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Home > impact on women / resistance > India: STATEMENT CONDEMNING ROLE OF RIGHT WING FORCES IN THE AFTERMATH OF (...)


Thursday 5 April 2018, by siawi3

Source: Bebaak Collective, 4.04.2018


We, Bebaak Collective and concerned individuals who have been following the triple talaq judgement in various proportions and have been associated with various social movements, urge our fellow women’s groups and human rights groups to reflect on the role of conservative right wing forces in the aftermath of the triple talaq judgment of 22nd August 2017. The honorable Supreme Court of India invalidated the practice of instant one-sided triple talaq in its three–two division bench historic judgment implying that the Muslim couple continues to be wedded even when the man utters talaq arbitrarily. However, the standing government took a step ahead and introduced a Bill criminalizing the practice and bestows power in the hands any third party to complaint against the errant husband; this is a blatant move to criminalize the community without taking cognizance of the living struggles of Muslim women or questions of their social security. This Bill is introduced without going into any participatory process of consultation with women’s groups, or with expert committee. Besides, it is leaving no stone unturned to pass the Bill, and whoever critiques government’s move is being maligned.

In the aftermath of this Bill, there is also serious backlash from various progressive voices and incessant mobilization of humongous numbers of Muslim women by conservative Muslim forces often led by AIMPLB (All India Muslim Personal Law Board) and other religious organizations, who are claiming the streets proclaiming ’Islam is in danger’ and vociferously challenges the criminalizing Bill as is introduced by the government. These images of women occupying streets bring back the memory of Shah Bano’s times when Muslim men took out rallies demanding an overturn of the Shah Bano judgement of 1986. We strongly oppose the criminalization of Bill, but are not against interference in the Muslim Personal Law, which curbs women’s rights.

While we unequivocally resist government’s move to criminalize the practice as we firmly believe that gender rights cannot be equated with criminalization of violence, we equally resist the role of conservative Muslim voices who are mobilizing women to defend the patriarchal practices and equating women’s rights with protection of the religion. Our engagement with AIMPLB has been for several years now, and it is astounding how they are mobilizing women now and did not occupy streets to protest beef ban or demand implementations of Sachar Committee report that talks about educational, livelihood and economic condition of minority women. This framing of Muslim women within the context of marriage reinforces marriage institution as the sole contention of the women’s lives and marital crisis as the primary sites of violence going beyond the economic exploitation or other structural violence that disempowers her.

We strongly believe that the right wing groups have united with various political parties and religious organizations to oppress the voices of all the progressive Muslim women who created democratic spaces for themselves, are talking differently and opposing the bill from a gender rights perspective, which is indeed away from the religious perspective and does not talk about taking pride in sharia. AIMPLB along with all other religious groups drew a conspiracy and mobilized Muslim women in the name of religion, by giving a call, Islam Khatre Mein Hai which is not just problematic but also propagandic as it sidelines the women’s issues and highlights the religious faith. Whenever women stepped and voiced their struggles, their issues have been forcibly shadowed by the arguments of ‘threat to religion’. These groups have become successful in implementing their propaganda by mobilizing women to support the rallies and post photos of themselves saying ‘My Sharia My Pride’, who claim to be progressive and feminists. This is not just saddening but also threatening to the struggles of all Muslim Women who have been fighting against the patriarchal practices that occur under the blanket of religion by questioning the Personal Law and religious groups and also repressive praxis of state sponsored violence.

We also believe that these majoritarian right wing groups feed the minoritarian right wings and give them strength to exhibit their tokenistic approach towards women’s rights by pushing away women’s voices in leadership/decision-making roles, in total. The role of AIMPLB, religious groups and political parties in the issues of Muslim women threatens the decades of Muslim Women Movement’s struggles and tries to further oppress Muslim women.

In this conundrum, government’s equating of gender rights with retribution and AIMPLB’s face as the protector of Islam poses political impasses. The right wing government threatens criminalization which inadvertently makes Muslim women more vulnerable and treats them as the pawn in their larger Hindutva agenda, the conservative voices within the community move to protect religion, equating reforms in Personal Law with debilitation of faith and religion. While each of the stakeholders shows concern for gender rights and poses numerical strength to advocate its agenda, the history of women’s movement, which has imagined and re-imagined social realities of women, is getting muted. It is the connivance of the Hindu right wing forces and the conservatives of the community that mars the complexity of Muslim women’s lived realities, discredits the female leadership of the community and also erodes the democratic spaces that have been created by them. We seek our fellow groups and concerned individuals to introspect the way things have unfolded and imagine newer ways in which gender justice can be articulated.



In Conversation With Bebaak Collective: Talking About Muslim Women’s Issues

By Megha Marik

May 30, 2017

Amongst the many groups fighting for the rights of women and especially marginalised women, Bebaak Collective tends to stand out. One might retaliate that there are so many groups fighting for women, so why would any particular group stand out, what’s the difference that they are bringing to the table? Well, the answer lies in the structure and the nature of the work that they are doing.

Bebaak Collective is a campaign group, focusing on women’s issues, but mostly issues of Muslim women. They take up issues and politicise them nationally, so as to create awareness on them and publicise them. FII got on an interview with activist and one of the main voices behind the collective, Hasina Khan, to profile the excellent work that the collective has been doing since the last couple of years.

Bebaak Collective founder Hasina Khan. (Image Credit: India Today)

MM: When and how did the idea for Bebaak Collective appear?

HK: Bebaak Collective began as a informal group of discussions. It started as a reading group where we (some of the grassroots activists) from different states met once and did readings, learning and sharing. We discuss current issues as well as topics of historical importance from an inter-sectional feminist perspective. Bebaak Collective has been a result of this collective process of learning and sharing.

MM: How did the organisation initially create awareness when it started?

HK: In our campaigns we mostly speak about structural violence which results in quotidian violence. We slowly evolved as a campaign group. We believe that because of multiple axis of caste/class/religion, women face diverse kinds of marginalisation which is a result of structural violence. In the course of women’s movement we have learnt, that importance of collective struggles and having solidarity across lives having different courses. We started working with Muslim women’s living realities and we started campaigning against unilateral triple talaq. We do not believe that abolition of triple talaq will take away the discrimination from the Muslim woman’s life but we want to focus on the questions of social security, in terms of economic rights and educational rights for women. We are one of the petitioners in Supreme Court challenging the validity of unilateral triple talaq.

MM: How do you plan your campaigns and how does the planning vary from campaign to campaign?

(Image credit Hasina Khan via The Ladies Finger)

HK: So when we were campaign against ‘Gau Rakshaks‘ (cow vigilantes) who are targeting minority communities by falsely implicating them in cow slaughter cases, we tried to politicise the issue in the media. I was personally a petitioner in the Supreme Court against the beef ban, as we know beef is a means of livelihood and a source for cheap protein for Dalits and Muslims. Our campaign around atrocities of cow vigilantes is in continuum with our protest against beef ban.

MM: Please give a brief description of your work with grassroots organisations.

HK: We work in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh with grass roots women activists working in several organisations. We meet them once in every two months and share readings, discuss various issues of historical as well as contemporary relevance. We see this interaction as a participatory learning where each one of us learn from the other and get together for collective action.

Considering there is a diminishing space for collective action because of rise of right wing forces, we believe in collectives and work towards sustaining of collectives across women’s organisations. This space of sharing, discussing and learning will forge a larger solidarity among activists who work relentlessly within the community. Our work with grassroots organisations is a process of collective learning and struggle. We work together and formulate campaigns and try to carry them in respective states. We also try to work on the newer leaders and activists emerging from the community.

(Image Credit: TwoCircles.Net)

MM: What are the biggest challenges that you have come across since the foundation of the organisation?

HK: The biggest problem for us as of now is the popular imagination of Muslim women as ‘vulnerable‘, extremely religious and abused by family. We feel the monolithic understanding of the community is a problem and that people think triple talaq is the only challenge of the community, which is a myth. We want to fight against such victimisation of Muslim women through our organisation.

MM: Which of your campaigns, according to you, have been the most impactful?

HK: We cannot name any particular campaign, but we look at our work as a sustained process which will bring change in a certain period and not overnight. It is important to understand campaigns as long drawn struggles of women’s movements and not a quick fix for any immediate problem.

MM: What are your opinions on the current controversy surrounding the Muslim Personal Law Board with regard to Triple Talaq?

HK: Our primary opinion is that triple talaq is gender discriminatory and thus it should be abolished under the constitutional rights of Muslim women. This debate should not be based on whether Muslim women are for or against the community. Secondly, we also believe that social security and equal citizenship rights must be ensured. We are one of the petitioners supporting Shyara Bano’s petition in Supreme Court to declare triple talaq as unconstitutional. Because as feminists working in the community we have learnt that triple talaq is gender discriminatory and being Indian citizens, Muslim women’s rights must be ensured.

Also Read: All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) And The Circus Around Triple Talaq

MM: Please tell us more about the national convention in 2016 in Delhi on Musalman Auroton ki Awaz: Sadak se sansad tak.

HK: As a part of our collective journey, we came up with a national convention in 2016 in Delhi with the participation of around 500 Muslim women. The convention was called, Musalman Auroton ki Awaz: Sadak se sansad tak. In the national convention, we tried to break the myths around Muslim women, that she is always burqa clad, uneducated and a ‘victim‘. This convention marked the rights of Muslim women as citizens who are otherwise only treated as a faceless vulnerable population waiting for schemes.

MM: Your documentary Tiryaaq talks about Muslim women’s leadership across the country. Please walk us through the experience of making this documentary?
(Image Credit: School Of Gender Studies TISS Hyderabad)

HK: Tiryaaq which means antidote, is a documentary about Muslim women’s leadership across the country who challenge patriarchy within the community as well as right wing forces outside it. We are not trained filmmakers. We are a group of passionate people who came together to focus on Muslim women’s leadership which is fighting against the fundamentalism inside the community as well as rising right wing forces in the country. The journey has been cathartic as well as politically charged because we were working with grassroots activists who are otherwise invisible from the national level.

MM: What are some of the current and future projects that you are undertaking?

HK: Right now we are only focusing on the triple talaq petition at the Supreme Court. The hearing is over and we are waiting for the judgement. However, we will continue to speak around the rights of Muslim women.