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Rajya Sabha likely to take up Juvenile Justice Bill

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New Delhi: Amid protests over the release of the December 16 gang-rape juvenile convict the Rajya Sabha is likely to take up today the Juvenile Justice Bill as the parliamentarians agreed on its discussion and passage.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told the house he had asked for a supplementary list of business to be circulated for taking up the bill.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, has provisions for trial of those between 16-18 years as adults for heinous offences. The bill also says that anyone who commits a crime between 16-18 years of his age might be treated as an adult if he gets caught after attaining the age of 21.

The issue was raised in the zero-hour by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien.

“The country is watching us (as to) what we are doing. We are discussing commercial courts, real estate (bill)… much more important is the juvenile justice (bill). Put this bill on the agenda, bring this bill,” O’Brien said.

“It is incumbent upon this house to listen to what is going on outside. Let us rise above politics. Let us discuss and pass this (bill),” he added.

Cutting across party lines, members agreed on the need to pass the bill.

“I think that is the sense of the house,” Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government was in agreement to take up the bill, adding that it was listed repeatedly on several days during the ongoing winter session.

“We are ready to discuss the bill today (Monday) itself. It is listed for tomorrow as well… If the house agrees to let us discuss it today, it is a sensitive issue,” said Naqvi.

The leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, said, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill listed for the day should be passed first.

“As far as the juvenile justice bill is concerned, it is not listed today. It should be put in the list tomorrow (Tuesday) and discussed. Today, the SC/ST bill is there and we are committed to passing it today,” he said.

The Congress members then raised the issue of Delhi and District Cricket Association, causing an uproar and an adjournment.

When the house met again, Naidu said: “There is widespread agitation across the country. I have told my office to bring a supplementary list of business.”

He said the bill was listed on December 8, 10 and 11.

Azad, however, said: “If the government is so keen they should have listed it today. They want to give an impression that the opposition is not allowing it.”

Kurien said there should not be a “blame game” on the bill.

“When there is full agreement in the house, let us discuss and pass it,” Kurien added. (IANS), (image courtesy: blogs.reuters.com)

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Triple Talaq: Are the concerns and efforts real?

It cannot be deied that BJP is outlawing triple talaq to gain political mileage both from sections of Muslim women and from those Hindus who will see it as Modi's distress over the sufferings of Muslim women and as a message to Muslims that the days when they were given excessive leeway by less assertive governments are now gone.

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Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of Muslim women, VOA News
Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of Muslim women, VOA News
  • Triple Talaq has been seen as way of BJP gaining popularity among Muslims, and not as a real concern for the distressed women of the community.
  • BJP leaders are often accused of Anti-Muslim statements, which further proves the point.
  • However, if the law is passed, it will be a step towards empowerment of the Muslim women.

Only the naive will believe that deep concern for the welfare of Muslim “sisters” and for the maintenance of the “dignity of women” and “gender equality” persuaded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to introduce the bill in parliament to ban the practice of triple talaq.

For a party whose founder in its previous incarnation, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, thought that only a civil war can solve the Hindu-Muslim problem, as Tripura’s Governor, Tathagata Roy of the BJP, reminded us recently, and a BJP candidate in the Gujarat elections sought a reduction in the numbers of “topi and dadhiwalas” (sartorial allusion to Muslims), it strains credulity to believe that it has been guided solely by laudable motives to put an end to an admittedly reprehensible custom.

The belief will persist, therefore, that it is a desire to “garner votes” which is behind the decision, notwithstanding Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad’s disavowal of such an intention.

Few will deny, of course, that the practice itself is highly condemnable, not least because it is illegal even in Islamic countries. For a secular country, therefore, to allow it to prevail will point to a flawed outlook whose roots lie deep in the political calculations.

It cannot be gainsaid that the BJP is outlawing triple talaq to gain political mileage both from sections of Muslim women and from those Hindus who will see the proposed law, first, as an example of “brother” Modi’s distress over the sufferings of Muslim women and, secondly, as a message to Muslims in general that the days are gone when they were given excessive leeway by less assertive governments.

The “secular” rulers of the past, on the other hand, also thought that they will gain votes by pandering to the predilections of the obscurantists among the minorities.

The worst example of this regressive attitude was the Shah Bano episode, when the Rajiv Gandhi government negated a Supreme Court verdict in favour of alimony for a divorced Muslim woman on the advice of Muslim fundamentalists.

Shayara Bano case was one of the biggest milestone cases in history of India which intensified the previously buried matter. Wikipedia Common
Shayara Bano case was one of the biggest milestone cases in history of India which intensified the previously buried matter. Wikipedia Common

The BJP’s rise from the sidelines of politics to the mainstream, can be traced through that event in the mid-1980s. The Congress will have to tread carefully in deciding on its stance on the bill which has followed the Supreme Court’s recent declaration of triple talaq as unconstitutional in a case involving the litigant, Shayara Bano.

The difficulty for the Congress is that it has given secularism a bad name by making the concept virtually synonymous with minority appeasement. While the BJP will not mind being closely associated with Hinduism, the Congress has been trying to shed the impression that it has become “mussalmanon ki party” or a party of Muslims, as the Congress leader, Ashok Gehlot, has said, ever since the 2014 defeat made him aware of this unwelcome image, as the A.K. Antony report pointed out.

The triple talaq bill gives it an opportunity to refurbish its reputation by articulating a rational position on drafting the law, aiming at protecting Muslim women from cruel and whimsical divorces and at the same time ensuring that the legislation does not lead to a police witch-hunt targeting men. Since the bill has to still pass through the Rajya Sabha, Parliament’s upper house, there is ample scope for fine-tuning it for smoothing out the rough edges, the most egregious of which is to introduce an element of criminality in a civil legal procedure.

If the Congress and other “secular” parties play a leading role in ensuring that the new law will unequivocally serve the ends of justice where no one — neither the women, nor the men, nor the children of divorced parents — will suffer, then these parties will be able to retrieve much of their lost reputation about cynical kowtowing to bigots in the Muslim community and reassure the country in general that politics can rise above partisan and opportunistic considerations.

From this standpoint, the bill provides a golden opportunity to the secular outfits even if the BJP runs away with much of the credit for introducing it.

Outside of politics, what is noteworthy is the failure of the Muslims to deal with the problem on their own. But ever since partition robbed the community of bold, educated leaders and self-confidence by inducing the minority complex of being forever under siege under the numerically superior Hindus — unlike other minorities like Sikhs and Parsis who have retained their poise and self-belief — the Muslims have come under the retrogressive influence of the mullahs with the result that they have remained stuck in the past.

Not all Muslim have the freedom to do whatever they want. They are still in the clutches of Triple Talaq.
Not all Muslim have the freedom to do whatever they want. They are still in the clutches of Triple Talaq.

Triple talaq is one manifestation of such backwardness along with polygamy and the veiling of women as they reinforce the age-old patriarchal norms. Only a small section of upper middle class women — film stars and sports personnel being prominent among them — has been able to extricate themselves from the grasp of medievalism and enter the modern world. But the majority of the poor and lower middle class women have been denied the opportunity of advancement by orthodox Muslim society. The new law offers them a ray of hope. IANS Live