects of male violence against women. Not only the individual women involved are subjected to degrading treatments and dehumanisation but the women as a collective is dehumanised by the practice of prostitution and pornography.

However, I feel more inclined to agree with the understanding of prostitution by the Swedish lawmakers. They say "In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem... gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them."

And their solution?

In 1999, after years of research and study, Sweden passed a legislation that a) criminalizes the buying of sex, and b) decriminalizes the selling of sex.

I think India can effectively deal with the problem in Swedish way.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Stopping supply of subsidised foodgrains for tea workers causes serious concerns

The Union Government of India has decided to stop supply of subsidised foodgrains for tea garden workers through FCI.*
This is a very very unfortunate development. It may cause mass starvation deaths of tea workers in Assam. Particularly in those tea estates which are closed now.
Even in the gardens which are producing, labourers are paid as less as Rs 75/- per day. It is barely possible to maintain physical existence of a family of 4/5 persons on this money. They get some help from ICDS, MGNREGA and PDS rations. If MGNREGA is reduced and ration is stopped there is nothing to stop mass starvation deaths, I am afraid.
In a span of a few months in 2012/13 we documented as many as 32 hunger deaths in a single tea estate in South Assam. The estate was closed. After our intervention it was opened. A compensation to the tune of Rs 1700000/- was provided to the next of kins of some of the deceased workers. Some other ameliorative actions were also taken. It was a temporary relief in practical sense. Technically the government closed the chapter.
During documentation we came to know that due to the closure of the work provisions of government subsidised rations were also stopped. The foodgrains were provided to the owner of the tea gardens under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and who in turn distributed it to the workers who were the intended beneficiaries.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) heard and disposed of our complaint about these hunger deaths in its camp sitting in Guwahati last year. In the second day of the camp, the commission had a sitting with the local human rights defenders where I raised the issue and among other things I specifically stressed that the ration should be directly given to the labourers through their panchayats and not through the owners. The commission apparently was convinced and directed the officials present (a deputy home secretary and others) orally to consider my proposal. Though the state government kept giving us assurances but no change in the practice was made.
And now the Modi government decided to stop altogether the supply of rations to the labourers.
I am really very concerned about the tea labourers of Assam.
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* As reported by the Assam Tribune accessed at  http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=dec0414/at053