Muslim Women’s Rights Day: Celebration of an anti-minority, anti-women, anti-constitutional law

Following the announcement by Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, declaring Aug 1 as ‘Muslim Women’s Rights Day’ to mark the anniversary of the Triple Talaq law, over 650 including women activists, rights activists, academics, and students issued a joint statement, condemning and rejecting the cynical optics of using Muslim women’s rights, in the face of an unprecedented onslaught against the rights of the Muslims in recent years under the present government.

The statement voices strong opposition to declaring 1 August as Muslim Women’s Rights Day, calling it the celebration of a law that is fundamentally anti-minority, anti-women, anti-constitutional, and seeks only to disparage the Muslim community.

It said: “We collectively, as citizens of India – Muslim and non-Muslim women, men and trans persons across castes and regions – reject the cynical optics of a ‘Muslim Women’s Rights Day’ by a government intent on reducing all Muslims to second-class citizens.”

“This government that has worked to ceaselessly one by one, decimate the constitutional rights of Muslims in India, now has the temerity to declare Muslim Women’s Rights Day on August 1. This, to celebrate its passage of its purportedly Anti-Triple Talaq law (Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019), that claimed to protect Muslim women’s rights, but in reality, had a more sinister purpose – to show Muslim men their place in a new India. To tell them that they can be criminalized even in civil matters,” read the statement

The critics call the Triple Talaq law an abomination. The statement further states: “It was then, and still is, nothing but a charade. Because no such law was needed to ‘protect Muslim women, or secure their rights’ since the Supreme Court had already struck the Triple Talaq down. So, we voiced our opposition when the law was passed in Parliament in 2019, stating that – ‘You cannot pretend to save Muslim women while seeking to bring the Muslim community to its knees.’ The sentiment is as true today as it was then.”

The signatories include writer Farah Naqvi, former member of the Planning Commission of India Syeda Hameed, scholars Zoya Hassan, Ayesha Kidwai, Ghazala Jamil and Nivedita Menon, activists Aruna Roy, Mohini Giri, Hasina Khan, Teesta Setalvad and Shabnam Hashmi, writer Apoorvanand, Congress leader Maskoor Usmani, left politicians Annie Raja, Subhashini Ali and Kavitha Krishnan and JNU student leader Afreen Fatima.

Narendra Modi’s government has diluted Muslims’ rights to citizenship by enacting the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), alleged the statement. It said: “The very Muslim women, in whose name you have declared August 1 as a day of “their rights” invited their government, even begged their government, to talk to them when they were out on the streets, protesting the CAA-NPR-NRC, in a desperate bid to save their future, their children’s future, their family’s future, in their own country. You responded to those Muslim women with utter contempt of silence. Without even the pretense of the democratic dialogue.”

The statement further states: “This government instead mercilessly arrested those who protested the CAA-NRC-NPR under antiterror laws like UAPA. It jailed Muslim women who dared to take to their streets to protect their rights to citizenship. It has deprived Muslim women of their youthful children, who languish today in jails. It has deprived Muslim women of husbands, who are incarcerated. It has placed in detention centers Muslim women, men, children, and trans persons who could not produce “citizenship papers” in Assam. This government has remained silent as Muslims have been lynched, and its leaders have garlanded the lynchers. The BJP both at the center and through its state governments has determinedly “gone after” Muslims under myriad laws, both old, new, and proposed – beef bans, anti-conversion, including the recent Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, and its proposed U.P. Population Control Bill. It has systematically tried to rob Muslims of their right to livelihood, and Muslim women of their agency.”

The strong-worded statement also accused the saffron party’s government of remaining silent as men exhorted mobs to rape Muslim women (most recently in Pataudi).

“It has remained silent, without a single comment, tweet or tear, as Muslim women’s bodies have become the object of “Sulli Deals” by right-wing online mobs.”

Muslim women in prisons

28-year-old Gulfisha was arrested on the basis of an FIR on the Jaffrabad sit-in protest against CAA on 9 April 2020 and slapped with the draconian UAPA on 18 April 2020 along with Jamia Millia Islamia student leaders Safoora Zargar and Meeran Haider in connection with the Delhi violence conspiracy case. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

The statement signed by more than 650 people also talks about the Muslim women activists who were targeted by the government.

“What we demand is the release of Gulfisha Fatima and Ishrat Jahan, both Muslim women, from unjust incarceration,” the document said. Gulfisha and Jahan are currently in Tihar jail under draconian UAPA in northeast Delhi violence conspiracy case.

The statement went on to say: “On behalf of Sabiha Ilyas, a Muslim woman, we demand the release of her son, Umar Khalid from unjust incarceration. On behalf of Nargis Saifi, a Muslim woman, we demand the release of her husband Khalid Saifi from unjust incarceration. On behalf of Afshan Rahim, a Muslim woman, we demand the release of her son, Sharjeel Imam from unjust incarceration. On behalf of Fatima Nafees, a Muslim woman, we ask you to find her son, Najeeb. On behalf of Raihanath Kappan, a Muslim woman, we ask you to release her husband, Siddique Kappan from incarceration. On behalf of Ayesha Sultana, a Muslim woman, charged with sedition for stating that officials must follow Covid protocols in Lakshadweep, we ask you to unconditionally drop all charges. On behalf of Safoora Zargar, a Muslim woman, we ask that she, like all other Muslim activists, lawyers, journalists, students, be freed of the false and malicious cases filed against them by this government. There is a long such list, Mr. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.”

“After you have done that, please then sit with us. With all of us, Muslim and Non-Muslim women, men, and transpersons, who believe in our democracy and its promise of equality. And then we can discuss
that appropriate day of ‘declaration’ in the future when Muslim women feel their rights are secure,
and they want the whole nation to celebrate their rightful and visible place in this democracy,” concludes the document.