Why is Triple Talaq Bill so significant? First of all, it liberates several crores of women from a deeply regressive practice. If you simply go by the numbers, the Triple Talaq Bill passed yesterday is among the biggest pieces of gender justice achieved anywhere in the world.
But there’s more.
Because the Triple Talaq Bill is among the first examples of the Government of India standing up to the power of Islamist mobs.
Evidence suggests that the Indian state has generally always backtracked when faced with Islamist threats. Initially, some of it may have been about a hankering to bend over backwards to minority demands in order to show we are morally superior to Pakistan. But soon the appeasement led to full-scale vote bank politics. As the Congress weakened with each successive decade, it became more and more dependent on vote bank politics for political survival. The regional clones of the Congress operated on a simple formula:
Dominant Hindu caste + Muslim vote bank = Majority.
All this adds up to the fact that the Indian state has not pushed through even the most basic reforms when it comes to the Muslim community. Unlike the United States Constitution which envisions a limited government and maximizes freedom for individuals, the Constitution of India is activist in nature. The Indian Constitution provides for a government that is supposed to vigorously pursue social change.
However, due to Muslim vote bank politics, the Indian state has so far been in fear of making Islamists angry. This means that Aligarh Muslim University is still a minority institution even though it is a publicly funded university run by a supposedly secular state. This means that women are still not allowed to pray inside mosques across the country and the government does not dare stop this systematic injustice. Tragically, it also means that Female Genital Mutilation is still carried out in some Muslim communities such as the Dawoodi Bohra community.
Some of these practices have been challenged in the courts, where these cases are moving at zero times the speed of light.
And even if a verdict were to be reached in one of these cases, would the government honour them and enforce them? The Supreme Court ruled against the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University before half the current population was even born, but we still haven’t enforced it.
And then there is, of course, the Shah Bano case. The most infamous example, where Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi refused to stand with a 62-year-old woman against the power of the Islamist mob. When vote bank politics prevailed over a Supreme Court verdict.
But now, at long last, a beginning. A bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
This might be the first time the Indian state has drawn a line and taken a stand for the rights of Muslim citizens against dictates of unelected radical Islamists.
This is a beginning, not an end. The Triple Talaq Bill puts at risk every brick in the pseudo-secular establishment. And the pseudo-secular establishment understands this. That is why, even at the risk of sounding downright silly, the party of Rajiv Gandhi was protesting in Rajya Sabha yesterday, saying that the Bill would make Muslim husbands and wives spend all their money on lawyers.
The Bill is a step towards a uniform, logical and modern civil code, but its implications go further than this. If the 2014 and 2019 election results busted the myth of a “Muslim veto” in India’s elections, the Triple Talaq Bill has ended the myth of a “Muslim veto” in the legal system.
The appeasement of minorities is something that should have been weeded out of the Indian legal system a long time ago. Instead, it kept wrapping itself tightly around the trunk, growing roots and branches and leaves. To the point that it might appear that the Indian system itself is rooted in minority appeasement.
Perhaps for the first time in 70 years, the Indian state has said no to minority appeasement. At least the wheels are turning.