32 yrs on, triple-talaq verdict brings back memories of Shah Bano’s valiant fight for justice
Bano’s daughter refrained from openly voicing her approval for the apex court judgment because “it undermined the Sharia”, but couldn’t help but admit that it would go a long way in helping poor women who are unable to sustain themselves after divorce.
As 67-year-old Siddiqa Begum sifts through her family album in the drawing room of her Indore house, she can’t help but recall the time her mother, Shah Bano, created history of sorts by winning a Supreme Court battle for maintenance allowance in 1985.
But the Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre swiftly followed up with the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act-1986, effectively negating the apex court judgment. Bano died of brain haemmorhage in 1992, her dream of obtaining adequate maintenance allowance still unrealised.
Bano was the first wife of Mohammad Ahmed Khan, a senior Indore-based advocate who died at the age of 94 in April 2006. He had five children with her, and seven with another wife.
Memories of Shah Bano and her righteous battle against Khan (and, by extension, discriminatory social customs and religious fundamentalists) would have all but faded into oblivion if the Supreme Court had not passed another historic judgment by striking down the triple-talaq practice on Tuesday. This time, however, the central government was receptive to the idea.
Siddiqa refrained from openly voicing her approval for the apex court judgment because “it undermined the Sharia”, but couldn’t help but admit that it would go a long way in helping poor and illiterate women who are unable to sustain themselves after divorce. “My mother, for instance, had to struggle really hard. Men who want to marry several times do not like the idea of maintenance allowance because then they would have to spend on every wife they divorce,” she said.
The legal battle was especially tough on Bano because taking on her husband was akin to challenging her entire male-dominated community. “My father did give my mother a monthly allowance, but it was insignificant. When my mother moved court, he stopped it altogether. She, however, refused to buckle under pressure.”
Siddiqa recalled how Bano moved into a ramshackle hovel with her children after the court case. “There was tremendous pressure on my mother to back off,” she said. “Some people from Saudi Arabia tried luring her with haj pilgrimage promises. They even organised rallies against my mother, but she was adamant in her fight for justice.”
(With inputs from Hema Tiwari in Indore)
First Published: Aug 23, 2017 12:55:20