Remembering Jashodaben During the Triple Talaq Debate

Amitabh Kumar Das
Amitabh Kumar Das

Yesterday, the Indian Parliament saw some fireworks. Fireworks are not new to our Parliament. Usually, there is more fire and little work. But yesterday was special. The Triple Talaq debate was on. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad waxed eloquent on women’s empowerment. He styled himself as a modern-day Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a tireless crusader of nari-shakti. Owaisi was sarcastic. He reminded the country about the denial of women’s entry into Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple. For the uninitiated, Lord Ayappa is the presiding deity of the shrine and Hindu fanatics believe that women will make their beloved Ayappa lose his most prized possession : his brahmacharya (celibacy).

Imagine a God losing celibacy due to women devotees. But religion is like that only. Opium of the Masses, as the great Karl Marx told us. Even after the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of women devotees, Hindu fanatics are out to protect Ayappa’s chastity. Anyway, hypocrisy is an integral part of the human DNA and I have seen Hindu intellectuals taking different stands on Triple Talaq and Sabarimala because Triple Talaq gives them a stick to beat Muslims with. And in an Islamophobic world, anything against the Muslims wil do.

I first came across the Triple Talaq when I was a school kid in1980s. In my hometown Darbhanga, a small town on the bank of river Bagmati in North Bihar, I watched a movie in a dark cinema hall, littered with peanut shells.

The movie was Niqah starring now – forgotten Salma Aga. In the movie, Deepak Parashar, playing Salma Aga’s shauhar shouts Talaq three times and divorces the doe-eyed heroine. The whole cinema hall was stunned. Our hearts bled for the damsel in distress. Little did I realize then that the same drama would be played in the Indian Parliament, albeit in a different way.

As a college student, I read about Hamid Dalwai,an obscure Muslim social reformer. Dalwai was a great visionary. Through his outfit Muslim Satyashodhak Samaj, he took up cudgels on behalf of divorced Musim women. He died young but not before putting Triple Talaq on the national agenda. I call him “obscure” because few Indians can recall Hamid Dalwai. We are living in a time when Narendra Modi is Superman and Spiderman rolled into one. Who remembers Hamid Dalwai who never claimed that his chest measured 56 inches?

As the debate on Triple Talaq raged in the Parliament, my mind travelled to an old and frail lady. She is Jashodaben, married to a leader called Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi. Modi deserted him soon after their wedding. When the “mehandi” on Jashodaben’s hands was still wet, Narendra Modi did a surgical strike on her marital bliss. He cast her away like a “doodh ki makkhi“. “Saptapadi” is the essence of Hindu weddings. The bride and bridegroom circle a blazing fire seven times before being declared man and wife. Greybeards tell us that seven pheras symbolise eternal love for seven births. Saat janmo ka saath, Bollywood movies emphasise. But for Narendra Modi, the self-styled torchbearer of Hinduism, the seven pheras lasted hardly seven months. Hindus have got it easy. They don’t say Talaq thrice to get rid of their wives. Hindus just kick their wives out. As easy as making noodles in two minutes.

So, Narendrabhai kicked Jashodaben out. He even refused to acknowledge her existence for years. Modi left the marriage column blank when he filled up his forms to fight polls. It was only after the Supreme Court made it mandatory to fill up every column, Narendrabhai remembered Jashodaben. For Modi Bhakts, Narendrabhai can do no wrong. So they pointed out that even Gautam Buddha deserted his wife when she was asleep. No Modiji is only walking in Budhha’s footsteps! But these Modi Bhakts will not allow Muslims to follow Buddha’s path. So Triple Talaq has to be banned.

Someday, Jashodaben will die. I don’t expect Modi to attend her funeral. He will be busy cutting deals for Gautam Adani and Anil Ambani. After all, when you talk about Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, friends take precedence over your wife!

(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch Bihar cadre IPS Officer. His views expressed here are personal)

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