Saturday, June 12, 2004

For the record, I didn’t stop blogging, I just had a writer’s block that lasted one-and-a-half years. (With apologies to the Eagles.)

Ramblings will resume bringing to you thought-provoking\yawn-inducing articles, self-indulgent essays and often one-sided opinion on matters of national\international\personal importance.

Assuming that somebody is\will read\reading these “ramblings”, I will be looking forward to your reactions (no profanities, please), so please feel free to click on that ‘Comment’ button and have your say.

The following PTI report set me thinking about the controversy over the uniform civil code. Though it is an emotive issue with Muslims and I personally feel there should be consultations before it is introduced in the country in order to dispel any impression that it is being forced down the throat of a particular community, the following incident just makes me wonder if the Muslim leadership is capable of taking a balanced and fair view of the whole affair.

Controversy over 'talaq' in Orissa village


Bhadrak (Orissa), June 1

Sher Ali was drunk when he had a tiff with his young wife Najma Bibi a few months ago. As the argument continued, Ali in a fit of rage mumbled 'talaq' three times.

The episode in Kantabania village near Bhadrak town has now escalated into a full-blown controversy over the question as to whether the 'talaq', issued in an inebriated condition,
was valid or not.

The couple, at the centre of the raging controversy, now are pleading that they want to remain man and wife. But they have remained separated following the dictates of the local
'chauda mahalla' (a body representing the Muslim community).

The issue had been taken up by the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the State Commission for Women (SCW) with the former deputing a five-member team to inquire into the

The team arrived here on May 21 last and talked to people explaining that 'talaq' given in an inebriated condition was 'not valid'.

According to Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pratap, Ali said that he was drunk when he issued the 'talaq'. But the community took the position that they could not live together as 'talaq' had been issued by the husband.

It was also alleged that Ali had been roughed up by some villagers for staying with Najma who, they claimed, was no longer his wife.

Police had instituted a case in this connection against 16 persons in the Bhadrak town police station. Ali, who belonged to Nanga Mohalla, was staying with his in-laws in Kantabania after his marriage.

Meanwhile, the 'sahi sardars' (local leaders) of Kantabania and Nanga Mohalla had directed that the couple should live separately till the decision of the 'chauda
mahalla' committee, its president Shaikh Abdul Bari said.

But the story of Ali and Najma appears to have receded to the background with the 'chauda mahalla' leadership deciding to organise a silent procession here on Thursday to protest against the "interference" by outside agencies in matters relating to the Muslim Personal Law.

"We have decided to protest this interference," Bari said.

Najma and Ali, who had first contacted a NGO Ashiyana, after the problem arose, were advised to get the opinion of a mufti (an expert on Muslim theology) in Dhamnagar. The mufti ruled that the divorce was not valid as it was given in an inebriated state.

Bari, however, did not agree and the matter was referred to another mufti who said that the 'talaq' was valid.

Najma has now requested the 'chauda mahalla' committee that the matter should be placed before a third mufti, Bari said.

Amidst this controversy, Najma and her four children shifted temporarily to a short stay home run by Ashiyana, Abdus Salam, who works as a family counsellor in the NGO, said.

Salam said the matter had been taken to the family court at Cuttack by the SCW which ruled in favour of the couple living as man and wife.

Najma was now living with her parents while Ali was staying in his own village.

If the 'talaq' is held valid, then Najma, local Muslim leaders said, had the option of 'halala' for reunion with her husband.

It meant that she should marry another person who would issue her 'talaq' again. Then she could return to her first husband.

Najma, however, disagreed. "If my new husband refuses to give me talaq, then what?," she asked, according to social activist and former member of the SCW, Namrata Chaddha who was a
member of the NCW team.

She said the NCW team was of the view that the couple should be allowed to live together.

Chaddha told PTI in Bhubaneswar that she intended to file a petition in the Orissa High Court in this regard. "The papers are being processed now," she said.

What stupidity is this? I mean who are these ‘chauda mahalla’ jokers and why should anyone give any credence to what they have to say? These kind of incidents just strengthen the perception of Muslims being an extremely rigid and fundamentalist community. Somebody should just tell these self-appointed guardians of the community to bugger off. But, at the core of the problem remains the fact that the community needs to look within. It needs go beyond all these triviality, shed its ante-diluvian mindset and try to reap the benefits of modern education in order to integrate itself with the national mainstream.

That's a great story. Waiting for more. »
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