While the AIADMK had staged a walkout last year, terming the Bill barbaric, this time around, Theni MP OP Raveendranath Kumar lauded it.

From calling it barbaric to supporting it AIADMKs U-turn on triple talaq billFile Image/PTI
news Politics Saturday, July 27, 2019 - 17:21

In a 180-degree-turn on its position on the controversial Triple Talaq Bill, the AIADMK came out in support even as the sole MP from the party praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for championing the cause of women’s equality. The Triple Talaq Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday with the Opposition staging a walkout. The Bill criminalises the practice of triple Talaq, a form of Islamic divorce, and imposes a jail term of up to three years for the husband indulging in the practice. In a brief speech in support of the Bill on Thursday, Theni MP Raveendranath Kumar said that this was an effort by the Prime Minister to 'give equal power to women in our society and give them opportunity to reach the highest position in social arena.'

“But right now, this Bill seeks to provide equal rights to all women irrespective of their religion. I, therefore, want to know whether they [the Opposition] accept this piece of legislation or not. Finally, I would say that given the right opportunities, women will achieve great successes and reach heights. Social practices like these should not be forced on them as they become impediments to their development.” he said. In an apparent reference to those opposing the Bill, the MP asked, “Will they agree if the same Muslim law is adopted for Hindus also?” He also claimed that the Vedic period saw women in the country being treated with respect but this deteriorated in the Middle Ages 'because of various bad practices against women in the society.'

AIADMK’s earlier position 

These words, however, note a marked difference in the AIADMK’s stance on the Bill— which the Theni MP did not explain in the House. Just over six months ago, in December 2018, the party had staged a walkout over the Bill, terming it ‘barbaric’. The party had also sought an amendment to remove the three-year jail term that penalises husbands who practice the triple Talaq. Anwar Rajhaa, the former AIADMK MP from Ramanathapuram, had opposed the Bill in parliament since it was ‘against the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India.’ 

“It is a direct infringement of Muslim personal law. Never in history was such a barbaric Bill drafted to harass Muslim men and destroy Muslim families. Article 25 (1) of the Constitution of India provides religious freedom for all. Article 26 provides for a person to follow his own religious faith and the personal laws prescribed by his religion. This amendment, therefore, breaks the very nature of the provisions of the Indian Constitution and destroys the religious fabric of the Nation,” he had said.

He pointed out that both Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami as well as Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had jointly decided to ask the Central Government to bring an amendment for the omission of the clause providing punishment attracting three years’ imprisonment with a fine.

‘AIADMK is a BJP clone’

On Friday, DMK chief and Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, MK Stalin tweeted slamming the volte-face by the ruling party in Tamil Nadu. “Last time the AIADMK attacked the Triple Talaq Bill, today the party supports it. Like the RTI Amendment Bill and the Motor Vehicles Bill, whatever the BJP says, the AIADMK supports. Having accepted the principles of the RSS, leased themselves out to the BJP and functioning as its clone, why does the AIADMK go by a separate name?” he asked. The DMK, along with its ally Congress, staged a walkout over the Bill.

Opposing the Bill, DMK's Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi questioned why the Centre was in a hurry over the passage of the Bill. Accusing the BJP government of arousing communal tensions, she said, “This law is short-sighted, discriminatory and divisive. Many people have pointed to the controversial history of this Bill. It was passed in Lok Sabha because you had a majority and it was sent to the Rajya Sabha. It was stalled there because it was against the Constitution.”

She further pointed out that women should be able to decide for themselves. “Why can women not be here to participate and be a part of this dialogue? Let us decide what is good for us. We do not want a man to tell us what is good for us. So, please pass the 33 per cent Women’s Reservation Bill before you talk about women’s rights,” she said.

A party divided

With no clarification being issued by the high command to party leaders, TNM was unable to elicit a response from any party spokespersons. Meanwhile, when confronted by reporters on Saturday, Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said, “Already Amma has clearly taken a stance on the Triple Talaq law. That is the position of the AIADMK. There is no second opinion on this. Our support is to all women from all communities. But at the same time, some shariyats have to be reformed. That was Amma's intent. It is our clear conviction that whatever stance that Amma had taken, continues to be our stance.”

Thus, the speech by the Deputy Chief Minister’s son, who has been waxing eloquent about the Prime Minister all through this session, has lead to doubts on whether he went rogue.

The Theni MP’s speech in the Lok Sabha came as a shock for many within the senior leadership of the party. Speaking to TNM, a veteran AIADMK leader, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The Indian constitution permits the practice of religious personal law across all religions. Just as Hindus have shastras, the Muslims have their own shariyat. This is protected by the constitution. This Bill is completely against that. Amma (late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa) was strongly opposed to the Triple Talaq Bill. She understood that meddling in people’s religious affairs would hurt them.”

Sources in the AIADMK say that this sudden move has also caught Muslim leaders in the party by surprise, leaving them fuming since they were not consulted on the matter. “A discussion on such crucial legislation usually takes place and the Minority Affairs Wing of the party convenes to discuss it along with the political ramifications. However, no such meeting or consultation took place. No internal communication was sent to leaders regarding this issue. No change in stance has been announced by the party leadership. Party leaders also saw it on the news when Raveendranath Kumar spoke in parliament,” says the source.

Many believe that Raveendranath supporting the bill once again betrayed the differences within the party, especially between Edappadi Palanisamy and O Paneerselvam.

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