Social Scientist. v 15, no. 157 (June 1986) p. 55.


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Ruling Party's Defence of Muslim Women s Bill

THE TAME petering out of the campaign against the Muslim (Divorced) Women's Maintenance Bill 1986 is best seen in the absence of critical response to the Congress party's submissions during the debate in the parliament. Barring Seema Mustafa who wrote in the Telegraph on the presentation of K. C Pant, Union Minister for Steel and Mines, none of the newspaper editors or other commentators thought it fit to examine and scrutinise the nature of the submissions of the Congress party. And yet a critique of the ruling party's defence of and reasoning behind the Bill is necessary, not only because the Bill would have a debilitating effect on the Muslim community but also because it is a less disadvantageous way to ensure a commual chasm which can enable the legitimisation of the pandering of the articulate sections of the Hindu community. The debate in parliament therefore, sheds light on the ruling party's attitude and approach, and helps identify the evolving contours of the ruling party's political ideology.

When the Bill was presented before the Lok Sabha on February 27 the Prime Minister defended it on the ground that Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code was "not giving adequate protection to women", and that the then proposed Bill gave the Muslim women much more than was available under sections 125 and l27ofCr.P.C. He contended that the Supreme Court judgement had posed "certain" uncertainties in the mind of "certain" Muslims. He added that it was not for the government to examine whether these were "concrete" or not, as it was enough to know that "minorities were afraid that their rights were being diluted". By the time it was debated in the parliament, in May last, the emphasis had shifted almost exclusively to stressing that the Bill was brought in deference to the wishes of the Muslim community. The Union Minister for Law, A.K. Sen, in his intervention in the debate on May 5 stated that "the accusation is that the Government is surrendering to communalism and fundamentalism" and wondered : is it surrendering to fundamentalism or communalism, if every time we listen to the just demands of the minority if you heed to their sensitiveness about the protection of their personal laws" ? When a member of parliament reminded the Minister that "their (minority community's) legitimate demand is education, health"...... he was



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