THOSE OPPOSING TRIPLE TALAQ BILL: HAVE THEY FORGOTTEN WHAT RAJIV GANDHI’S ILL-CONCEIVED SHAH BANO MOVE DID?

Tamil Nadu’s ruling party AIADMK says it will not support the Triple Talaq Bill brought by the government in its present form.

They are demanding to remove the clause from the bill that criminalises instant triple talaq and has provisioned a jail sentence for three years.

In addition, the proposed bill, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, also makes the practice of instant triple talaq non-bailable and cognisable offence.

BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, is opposed to the bill as its feels there are several flaws and internal contradictions and needs amendment. The party like many others in the opposition camp including Congress, are questioning the provisions on criminalisation and jail term.

CPI-M says the move by the government is ‘unwarranted and politically motivated.” Its MP Mohammed Salim said, “When the Supreme Court has already banned the triple talaq, there is no need to bring such a law. If divorce has not happened in the first place, where does the need to criminalise the act arise?”

AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi is outrightly dismissive of the bill saying it violates the Fundamental Rights and is also legally inconsistent. He even moved a notice in the Lok Sabha to oppose the bill.

Parties like SP, BSP and RJD are also opposed to the criminalisation provision, a principal demand of Congress, the largest block in the Rajya Sabha, along with the BJP. Both parties have 57 RS MPs each.

And they all are doing so to address their political constituencies. But does it really help? History tells otherwise.

THE SHAH BANO CASE

Shah Bano was 62 when she filed a court petition in Indore in April 1978 demanding maintenance from her divorced husband, a well-to-do lawyer, for herself and her five children, two daughters and three sons. The divorce was not final yet as per Islamic law. Shah Bano demanded her right to alimony, Rs 500 a month, for subsistence under the Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973 which deals with maintenance issue of wives, children and parents.

Her husband had thrown her out and was staying with his second wife. After he stopped giving the promised monthly maintenance sum of Rs 200, Shah Bano was forced to approach the court in April 1978. Irked by the move, the husband made the talaq irrevocable in November 1978 and claimed he was not liable to pay any monthly subsistence as per the Muslim personal law and what all he owned to Shah Bano was Rs 5400, the amount according to their marriage contract or Mehr.

Shah Bano won, both from the Indore local court in August 1979 and from the Madhya Pradesh High Court in July 1980. After the local court found that a meagre sum of Rs 25 a month was enough for her and her five children, she filed a petition in the high court to revise it. The high court upheld the lower court order and raised the monthly maintenance to Rs 179.20 a month. But it was still a mere pittance, much lower than Rs 500 a month demanded by Shah Bano.

Shah Bano’s husband immediately moved to the Supreme Court against the high court order. The first hearing in the Supreme Court took place in February 1981. They referred the case to a larger bench. Soon the case acquired a much larger social canvas with Muslim bodies like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind joining the case intervenors.

The matter was finally heard by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court. The Justices included India’s 16th Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud, Justice Jangnath Misra, Justice D A Desai, Justice O Chinnappa Reddy and Justice E S Venkataramiah.

They delivered a landmark ruling on 23 April 1985 that not only upheld the high court verdict but also opened the way for awakening among the Muslim women, to raise voice against their commoditization and secondary status, in nuptial agreements, in family and in society. The long fight that has resulted in the Supreme Court banning the practice of instant triple talaq and the government coming up with bill to make it a criminal offence is a testimony of that awakening as the fight was spearheaded by individual Muslim women and Muslim women organizations.

RAJIV GANDHI’S SURRENDER

As was expected to happen, the Supreme Court verdict created a storm. The Muslim clergy vehemently opposed it. They took to streets terming the judgement an encroachment upon their personal laws governed by the Shariat. Political overtones of the protests were so strong that the Rajiv Gandhi Government had to surrender finally. It enacted a law in May 1986 that overturned the Supreme Court decision.

THE PRICE CONGRESS PAID – BUT HAVE OTHERS LEARNT FROM IT?

The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of appeasement politics and overturned the Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting and afflicting millions of Muslim women, it sent out a message that the government of the day was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks.

The move by Rajiv Gandhi sent a powerful message that the Congress government that was totally appeasement centric and if it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land to appease the minorities, it could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers for this perception.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani, deposing before the Liberhan Commission on Babri Mosque demolition, in fact counted the Shah Bano case as one of the three factors that led BJP to launch the movement for Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya, “If the Shah Bano episode had not taken place, if the Government had not actively participated or facilitated the shilanyas or opened the Ram temple gates, may be this would not have weighed with us when we were thinking of the Ayodhya Resolution in 1989.”

The step that Rajiv Gandhi believed would pay political dividend, in fact, proved a major drag on his legacy and the political dividend instead went to parties like BJP and Shiv Sena. Congress started shrinking and BJP started growing. And the consequences are there for everyone to see today. BJP is now in 19 states while Congress has shrunk to just four and the party has come down to a historical low in its Lok Sabha representation. It could win just 44 seats in the 2015 General Election.

And Rajiv Gandhi did it for a social malaise that that had made lives of Muslim women a hell. 95 per cent of the arbitrarily divorced Muslim women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the BMMA reveals. The BMMA survey also says 92 per cent Muslim women want triple talaq banned.

The Lok Sabha where BJP and its allies are in absolute majority passed the bill to ban instant triple talaq on 28 December. Now the Rajya Sabha will take it up on 2nd January for discussion and passage. If BJP and Congress can reach to a compromise, then opposition by any other party will not matter.

And history says Congress would not do so, reflecting in the fact that it was, in fact, a poorly calculated decision by Rajiv Gandhi, even if under the pressure of Muslim clerics, that became one of the rallying points for Hindutva politics.

Congress, it seems, has learnt its lessons after paying a heavy price. But can we say that about others?

©SantoshChaubey

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SHAH BANO CASE: WHEN SUPREME COURT RULED THAT RELIGION IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE MAINTENANCE CASES

The proposed bill to outlaw the instant triple talaq (most used way by the Muslim men to divorce their wives by uttering talaq-talaq-talaq in one go), the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, that was passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday may have unnerved male dominated Muslim organisations, religious scholars and political leaders who are calling it anti-Shariat (hostile to the Muslim personal law) and un-Islamic, the fact is, the country’s apex court, had clearly ruled over three decades ago that religion is irrelevant for practices like divorce and the subsequent issue of maintenance for subsistence.

While delivering a landmark verdict in the Shah Bano case in 1985, Justice Y V Chandrachud, the 16th Chief Justice of India, observed that the Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1973 that deals with the issue of subsistence maintenance of wives, children and parents with provision of monthly payment included every wife irrespective of her religion, “Clause (b) of the Explanation to section 125 (1) of the Code, which defines “wife” as including a divorced wife, contains no words of limitation to justify the exclusion of Muslim women from its scope. Wife, means a wife as defined, irrespective of the religion professed by her or by her husband. Therefore, a divorced Muslim woman so long as she has not married, is a wife for the purpose of section 125.”

The former CJI emphasized that such provisions are objective and prophylactic in nature and were enacted to give protective cover to the aggrieved party, “Neglect by a person of sufficient means to maintain these and the inability of these persons to maintain themselves are the objective criteria which determine the applicability of section 125 and therefore such provisions, which are essentially of a prophylactic nature, cut across the barriers of religion.”

Countering the arguments that the verdict encroached upon the Muslim personal law, the former CJI said “true such provisions do not supplant the personal law of the parties but, equally, the religion professed by the parties or the state of the personal law by which they are governed, cannot have any repercussion on the applicability of such laws unless, within the framework of the Constitution, application is restricted to a defined category of religious groups or classes.”

Further elaborating his counter argument, Justice Chandrachud wrote in the landmark verdict, “Whether the spouses are Hindus or Muslims, Christians or Parsis, pagans or heathens is wholly irrelevant in the application of these provisions. The reason for this is axiomatic, in the sense that section 125 is a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, not of the Civil Laws which define and govern the rights and obligations of the parties belonging to particular, religions like the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the Shariat or the Parsi Matrimonial Act.”

And ruled that “the liability imposed by section 125 to maintain close relatives who are indigent is founded upon the individuals’ obligation to the society to prevent vagrancy and destitution” is the moral edict of the law and morality cannot be clubbed with religion.

Shah Bano was 62, with five children to look after, when she filed a court case for maintenance from her divorced husband in 1978. In 1985, after seven years of struggles, the Supreme Court finally upheld the verdict of the high court, recognizing her right to alimony irrespective of her being a Muslim womam as the Muslim personal law doesn’t provide for a maintenance post divorce. Instead, what it provisions is sort of one time package that the husband needs to pay for “Iddat” or the waiting period before the woman can remarry again, usually a period of three months in divorce cases.

The verdict created social storm in the Muslim community and political storm in the country. Muslim clerics were dead against it and their pressure worked when the Rajiv Gandhi government brought in the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986 next year to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. The bill, though claimed to protect the Muslim women in divorce cases, let erring Muslim husbands go scot-free again. Primacy of the ‘Iddat’ period and thus the superiority of the Muslim men were restored. And instead of giving any direct remedy to the aggrieved woman, she was forced to take a circuitous route, from her close relatives to the Waqf Board to beg for subsistence maintenance.

©SantoshChaubey

TRIPLE TALAQ BILL PASSED: WHY INDIA NEEDED TO GET RID OF THIS SOCIAL MALAISE

The article originally appeared on India Today.

If Muslim countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt have banned the practice of triple talaq, then how is banning triple talaq in India an anti-Shariat and un-Islamic activity?

The Triple Talaq Bill or the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 that was passed in the Lok Sabha has divided the political class and Muslim organisations, even if the legal fight against it was spearheaded by many aggrieved Muslim women and their organisations like the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).

The proposed bill aims to outlaw the practice of Talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq and criminalises the practice, making it a non-bailable and cognizable offence and inviting a jail term of three years for erring husbands. This provision has been objected by many parties and they are demanding its removal.

The government says, doing so was necessary as even after the landmark Supreme Court verdict on August 22, 2017 that banned instant triple talaq, the social malaise continued unabated. The top court in its verdict had put a six month ban on the practice and had asked the government to frame a law on it.

If we see available data, the government stand looks logical, the data which says the Supreme Court ruling has failed to deter the erring Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives by saying ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ in one go.

Before the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in August, 177 triple talaq cases were registered, i.e., 22 cases a month.

The situation has become worse since then. As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed in the Parliament today, around 100 triple talaq cases have been registered since the Supreme Court verdict, i.e., 25 cases a month.

POOR LITERACY LEVELS, NEGLIGIBLE WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION

Data show Muslim women are worst of all social groupings of women in India.

According to the Census 2011, Muslim women at 52 per cent are least educated among the women in India. Among those who are educated, only very few reach the graduation level as the overall share of the Muslim community among graduate students is just 2.75 per cent.

Something that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were educated till the upper primary level (around 42 per cent).

UNDERAGE MARRIAGES AND INSTANT DIVORCE: TRIPLE TALAQ IS A SOCIAL MALAISE

Census 2011 also reveals that 13.5 per cent of Muslim women are married before 15 years of age and 49 per cent between 14 to 19 years.

Overall, around 80 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 21 and most of them are either illiterate or barely literate to build independent careers.

Also, Census data shows we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in underage marriages. It seems as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a housewife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at his mere whim.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports.

Most of them were divorced orally, an instant ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ was spoken to almost 66 per cent of them.

7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows.

Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the BMMA reveals. The BMMA survey also says 92 per cent Muslim women want triple talaq banned.

The Supreme Court, while delivering its landmark decision in the Shah Bano case in 1985, that recognised a Muslim woman’s right to alimony, had commented, “Whether the spouses are Hindus or Muslims, Christians or Parsis, pagans or heathens, is wholly irrelevant in the application of the provisions on maintenance given to wife who is unable to maintain herself.”

Though the Supreme Court decision was overturned by the Rajiv Gandhi government within a year by enacting he Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, the case became a rallying point for women voices from within the Muslim community for their rights.

©SantoshChaubey

FAMILY MEMBERS BEHIND HALF OF CHILD TRAFFICKING CASES, SAYS UN-BACKED DATA STUDY

The article originally appeared on India Today.

It is a family member in almost half of the cases who forces a child into human trafficking, says a first of its kind study by the United Nations’ migration agency- the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Statistics from the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC), an IOM imitative, reveal that children are “most commonly trafficked for sexual exploitation, beggary and domestic work and are most likely to be coerced into trafficking through physical, sexual and psychological abuse”. The study emphasises on the need to have more specific prevention efforts keeping this in mind.

In India, nearly one lakh children go missing every year, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs data.

The CTDC data also reveals that a family member is more likely to target boys than girls. Statistics also say that the “family involvement is up to four times higher in cases of adult trafficking.”

The 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also corroborates this revelation confirming the insider hand of family, “Most of the time, the trafficking is not committed by highly organized criminal networks, but rather by family members, acquaintances and neighbours.”

With increasing awareness and tough legal actions, the human traffickers’ focus is shifting from women trafficking to the trafficking of men and children.

While 51 per cent of the trafficked victims are still women, the number has gone down from 66 per cent in 2006 whereas in the same period, the number of trafficked men and children has gone up from 34 per cent to 49 per cent now. For children, this figure is now 28 per cent from 22 per cent in 2006.

CTDC is the first global database on human trafficking, hosting information from across the world. It is first of its kind portal that presents to the world an open access to a repository of human trafficking data from multiple counter-trafficking agencies. The portal also hosts 80,000 case studies of human trafficking with victims from as many as 180 countries.

William Lacy Swing, IOM’s Director General says “his organization is taking a leading role in increasing the access to the critical information in order to strengthen counter-trafficking interventions” and has called on governments and other agencies to partner and step up efforts.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN SUMMONS BRITISH ENVOY OVER FREE BALOCHISTAN SLOGANS

The article originally appeared on India Today on November 3.

Pakistan today summoned the British High Commissioner to lodge its protest against “Free Balochistan” slogans on London cabs by Baloch activists. Photographs of vehicles carrying “#FreeBalochistan”, “Raise Your Voice” and “Save Baloch People” are going viral on social media.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua kept Pakistani’ government’s stand in front of the British High Commissioner Thomas Drew and called such display of anti-Pakistan slogans, a direct attack on Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. They also reminded Britain that such “sinister and malicious campaigns should not be allowed on the soil of a friendly country.”

A release by Pakistan’s Foreign Office further told that Pakistan was also raising the issue with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Britain. Baloch nationalists had run a similar campaign in Geneva in September during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which had seen similar protests from the Pakistani establishment.

The permanent representative of Pakistan to the United Nations had then written a letter to the Swiss authorities which said “The use of Swiss soil by terrorists and violent secessionists for nefarious designs against Pakistan and its 200 million people was totally unacceptable.”

HOW IMPORTANT BALOCHISTAN IS FOR PAKISTAN?

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but least developed province. It covers almost half of Pakistan and is rich in natural resources like oil, gas, gold and copper. Out of 1.3 crore inhabitants, most of its inhabitants are Baloch. The province with the Gwadar port is of strategic importance for Pakistan as it shares border with Iran and Afghanistan. The proposed economic corridor between Pakistan and China, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through many areas of the province before its destination at the Gwadar port.

BALOCH TORTURE

Baloch nationalists blame Pakistan for forcefully acceding their province and exploiting its resources at the cost of Baloch lives. Pakistani security forces are alleged to have killed thousands of Baloch people. Reports of rape, torture and disappearances are common. Baloch people say they are ethnically different from Pakistanis and are demanding freedom or autonomy to decide their own affairs. They have also criticised the CPEC which they see as yet another tool to exploit the Baloch people.

©SantoshChaubey

CHINA IS NOW FORCING UIGHUR MUSLIMS TO SURRENDER THEIR QURAN COPIES

According to Daily Mail, China has taken its crackdown on the ethnic Muslims of its border province of Xinjiang to a whole new level, targeting now even the personal religious space in the intimacy of their houses. The Xinjiang region, China’s westernmost province that borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, is home to some 11 million Uighur Muslims and other small groups of ethnic Muslims among Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Mongolian communities.

The Chinese authorities of the province are forcing the Muslims to handover the copies of Quran, Islam’s central religious text, and any other related religious symbol the Daily Mail report says.

What is more disturbing is the fact that the order also includes to surrender even the prayer mats that are used to offer Namaaz (prayer). The warnings are being issued in neighbourhoods, in mosques and through social media platforms like WeChat and non-compliance means harsh punishment.

Chinese authorities of the region earlier this year started a campaign ‘Three Illegals and One Item’ to confiscate illegal religious items. Quran copies more than five year old were being seized as authorities blamed them of having extremist content. And now this new order means a blanket ban on all Koran copies.

“Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Quran and the special mats used for Namaaz”, the Radio Free Asia (RFA) wrote on which the Daily Mail report based.

Dilxat Raxit, World Uighur Congress’ spokesman, told RFA that “reports have emerged from Kashgar, Hotan and other regions of similar practices starting last week that every single ethnic Uighur must hand in to authorities any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayer mats and anything else bearing the symbols of religion otherwise there will be harsh punishment.”

China has already banned its civil servants in the region from taking part in religious activities, even if it means fasting during Ramadan, a ban that was extended to students as well. Muslim attire like veils and religious symbols like keeping beard are already banned and authorities regularly come up with lists of overly religious and splittist Muslim names for newborns to be banned.

In April this year, authorities came up with a “List of Banned Ethnic Minority Names” that asked the Muslim parents to desist from choosing names like Muhammad, Medina, Mecca, Islam, Quran, Imam, Hajj, Jihad, Arafat and Mujahid. The directive banned over two dozen such names which could be used to fan religious and divisive agenda.

The list further expanded the one notified in 2015 which banned names like Saddam, Hussein, Laden, Fatima, Amanet, Muslime among others. The directive didn’t stop at naming the newborns only. It further said, “If your family has circumstances like this, you should change your child’s name.”

The authorities at that time had issued a warning that the Muslim families not complying with this directive would not get ‘hukou’, the registration of their households that gives them access to state benefits of childcare, health, education and employment.

Xinjiang, China’s North-western province, that is also known as Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, borders eight countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. It came on the radar of the Chinese authorities, especially after the widespread riots in its capital city Urumqi in July 2009 between the Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese that saw around 200 dead and some 2000 injured. Ethnic Han Chinese are around 40 percent of Xinxiang’s population.

China considers Islamic terrorism emanating from Xinjiang destructive enough to become a full blown separatist movement and does all to curb its spread, especially after reports that the Islamic State (ISIS) is eyeing the region to recruit fighters and expand its base.

According to Amnesty International, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, shooting and torture followed the Urumqi riots. China maintains a strong vigil in the region with large rallies of security forces to intimidate the minds who dare to think otherwise.

©SantoshChaubey

INSTANT TRIPLE TALAQ BAN IS A WELCOME MOVE BUT IT CANNOT HELP MUCH..

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, banned instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat terming it unconstitutional. It’s a big step given the menace the instant practice of triple talaq had become. If we see the suppoting data divorce trend in the Muslim community, we can see the overarching shadow of instant triple talaq.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports. And most of them were divorced orally – almost 66 per cent of them. 7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows. Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

And 95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) reveals. Though some reports have questioned contradictions in different BMMA studies, the cause of triple talaq is genuine one and we can quote BMMA reports to support arguments here.

But even if the SC decision banning instant triple talaq is historical and precedent setting, it will not help Muslim women much till their pathetic condition in the Muslim community is addressed; till triple talaq is totally abolished and like other religious communities, the Muslim divorce is also subjected mandatorily to the laws of the land; and till polygamy in the Muslim community is banned and it is placed under the Uniform Civil Code not allowing more than one marriage.

According to the Census 2011, almost 81 per cent of Muslim women are married by 21. So most of them are devoid of higher education that can ensure independent, professional career. If we split this 81 per cent further, it reveals a scenario that is even more horrible – 62.5 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 19 – an age-group for school goers mostly.

With 13.5 per cent Muslim girls married before 15, we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in under-age marriages, as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a house wife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at mere his whim. The whole Muslim community is responsible for systematically killing aspirations of Muslim women through this vicious cycle.

Something, that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

And why it would not be so. Almost half of Muslim women are still illiterate. A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were upper primary educated (around 42 per cent). And there is not much to console even after a decade of this data.

So, they are methodically made handicapped so that they cannot make their life and career on their own and when this discrimination meets the archaic, exploitative mindset of the Patriarchal Muslim community which prides in nurturing anti women practices like triple talaq, they are finally pushed to a life of no existence.

The apex court has banned instant triple talaq but Muslim man can still say talaq, talaq, talaq spread over three months and his wife cannot go to a court against it. The prevailing Muslim law doesn’t allow her. Banning instant triple talaq may help in cases of impulsive decisions but what about decisions that reek of designs in making?

Muslim men, free from the fear of legal tentacles, will still use their arbitrary might in throwing Muslim women out of their lives if they have decided. The only solution to this is the legal dissolution of Muslim marriages with court driven legal mandates, like happens in other communities.

Polygamy in the Muslim community adds another worrying dimension to it. Suppose the community, through social interventions and pressure, reforms it to the extent that Muslim men start avoiding divorcing their wives through the triple talaq route.

But what about the inherent countermove it involves. As a Muslim man is allowed to practice polygamy, i.e., having more than one wife, he will simply ignore the wife whom he wanted to divorce through triple talaq and can very well go his other wife (wives) that will make the life of the woman even more miserable.

She cannot go to social institutions. She cannot go to courts. And as she has not been divorced yet by her husband, even if her married life has already been broken, she will find it difficult to reach out even to her immediate family.

©SantoshChaubey

KULBHUSHAN JADHAV CASE EFFECT? GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG SLAMS PAKISTAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an international human rights watchdog with eminent jurists and legal experts as its members from all over the world, has slammed Pakistan for failing to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the country ratified in 2010.

According to the ICJ, this is the first time that the UN Human Rights Committee, an independent body of experts that is mandated to monitor ICCPR’s implementation, has reviewed Pakistan’s human rights track record since it became signatory in 2010. The review was done on July 11-12 and its recommendations were released yesterday.

Though the recommendations don’t make a direct reference to Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national who has been given death sentence by one of Pakistan’s military courts, it can be said that the issue was on the discussion table while carrying out a review of human rights in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s military courts have been decried by every global human rights body and they gained further global infamy with the ongoing hearing in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in the International Court of Justice. India has appealed against Pakistan in the International Court of Justice which has stayed Jadhav’s hanging till its final decision.

Jadhav was abducted by Taliban from Iran’s border areas while on a business trip and was reportedly sold to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The government of Pakistan and its army made him, a retired Indian Navy officer, a part of their anti-India propaganda by declaring him a spy, tried him in secrecy in Pakistan’s military courts, denying every Indian request for consular access to him, and passed a judgment to hang him.

Among the recommendations made, there are specific strictures asking Pakistan to reform its military courts, “and bring them into full conformity with Articles 14 and 15 of the Covenant to ensure a fair trial”. Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR deal with ensuring transparency in legal proceeding in criminal matters which among other guidelines, require the state to provide the accused counsel of his own choosing and forbids the state from taking his forced confession.

The ICCPR does provide a provision for a private hearing but it specifically says that “any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.”

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE ASKS PAKISTAN TO REFORM MILITARY COURTS

The UN Human Rights Committee has asked Pakistan to reform its military courts as per the provisions of the Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR. It is necessary for every signatory of the ICCPR to implement the treaty and submit an implementation report on every provision. Though Pakistan had submitted its report in 2015, the review was carried out this month only, listing all the prevailing concerns regarding human rights’ violations in Pakistan with inputs from other sources.

The UN committee’s recommendations also ask Pakistan to “review legislation relating to the military courts with a view to abrogating their jurisdiction over civilians as well as their authority to impose the death penalty.” Kulbhushan Jadhav has been given death sentence under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act which is defined as “the Section for Civil Offences” and gives Pakistan’s military courts power to award capital punishments in the garb of national security.

The ICJ release, quoting Livio Zilli, its Senior Legal Adviser and UN Representative, says, “It is deeply worrying that since ratifying the ICCPR, Pakistan’s human rights situation has worsened in a number of aspects, including with the restoration of the death penalty and the introduction of military trials for civilians.”

PAKISTAN’S MILITARY COURTS

Pakistan had established military courts in 2015 with a constitutional amendment to try people for terrorism and related offences committed in civilian areas after the December 2015 Peshawar school massacre and in March 2017 its parliament voted for another two years extension to them.

Since their establishment, the military courts have an absolute record of convictions with no acquittals. According to the Pakistan’s military, the military courts have convicted 274 people in last two years, 161 of them being sentenced to death and 113 to varying prison terms.

KULBHUSHAN JADHAV’S CASE

On April 10, the Pakistan Army chief confirmed Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence given by a Pakistani military court that held Jadhav guilty of espionage. Pakistan claims Jadhav, who allegedly used the alias Hussein Mubarak Patel in Pakistan, was attached to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Pakistan made Jadhav’s arrest public in March 2016.

India has maintained that Jadhav is innocent and there is no evidence against him and that Pakistsan carried out a sham, secret trial in a military court where no information on charges and evidence was given. India has warned Pakistan of ‘dire consequences’ equalling Jadhav’s death sentence with pre-meditated murder.

©SantoshChaubey

LIU XIAOBO IS NO MORE: CHINA KILLS ITS MOST RECOGNIZED DISSIDENT VOICE

Liu Xiaobo, 61, a university professor turned human rights activist, who was China’s most known figure raising voice for democracy and political reforms in a country fettered in autocratic chains of one-party dictatorial regime since 1950 has died from terminal liver cancer while in custody. He was China’s leading dissident voice and human rights activist.

Liu Xiaobo had been a cynosure for the Chinese power elite ever since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician. China had arrested him four times – the last in 2008. He was detained in December 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for inciting subversion of state power.

The world tried to sent China a message by selecting him for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China, a hell for human rights and political reform activists, responded to the decision saying the decision was totally wrong and unacceptable and started threatening countries to boycott the Award Ceremony on December 10, 2010. The Nobel Award ceremony was held with an empty chair representing him.

The power elite of the Chinese Communist Party moved swiftly to crush the every possible mention of Liu Xiaobo in China. They put Liu’s wife Liu Xia under house arrest the very day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision, i.e., October 8, 2010. She has been languishing in such forced conditions since then amid repeated calls by the international community to release her, a call that has got a renewed urge after demise of Liu.

China systematically killed Liu by incarcerating him in tough prison conditions and denying him the medical care that he required, something that deteriorated his health to life threatening condition ultimately. Domestic protests and international outrage mean nothing for China, death of Liu from terminal liver cancer once again proves. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has termed the death as premature and saying that China bears a heavy responsibility for it.

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu was first to any Chinese while still being in China and with his death in captivity, he has become also the first Nobel Peace laureate die in custody in almost eight decades. Before him, German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1935, had died in Nazi custody in 1938.

©SantoshChaubey

LIU XIAOBO IS NO MORE: CHINA HAS KILLED ITS MOST RECOGNIZED DISSIDENT VOICE

He who was China’s most known figure raising voice for democracy and political reforms in a country fettered in autocratic chains of one-party dictatorial regime since 1950.

He was China’s leading dissident voice and human rights activist.

He had been a cynosure for the Chinese power elite ever since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician. China had arrested him four times – the last in 2008. He was detained in December 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for inciting subversion of state power.

The world tried to sent China a message by selecting him for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China, a hell for human rights and political reform activists, responded to the decision saying the decision was totally wrong and unacceptable and started threatening countries to boycott the Award Ceremony on December 10, 2010. The Nobel Award ceremony was held with an empty chair representing him.

The power elite of the Chinese Communist Party moved swiftly to crush the every possible mention of Liu Xiaobo in China. They put Liu’s wife Liu Xia under house arrest the very day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision, i.e., October 8, 2010. She has been languishing in such forced conditions since then amid repeated calls by the international community to release her, a call that has got a renewed urge after demise of Liu.

China systematically killed Liu by incarcerating him in tough prison conditions and denying him the medical care that he required, something that deteriorated his health to life threatening condition ultimately. Domestic protests and international outrage mean nothing for China, death of Liu from terminal liver cancer once again proves. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has termed the death as premature and saying that China bears a heavy responsibility for it.

I had written in article in 2010 on what a Peace Nobel to Chinese human rights and pro-democracy activist meant – for Chinese society, for China’s power elite and for China’s pro-democracy activists.

I am sharing these articles here, with a more authoritative China under a more authoritative dictator, Ji Xinping, who has declared himself a ‘core leader’ like Mao Zedong and is working to make his power absolute in China – antithesis to the core body of thought that was behind the decision to award Peace Nobel to Liu Xiaobo.

These seven years have been a letdown for human rights and political reforms in China. But the big catch is China’s economic stagnation. It’s economy is slowing down and that is forcing the Chinese government to find new markets for its companies and new markets for its huge manufacturing base back home, in order to meet the expectations of its 1.37 billion strong population.

That, in turn, is forcing China to integrate more into global economy. All its attempts to forge global trade and climate alliances and trying to push its hegemony are half-baked attempts to that. That is bound to have a cost for the Chinese power elite. Increasingly, it will become difficult for a more globally involved China to do stuff like Tiananmen Massacre or incarcerating Liu Xiaobo or Ai Weiwei because China will not be in a position to face global isolation as that may push its dissident domestic factors beyond control.

Yes, it is not going to happen in near future. But evolution is a long-term process. Silence socially doesn’t mean people are not reacting. Spiral of silence may build up for years, depending on the dynamics of a country, before it leads to explosion of people’s anger.

CHINA’S DISSIDENCE ON PEACE NOBEL TO A ‘DISSIDENT’: WHAT’S ON STAKE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS – I

A mighty state machinery goes into thinking mode based on some media inputs and its intelligence briefing. It anticipates some mobilization and prepares a control plan. A house is cordoned off. A lady is put under virtual house arrest. A counter speech is prepared in case the intelligence input gains ground.

Welcome to China, country of 2010 Nobel peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Liu is China’s first Nobel laureate who remained there to face the state’s wrath.

It was a day when China joined the league of Burma, Iran, cold-war era USSR or Hitler era Germany in denouncing the person honouring the most serious recognition for efforts to bring the positive change – the Peace Nobel.

It was a day when the Nobel Peace Committee didn’t throw any ‘hard to swallow surprises’ like last year decision to award Peace Nobel to Barack Obama.

It was a day when ‘aspiration’ prevailed over ‘achievement’. Less than expected performance of Obama during last one year in office is any indication?

It was a day when Gandhian values of non-violence and ‘human-first’ prevailed again.

On 8th October 2010, when the Nobel Peace Committee announced the prize for Xiaobo, a human rights activist and a cynosure for the Chinese since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician, it was on the expected line.

Dr Sima Samar, the Afghan human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo, Democratic Voice of Burma and Special Court for Sierra Leone were the most talked about contenders for this year Peace Nobel. And all these names suggested one thing, that the Nobel Peace Committee had taken note of its last year’s ‘hard to explain’ decision and was wary of inviting any controversy this year.

All these most talked about contenders this year have an inspiring tale of commitment and contribution and they give wings to aspire for more. Dr Sima Samar is head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. She has had a long history of working on human rights issues and is considered a strong female voice in a country like Afghanistan that has virtually no female rights. It becomes important in the wake of recent reports that Taliban are in talks with the Karzai government to end the civil war there. Democratic Voice of Burma is not-for-profit organization based in Norway that equips journalists to work clandestinely and beam programmes into the iron-curtained Burma, both on radio as well as TV waves. Special Court for Sierra Leone was established court in 2002 after the Sierra Leone government requested the United Nations in 2000 to establish an independent court to try the faces responsible for the civil war in Sierra Leone that broke in 1996.

An argument doing rounds was Liu Xiaobo had lesser chances as 2008 would be the ideal year when the prize should have been announced for him, the year when China held the biggest soft power projection spectacle, the Beijing Olympics, the year when Liu Xiaobo co-authored the famed ‘Charter 08’, an ‘allegedly incriminating’ document as the China mouth organs put it. Ideally that would have given Liu more space to be heard in a country where he does not have the following he deserves except a courageous section of the intelligentsia.

But, still a Peace Nobel to Liu means many significant things for the parties involved – Liu himself, Chinese like Liu, Chinese other than the Chinese elite, China, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and the humanity.

CHINA’S DISSIDENCE ON PEACE NOBEL TO A ‘DISSIDENT’: WHAT’S ON STAKE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS – II

For Liu Xiaobo: Liu is like a committed Gandhian soldier who employs non-violent means to pursue his larger than life efforts for humanity, to contribute to the process of change. Values like freedom of speech, human rights, democracy are its present day parameters in a post-colonial world. He has endured state sponsored hardship during the 22 years of his activist life that includes the most severe punishment meted out to anyone after ‘challenging state’s writ and inciting subversion’ was included in the Chinese Criminal Code in 1996. He is no Gandhi or Mandela, but he seems to have a vision like them.

At personal level, it will be a big boost for his moral strength to continue with his struggle. The argument, that his limited following may altogether cease to exist as the Chinese government will now ruthlessly pursue the mission to kill any perception related to the name ‘Liu Xiaobo’, may boomerang. The intense cyber activity and widespread Chinese Diaspora will make it hard for any state attempt to stop the spread of word of mouth, and that too in country that has largest number of internet surfers crossing the 400 million mark. In the changed circumstances, the possibility that the Liu Xiaobo is bound to gain ground seems more opportune. After all, we did have differing versions of the Tiananmen massacre; we did have clearer versions of the Chinese crushing of Tibetan and Uighur movement; we did have this to witness the China government on the back-foot, many a times, in the Google row; after all, we did have version of Liu Xia who has been able to express the displeasure on Chinese panic and expression of shock; after all, we did have reports of Chinese arresting Liu Xia. It’s a changed time, even for the middle kingdom.

And why call Liu a dissident. He is more of a proponent of positive change. Perhaps it is not the Charter 08 but the ghost of Charter 77 that toppled Eastern European governments in the pro-democracy wave after it was framed in 1977. The panic shown by a defiant China shows this only.

For China, democracy has a different definition: Off late, there has been much media debate, locally as well as globally about Wen Jiabao’s comments on political restructuring and democracy. But all this talk is within the realm of maintaining ‘one-party’ supremacy and here China finds people like Xiaobo difficult to assimilate in its fold who demand the universal definition of democracy to be applied. One of the demands in the ‘Charter 08’ is establishment of the multi-party system in China, a blasphemy by the standards of the Chinese elite of the day.

Though having a very narrow spectrum, the economic liberalization has started making a dent in the Chinese fortress of one way entry and government fears voices like Liu may give fuel to the unrest that is already being reported. Let’s come to some economic indicators and what they foretell about China of tomorrow.

In 1978, when China opened up its economy, its rural and urban per-capita income was $19.6 and $50.3 that shot to $606.2 and $2018.4, respectively, in 2007. According to latest World Bank figures, the current Chinese per capita income is $3,590. Though impressive growth, the perception about its prowess and mighty status, militarily as well as economically, that the world’s most populous country has been very deliberately developing since 1978, has an inherent risk and it makes people like Xiaobo even more relevant and the decision to award him Peace Nobel a proper one.

China’s per capita income was 2.52% of that of US in 1980 that improved to the level of 4.05% of US per capita income in 2005. Current per capita income of US is around $40,000. So the gap is huge. Chinese rulers are feeding its middle class base with a dream of life of luxury in the days ahead when China will be the world’s largest economy. It is already the second largest when it overtook Japan the last quarter. China’s GDP for the last quarter totalled to $1.337 trillion (compared to Japan’s $1.288 trillion) that is 90 times bigger than what China had in 1978. The dream to chase and bridge this gap is presently the prevailing nationalist sentiment among the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Their income is growing and no doubt, China has tried to distribute the gains to its rural areas too, and where its corrupt system has failed it. Here we need to remember the treatment meted out to the poor while evicting them out of Shanghai and Beijing.

Even by the most liberal estimates, here China might fail in the coming future. Once people are fed-up of what they have achieved, they look for the next level. And the problem is, the swift pace of change in recent times ($2018.4 per capita income to $3,590 in just three year) has made the middle class sentiment change even swifter. The economy growth is bound to slow down and even stagnate in coming years. But, by then China will have a middle class thriving on technological sophistication, connected more to the world and to the Diaspora, and demanding for more and more. When such a huge and aspiring middle class doesn’t get its ends met, it starts questioning the state policies. And given their large population base, it seems like an unachievable task for countries like India and China to surpass the per-capita income of developed countries, if we talk in terms of the perceivable future.

The system that China has right now cannot handle it as it has fed its people with a very glossy future, to the very same people who have survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its factory and rationing system. Anyone who is aware of China’s factory system and the social habitation built around it very well knows about its darkness. Chinese middle class will do anything to run away from it. They cannot not be treated like they were before 1978. But in a crisis situation now, they won’t have any alternatives to look for to express their dissatisfaction, like in a democracy, and that is bound to fuel the unrest. Alternative was out of question way back in 1978. But, is China of the day in a situation to adopt crushing tactics like the Tiananmen? Certainly not. It needs to give its citizens options in case of unrest and it has to decide its formations and configuration.

A crisis situation is handled well by a country when it believes in its subjects, the citizens, or to say more aptly a democracy, that China is not. It can begin a process by assimilating voices like Liu in the mainstream. It should welcome its first Nobel Prize as a way forward to propagate a healthy national debate on political reforms. Economical and political reforms have to be complimentary otherwise China may fall due to its own weight. It cannot have the definition of democracy that it is trying to propagate in the name of political reforms. It needs to have a democracy like that propounded in the ‘Charter 08’.

Otto Hermann Kahn has very rightly said: The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied.

CHINA’S DISSIDENCE ON PEACE NOBEL TO A ‘DISSIDENT’: WHAT’S ON STAKE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS – III

It is 52 days; 52 days since October 8, 2010. It took 52 days for the Chinese state machinery to crush the Tiananmen Moment of 1989 culminating in June 5 bloodbath from a humble beginning as civilian gathering on April 15, 1989.

So what all China has done in these 52 days this time? Certainly it’s not another Tiananmen of 1989 but it can be precursor of something like what came out of mourning after death of Hu Yaobang in 1989.

The 52 days since the Peace Nobel announcement to Liu Xiaobo has seen a frenetic activity by the Chinese government that tells that the Chinese elite mindset has not changed since the days of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement. The uprising then had acquired a loud and potent formation with its wide outreach and was meted out with an equally crushing and demeaning spread of totalitarian tentacles subsequently. The seed of a potential uprising this time is subtle and it is there, yes the seed may take longer to germinate here because the change now is happening amidst a conundrum of economic, social and political parameters that the Chinese policymakers are still trying to understand.

Not much insight is needed but a keen observation to the response of the Chinese state machinery and of its elite since October 8.

It has virtually arrested Liu Xia – no communication means available. It has cracked down on the members of Chinese intelligentsia who dared speak positively about Liu’s Nobel, arresting some, making some pariah by clipping their wings, defaming them by using its state sponsored propaganda machinery (what else one can expect when you have the whole media acting as your mouth organ – no doubt the huge investment that the Chinese media industry saw was never to get its return), cracking down on communication and social networking means of some, threatening the country’s masses with direct and indirect consequences of even thinking about the name Liu Xiaobo, extending it to other countries through its coercive and threatening diplomacy.

How else we can have a Nobel Committee alleging a country of year’s Nobel recipient of sabotaging the Prize Ceremony as six countries including Russia (no need to mention China) have shown their inability to join the function? December 10 has still 12 more days to go and expect more muscle juggling of China’s coercive diplomacy externally and an over-alert internal security system internally.

What all these tell? Something ominous!

Yes, ominous for the Chinese elite but symbolically opportune for the Chinese masses with its emerging classes and it is interestingly foretelling for the world community.

And what are these factors? The similar ones already discussed in previous two parts of this write-up, a burgeoning middle class, new classes within the class-less Chinese society, their growing connectivity and communication freedom and hence their growing demands of a life, always to be bettered in terms of what a ‘standard quality of life’ means universally.

What all it says of what all that China has done in these 52 days for other stakeholders – – Chinese like Liu, Chinese other than the Chinese elite, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and the humanity – of the decision to award the Peace Noble to Liu Xiaobo!

Amnesty has stated – “As we’re doing right now, there’ll be increased attention paid not only to Liu Xiaobo, but also many of the dozens of other activists who have spoken out, worked really tirelessly, been jailed for promoting freedom of expression, for promoting respect for human rights. The international community will hopefully pay greater attention to the fact that Liu Xiaobo is not alone, in fact, in the activities that he’s been conducting.”

©SantoshChaubey