If you stand in the crowd at Mumbai’s CST station, you are likely to come across at least one Bilkis. A common name for an Indian Muslim girl, “Bilkis” could be almost anyone among the great masses. But today, among the 1300 million citizens of India, one Bilkis stands apart.
Indian liberals are very proud of her. The 82 year old Bilkis has been featured as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine.
At 82 years of age, Bilkis must have seen a lot of life. This is not a biography of Bilkis. I do not know about her, except that she was part of the protests at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. Like I said, Bilkis could be any face in the crowd. This is a telling of all the things that could have happened to someone named Bilkis as she grew up in India, all the way to the ripe old age of 82. All the crimes that could have been committed against her. All the crimes that would have been approved by Indian “liberalism.”
What if ‘Bilkis’ was a 62 year old mother of five, who had dedicated her whole life to raising her children? And what if her husband had one day pronounced a talaq against her and turned her into the street, without a single paisa to her name? What if, at the age of 62 years, she found the strength to approach the Supreme Court and actually win the right to alimony? What would liberals do? Would they want to see her on the cover of TIME Magazine?
No. Of course not. Indian liberals would want Parliament to call an emergency session and pass a law to deprive her of the means of living. The liberals would go on to proudly call this the “Muslim Woman (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.” She would receive the “protection” of losing everything. Like George Orwell said, “Freedom is slavery.”
What if ‘Bilkis’ was a woman living an ordinary married life and one day her husband just decided to get rid of her? All he would have to do is say “Talaq – Talaq – Talaq.” Three times. That’s all. If he was an even bigger coward and unable to look her in the eye, he could just say the words by SMS. And she would be out of his life instantly. She would have been cast away with no rights to anything. Indian liberals would have supported that.
What if ‘Bilkis’ gave up her self respect and begged and pleaded on hearing those three words, or reading them in an SMS? What if her begging and pleading melted her now ex-husband’s heart and he agreed to take her back? What would ‘Bilkis’ have to do? First, she would have to sleep with a strange man as part of “Nikah-Halala.” Indian liberals would have supported that too.
What if ‘Bilkis’ was 30 years old and suddenly heard the terrible news that her father had passed away? Her father would have worked hard his whole life to leave something for all his children, whom he would have loved equally. So can ‘Bilkis’ get an equal share of the inheritance?
Not if ‘Bilkis’ had any brothers. As a daughter, she would be entitled to receive [pdf] only half of what her brothers get. Actually, that’s wrong. As a daughter, she isn’t “entitled” to anything. Muslim personal law divides people into “sharers” and “residuaries.” The sons are “sharers” : they are the ones who are entitled to a share of the property. As a ‘daughter’ she can only be a “residuary”: those who take up what is left over after the sharers have taken their part!
Equal citizen of India. But not equal in the eyes of the law. Indian liberals support this.
What if ‘Bilkis’ was a mere teenager, perhaps 15 or 16 years old? At that age, she would most likely be starting to develop an interest in boys. Perhaps thinking about holding hands with a boy or dreaming about her first kiss. Not old enough for marriage. Or for that matter, dating anyone seriously. She would have too much homework at school anyway. Could they take young ‘Bilkis’ and force her to get married? They absolutely could. A Muslim girl in India can be legally married off once she has hit puberty. Liberals support this as well.
What if ‘Bilkis’ was a naturally curious 10 year old girl, with an interest in math or science? Would her teachers at school spot her talent and try to nurture it? Well, not necessarily. Her “school” could be a madrassa that does not even teach science or math. It would still be called a “school” despite the fact that it doesn’t teach math or science. In 2015, the Govt of Maharashtra decided that in order to be recognized as a school, it must teach math and science. Liberals were very angry with this. They said this was an example of “intolerance.” When has anything good ever come from teaching math and science to kids?
What if ‘Bilkis’ was a six or seven year old girl and they decided to mutilate her genitals? Should that be legal? Indian liberals seem to think it should be. As for the Supreme Court, they have referred the matter to a larger bench. They are still thinking. We will know when the honorable justices have made up their minds.
And finally, let us get back to a protest site such as Shaheen Bagh. What if ‘Bilkis’ was an infant, a newborn barely a few days old? What if her mother and father kept taking her out to the protest in the bitterly cold Delhi winter nights? What if ‘Bilkis’ was coughing, but she was so little that nobody even noticed? What if one day, her struggles suddenly came to an end, without so much as making a sound? And she left the cruel world, just a few weeks old? All this while, secular intellectuals would be circling like vultures, making provocative speeches and glorifying the mothers for bringing babies out there. And of course, scouting for a kind looking 82 year old grandmother to put on the cover of TIME Magazine…
Like I said before, ‘Bilkis’ could be any face in the crowd. In India, ‘Bilkis’ could come in many forms. But Indian liberals love just one of them.