Saheli in Wonderland
SAHELI IN WONDERLAND
Newsletter March 1986
While compiling reactions to the Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill I fell asleep. The Bill wouldn’t leave me alone even in my dreams. I dreamt that we went and met the Prime Minister and told him what we thought of the Bill. We called his attention to the protest of various individuals, groups and parties over this Bill. He smiled and said that it was really not a protest of the people but of the Free Press which felt free to play up only one aspect of reactions to the Bill and chose to ignore all the favourable responses. We were surprised and wanted to know what these favourable reactions were. In reply he handed us a file. We started going through the letters it contained when I suddenly woke up. Here I faithfully reproduce all that I could get to read:
Dear Mr. Gandhi,
It is such a shame that many people in our Country try to make political capital out of nothing. They are all stirring up emotion making it out as if this new Bill of yours is an earth - shaking event, favouring fundamentalism.
We know what you are doing and sympathise with you. We know that you are not trying to bring about any change, positive or negative, in our situation, but are only codifying the reality as it exists. After all, we poor illiterate women, have always gone to our fathers and brothers when summarily divorced or deserted. And when they are not able to support us we have become destitute which will still be the case when the ultimate responsibility for our support will rest with the destitute Wakf Boards.
POOR ILLITERATE MUSLINI WOMEN OF INDIA
We are dismayed at the unfair criticism you have faced at the hands of our misinformed sisters who think that this bill is no protection to them and lets a man go scot-free, regardless of the conditions under which he divorces his wife.
They forget that you are just trying to remove the barrier of Rs. 500/- per month on the maintenance that they could get under Section 125 of the CRPC. They also forget that basically their husbands are also fathers and brothers. lt does not really matter in what capacity a man has to pay maintenance, after all we will be getting if from men. Even if they went scot-free for the injustices they do to their wives, they would be paying the price of injustices done by other men. And if one or two men are wronged in the process, it is not an issue worth so much attention.
We would like to thank you for all you have done to promote the cause of Muslim women.
CONFUSED MUSLIM WOMEN
Respected Rajiv ji,
We are shocked to learn that an oId fashioned Muslim writer from Kerela is accusing you of taking our community into a primitive, tribal past.
We know where you are going and we are with you in all your endeavors to push the country into a long leap into the 21st century. We quite understand that the future means faster, freer divorces and is not going to be guided by obsolete Victorian notions of marrying for life, etc. which have been left on the Indian scene as a legacy of the British Raj.
In our objective of creating a state of advanced Capitalism, it is important that we learn to think of women as commodities to be used and discarded. lt is in this context that we clearly see your move to get us free divorces as a valuable step in development. We assure you that we will do our best to deal with the question of Mehr.
MISGUIDED MUSLIM YOUTH
Dear Shri Rajiv Gandhi,
Re: UNIFORM CIVIL CODE
We have been writing to you regarding the suitability of adoption of Hindu Personal Code as the Uniform Civil Code to be applied to all citizens of this "Hindu Rashtra", which we have been trying to create with your cooperation. After giving this matter considerable thought we find that there is a basic change in our thinking. Now we feel that the interest of secularism, and with due regard to the rights of minorities, we should instead adopt Muslim Personal Law including the proposed bill as the Uniform Civil Code.
Looking forward to continued cooperation,
HINDU BRETHREN UNLIMITED
P.S. :—We never know when it will come in handy for each one of us.
Dear Prime Minister,
Enclosed herewith please find e Cash Flow projection worked out on a computer borrowed from your Secretariat. This projection is based on our enlarged objectives expected due to the changes in the environment brought about by your proposed bill.
The demand projections have been based on primary information gathered during a survey of a representative sample of Muslim brethren in our State. You would be happy to note that the growth shows a healthy trend, and we will be doubling our requirements every two years, even with the most conservative estimates.
Kindly arrange to have a suitable budget allocation made in the Seventh Five-Year Plan. Looking forward to a continuing business relationship.
WAKE BOARD—lMAGINARY PROVINCES
1. Market Survey Findings
2. Cash Flow of WAKF Board Imaginary Provinces, for the next five years.
cc(n.o.o.) Shri V.P. Singh, Union Minister of Finance. We have, as indicated in the letter and enclosures to Rajivji presented a conservative estimate of our requirements of finance during the Seventh Five - Year Plan. We have full confidence that with your pragmatic approach to planning, i.e., increasing the prices of Essential Commodities, you will have no difficulty in meeting your commitments to us.
Dear Mr. Gandhi,
We are happy to inform you that we are nominating you for the highest award for ‘Consciousness Raising of Women". We cannot praise you enough for your deep understanding of methods of conscientization which you have displayed through the simple act of presenting a Bill before the Parliament. With this move, on the one hand you have brought the Muslim women out of the confines of their homes to fight for their rights, and on the other, you have made all other women of the country aware of their rights to maintenance. We hope that our award will further enthuse you to continue to play an effective role in the development of the women's movement in India.
INDIAN WOMEN's ORGANISATION
The world has always thought of me as the fountainhead of Fundamentalism. l realize that in you l have met my Master.
Your humble disciple,