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Will religious census stir up India’s political cauldron?

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Lucknow/Patna: Will the religious census released by the central government on Tuesday stir up India’s political cauldron? Reports from two states with a sizeable Muslim population suggest that it just could.

In Uttar Pradesh, the answer seemingly is in the affirmative, fear many, as the already polarized polity of India’s most politically crucial state is set to be harvested for electoral gains in the run-up to the state assembly elections due in early 2017.

While most political leaders in Uttar Pradesh — including the ones known for competing with their professional adversaries for quotes and sound bytes — have refused to come on record candidly, there is an overwhelming sense in the state that the “religious census will precipitate into a politics-based on religious lines”. The Muslim population in the state has grown to 19.8 percent in the last 14 years — an increase of 0.86 percent.

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“The census on religious lines had been held back for long and we all know its release has a political statement to it,” a Congress leader, not wishing to be named, told IANS.

He further pointed out that the fact that the Hindu population had slipped below 80 percent for the first time — juxtaposed with the marginal growth of Muslims — was “sure to be used by those who play politics of religion”.

State spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vijay Bahadur Pathak, though not ready for a usual full-length statement, told IANS that the census had thrown up two things which needed to be immediately tackled and with all seriousness — jansankhya niyantran (population control) and jansankhya santulan (population balance).

“Anybody who wishes for development will think in similar fashion,” he elaborated.Eminent Sunni cleric Maulana Irfan Mian Farangi Mahali saw the release of the religious census as a “political stunt which will only end up widening the growing gap between two communities”.

“The real issues are much different like price rise and corruption but such data is sure to stoke the imagination of india-sikhs-2009-1-3-6-34-49

political parties,” he averred.Of a population of 19.98 crore in 2011, Uttar Pradesh now has 15.93 crore Hindus, 3.84 crore Muslims, 64.35 lakh Sikhs and 35.6 lakh Christians.

The districts with highest concentration of Muslims are Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore, Bareilly and Saharanpur. In the sensitive area of western UP, which has been a communal flash point over the past few years, in 17 districts the ratio of Hindus and Muslims is very wide and only Amroha and Rampur have more Muslims.

Senior journalist Rajiv Ranjan Jha said Uttar Pradesh was a sensitive state and one where politics revolved around caste and community. “There can be no doubt that the release of the census would trigger a political chain-reaction and harvest divisive results,” Jha told IANS.

A report from Patna said that taking Bihar’s sizeable Muslim population into consideration, not only are the RJD, the JD-U and Congress eyeing their support, but even the BJP is also trying to gain their support ahead of the assembly polls expected in October.

“No political party can ignore this sizeable population in view of the coming polls,” social activist Nayiar Fatmi told IANS.

Soroor Ahmad, a socio-political analyst, said the Muslim population is the highest in Bihar’s most backward pockets with high degree of poverty, illiteracy and migration.
Muslims in districts like Kishanganj, Purnea, Araria, Katihar and Supaul — known as the Seemanchal region as they share border with Nepal and Bangladesh — have been playing an important role in the polls.

Ahmad said that AIMIM president Asadullah Owaisi recently visited and addressed a public meeting in Kishanganj to explore possibilities of contesting the Bihar polls.

According to the 2011 census, Bihar’s population stood at 10.5 crore, of which 16.5 percent were Muslims.

 

(IANS)

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Triple Talaq Now Banned In India

While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.

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India
Indian Muslim women talk while walking through a market in Ahmadabad, India. VOA

India’s government on Wednesday approved an ordinance to implement a top court ruling striking down the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce.

The government decision came after it failed to get approval of Parliament a year after the court ruled that the practice of triple “talaq” violated the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by the Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes. The laws include allowing men to divorce by simply uttering the Arabic word “talaq,” or divorce, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.

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Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of  women, VOA News

The government will have another six months to get Parliament’s approval for the ordinance to become law. But in the meantime, suspects can be prosecuted using the ordinance.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nearly 22 countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice and appealed to the opposition to approve the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill.

India’s Muslim Law Board had told the court that while they considered the practice wrong, they opposed any court intervention and asked that the matter be left to the community. But several progressive Muslim activists decried the law board’s position.

Muslim
Muslim women hold placards during a protest against a bill passed by India’s lower house of Parliament last week that aims at prosecuting Muslim men who divorce their wives through the “triple talaq,” or instant divorce. VOA

After the Supreme Court verdict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced a bill criminalizing the practice and it was approved in December by the lower house of Parliament, where his party commands a majority. But it couldn’t get the approval of the upper house, where the opposition controls the majority of seats.

The main opposition Congress party is opposing a three-year prison sentence for the offenders and wants a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue to reach a consensus. It favors a lesser sentence.

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In India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious laws in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption. While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched. (VOA)