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May 2012
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EDITORIAL

Desperation in the Saffron Ranks
Frustration is building up into desperation in the ranks of the right wing Hindutva extremists. They are increasingly demonstrating their restiveness over absence of a worthwhile cause capable of lighting the communal fuse. The throwing of a piece of beef by one of their activists in the Pochamma Temple in Hyderabad serves as an index of their anxiety over communal calm that promises to deprive them of a cause célèbre. They are simply unnerved at the turn of events that bear no scope for fomenting communal disharmony.
Thanks to the prompt police investigation and action, the culprit, one Shivakumar, said to be an activist of a rabid communal outfit, was arrested before situation in the communally sensitive Hyderabad could drift into much disorder. Parts of the old city however suffered curfew for several days with innocent people from both communities being taken into police custody.
The incident is not unique of its kind. On the eve of the New Year, seven Ram Sene activists were arrested for hoisting a Pakistani flag on Tahsildar’s office in Sindgi in the neighbouring Karnataka. Prompt action by the police averted communal mayhem. The two incidents, read together, are indication enough that right wing politics essentially thrives in a communally surcharged atmosphere and the extremists would go even to extent of desecrating a temple and even more brazenly hoisting a Pakistani flag on an official edifice. The extremists seems to have honed their skills in all such acts that could be easily blamed on Muslims and enrage their own coreligionists.
Politics under a democratic polity is a game full of complexities. Most often political groups survive and thrive by villanising the other. If the ‘other’ happens to be from a different community, then even communal poison could be injected to foment hate. Now that the larger plots behind several bomb blasts—Ajmer Dargah, Makkah Masjid, Malegaon, Samjhauta Express—having been unraveled, it requires little intelligence that Hindutva politics is out to contrive enemies and don the victimhood by stage-managing sacrileges against members and symbols of its own core constituency.  Though this was long apprehended to be the part of their bag of tricks, it has come out into the open with the incidents. The impartial nature of police investigation is laudable and would go a long way in restoring people’s confidence in them. But it makes a sad commentary on the principal opposition party, the BJP. The party has certainly lost its ideological moorings. Desperation of its comrades-in- arms makes it evident more than enough that fizz is already out of the parent body and it is a pale shadow of its former saffron self. The hunt for the new ideology and issue must start now for them. One hopes they mend their ways and give up their partisan view of a larger India.
Loud on Rhetoric
The Muslim Personal Law Board has once again proved that it is loud on rhetoric and short on fulfilling its own responsibility of initiating reforms within the Muslim society. In its recently concluded session at Mumbai, the Board warned the Government against interference in the Muslim Personal law. The Board would have carried more conviction had it shown any meaningful progress in guiding the community towards use of the instrument of talaq (divorce), khulaa and custody of children. The Board is yet to set up even a single pre-marriage counseling centre for would-be couples and marital dispute mediation centres. It has also failed to initiate steps or to even begin codification of the Muslim Personal Law. Darul Qaza attached to leading theological seminaries continue to nullify marriages where the irresponsible—even intoxicated—husbands have uttered talaq thrice in keeping with the 10th century juristic opinion. The fact that such nullification runs counter to the Quranic procedure of talaq and negates the spirit of justice, has not made the Board resile from its blinkered view of the sharia.
Even the Board’s refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s directive to compulsorily register marriages seems to be unreasonable. Registration of births, deaths and marriages are primary functions of the State if ever the national planning has to become effective. It also provides safety valve in marriages contracted with expatriates, foreigners and persons of Indian original (PIOs) in case they threaten to turn sour. Perhaps nothing would be more desirable if the marriages registered with private moulvis or mosques are aligned with the State Marriage Registration offices for the purpose. It also serves as a guarantee against marriages brokered between girls from poor Muslim household and unscrupulous foreigners by irresponsible touts. Even Khulaa provision, where the Darul Qaza instead of considering it an inalienable right of Muslim women, insist on husband’s consent, has been crying for reform on ground of justice as enshrined in the Quran.
While cries for reform in these spheres have failed to move the Board, it is found crying hoarse over the slightest hint of legislation aimed at ensuring gender justice. Such rhetoric smacks of the Board’s tendency to use religion as a red rag against the Government. It will certainly not serve the purpose of justice, if Muslim women continue to suffer under the laws that are result of interpretations prejudiced by patriarchy rather than truth and justice.