Nitin G. Raut
On 22nd August, 2017, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by 2/3 majority judgment struck down the practice of triple talaq as unconstitutional. In the landmark judgment, Justice R. F. Nariman and Justice U. U. Lalit held that the practice of triple talaq violates the fundamental right under Article 14 which deals with equality before law.
The Supreme Court of India, in short, upheld the right to gender equality and dignity of women who cannot be at the mercy of male chauvinism in the name of religion. The practice of triple talaq had rendered the Muslim women destitute; and given the social and economic backwardness of the majority of the Muslim women, even the nominal remedy under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code became ineffective for them.
The Muslim Personal Law Board, instead of codifying the Muslim Personal Law like the Hindu Personal Law, stubbornly refused to change the archaic, dishonourable and anti-social practice of triple talaq. Hence, the Supreme Court judgment reinforces that outrageous religious practices have no place in our scheme of constitutional Rule of Law.
In this happy moment, it is unfortunate that the media as well as social reformists have completely forgotten the Late Hamid Dalwai who, in the 1960s till his death in 1977, single-handedly fought against this obnoxious practice of talaq with no media support at that time.
In 1970, he founded the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal to not only outlaw the practice of triple talaq but also for social reforms in the Muslim society. He fought relentlessly against religious obscurantism and exploitation of the community members in the name of blind and opaque religious beliefs. He sought scientific and rational answers to outdated religious beliefs. He was ruthless and uncompromising in his criticism of communalism both, majority and minority. He argued for the Common Civil Code as he firmly believed that a Uniform Civil Code alone will liberate the Muslim woman from bondage and servility.
Hamid Dalwai was the author of several books among them being “Muslim Politics in India”, although he had no formal education. In his crusade for true secularism and against religious obscurantism, he found ardent support in the late Prof. A. B. Shah and together they founded the Indian Secular Society which published its bi-monthly “The Secularist”.
Barely 44 years old when he passed away in May 1977, he got no support during his lifetime from the pseudo secularists whose narrative of “secularism” was woven around vote-bank politics and appeasement. He lambasted the divisive politics of “secularism” and aspired for a modern Indian society based on free thinking, inquiry and liberal values.
Freedom First which uncompromisingly upholds liberal philosophy pays its humble tribute today to Hamid Dalwai, crusader of secularism in its true sense and remembers him for upholding the dignity of oppressed women. Hamid Dalwai is the unsung hero of this crusade and the Supreme Court judgment is the culmination of Hamid Dalwai’s efforts towards this end.
Nitin G. Raut, advocate by profession and freelance writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org