The Modi Regime, Triple Talaq and the Dalit Christian Question

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The jubilation is appropriate, as Muslim women celebrate their salvation from the Damocles’ Sword of Instant Triple Talaq, or Talaq-e-Bidet. Mr Amit Shah has claimed credit on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and his boss, Mr Narendra Modi, the prime minister. The two are arguably no paragons of gender virtue in life, but the pair had used, or abused, the issue of Instant Triple Talaq as a major weapon in their arsenal against the combined opposition, first in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, and then in the Uttar Pradesh state legislature polls earlier this year which catapulted the poisoned tongued godman, Yogi Adityanath to the chief minister’s throne. The issues of Triple Talaq, allegations of Polygamy, finally Love Jihad and the virulent beef campaign, polarised the Hindu vote. That Ms Mayawati had put up 100 Muslim candidates against the BJP, and the Samajwadi party was talking of a Muslim-OBC consolidation, made it inevitable that the BJP pick up every possible vote they could from the upper castes, and the neglected sub-castes within the OBCs and the Dalits.

The BJP, Mr Modi, Mr Shah and their cadres/batallions within the scores of Hindutva-inspired organisations, are no friends either of the Dalits or the religious minorities. By current count, the current year has seen almost a lynching a week. Church groups are reporting a case of persecution a day, from the breaking of Crosses, to the thrashing of congregations across a dozen states or more.

Jharkhand has now become the latest state to pass an anti-conversion law. Six existing states already have it on the books. This law is a political stick to tame friends and frighten enemies, with not a single reported conviction for a fraudulent or forceful conversion. To add insult to injury, the Jharkhand chief minister issued an advertisement at public expense mangling an old statement of Mahatma Gandhi to tell “missionaries” they were “cheating innocent tribals” to convert them into “rice Christians”. This mis-constructed statement will soon be the subject of several sharp criminal and civil suits in the state’s courts soon; at least one of them will be jointly filed by social activist Harsh Mander who is one of the activists currently planning a peace caravan through communally surcharged states, Professor Apoorvanand of Delhi University, and this writer.

The Instant Triple Talaq judgement, which manages to keep freedom of religion safe as also the rights of women to equality under the law protected, also forms the backdrop of another important writ petition presently in the Supreme court, filed this August by the 98-year-old All India Catholic Union, and this writer who was national president of the Union between 2004 and 2008. The petition raises important constitutional issues and questions the ruling dispensation for favouring one religion over others. Chief justice Mr. J S Kehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the central Social Justice Ministry seeking their response. The court and the union government have been dawdling for over 12 years on an existing challenge to Article 341 part 3, which gives the benefits of affirmative actions such as reservations in legislative bodies and government jobs to Dalits only if they have remained Hindus.

 Advocate P I Jose, our lawyer, argued that the RSS and VHP are capitalising on the delay by luring Dalit Christians to re-convert by promising them Scheduled Caste rights and other incentives.

 Mr Jose told the court that the rule should exclude “those Christians of scheduled caste origin who only practice Christianity and do not profess against any other religion being practiced by Indians as a way of life /Dharma. “It is important to mention that on the one hand the poor Christians of Dalit origin are deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of faith and worship, on the other hand large groups of politically and institutionally patronised narrow fundamentalist religious bigots openly come out with violent intimidatory programs like “Ghar Wapsi”  and other like programs depriving the poor Christians of Scheduled caste origin their basic human rights of peaceful living (Article 21)”, our  petition had  said.

Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (SC) Order 1950 amounts to the State identifying with or adopting the Hindu religion and through the amendments thereon unduly favoured it to propagate Hindu religion.   It is not in the larger interest of the Nation and its people to permit the State to indulge in a tacit or open identification with a religion, if not adoption and any such law is violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.  

 Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar wrote in a Memorandum on the Rights of States and Minorities, in March 24, 1947, which he submitted to the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights set up by the Constituent Assembly’s Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities, etc.: “Unfortunately for the minorities in India, Indian nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the Majority to rule the minorities per the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called communalism, while the monopolising of the whole power by the majority is called nationalism. Guided by such political philosophy the majority is not prepared to allow the minorities to share political power.”



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