More than 300 women were in attendance at the Iftar party hosted by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in New Delhi on Wednesday. It was a unique experience for most. "Triple talaq is an issue. But that is not the sole issue. It is one among the scores of problems we Muslim women face," said Shaista Amber, president of the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board. She arrived from Lucknow for the party.
Naqvi says they are an important but neglected demographic. He plans to roll out a Muslim Women Progress Panchayat to get them talking about the issues they want addressed. “We will have groups sharing their views and suggestions which they think will work for them”. He also intends to use these Progress Panchayats to identify school dropouts, get them back to school, and impart skill development training.
Shaista pointed out that talaq had led to a large number of women becoming destitute. "This invitation is a huge gesture. But I hear many say they want to come out for more such social gatherings, not just Iftar. We would like to be invited to the Republic Day parade, family celebrations, and more,” she said. Young Sufiya says they wish to be as free as any woman in the mainstream. Her father has been a member of the BJP for the last 10 years, but it is her first such Iftar outing. Her mother Fauzia, present with a young son, greeted Naqvi and thanked him.
Many of these ladies have been victims of triple talaq. "The bill, in its present form, is not acceptable. It is flawed. We wish to be consulted in its fresh drafting. We want something that falls in line with Shariat, and is fair to us. Now, triple talaq happens for no rhyme or reason, on WhatsApp, Facebook or Gmail. That should end," said Tasleena, one of the women present there. Some felt there should be attempts at reconciliation. “It should not destroy the family and break homes,” says Maushira.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he decided to join the party when he heard victims of triple talaq were attending. A few women braved their way up to the minister and told him what their expectations were.
One woman wanted stringent laws to punish NRI men who had a certificate of marriage in one hand and a talaq in the other. "They go back. What happens to the child born six months later?" she asked. Many spoke of joblessness and neglect in health and education.
Among the BJP leaders present were Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, MoS External Affairs M.J. Akbar.
Many were clad in black burqas. As many wore glittering hijabs. While critics consider the event as a BJP attempt to woo Muslims through the women in the community, many present at the Iftar on Wednesday did not see it that way.