Muslim League freezes women students' wing for speaking up on sexual harassment

Around 10 leaders from the women students' wing, Haritha, had accused the Muslim Students' Federation leaders of sexual harassment and usage of derogatory language, but the IUML did not act on their complaint.
IUML leaders
IUML leaders
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The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is facing criticism for freezing the state committee of its Haritha wing, the women's wing of the Muslim Students' Federation (MSF), which has been vocal about its rights and ambitions. The leaders of the Haritha wing have been engaged in a fight with the MSF, have raised serious allegations of sexual harassment (using abusive words) against MSF leaders and made the details of this public on August 11. Ever since, the IUML has been on a firefighting mission, aiming for a patch up. The tug of war came out amid the black money controversy that hit the IUML badly, becoming a headache for the party leaders. But now, the conversation has become about the patriarchy within the party, and it has reached a stage when the IUML has frozen the Haritha wing for daring to raise their voice against sexual harassment and derogatory language used against women.

Around 10 leaders from the Haritha wing, including the State President, Secretary, Joint Secretary, and Treasurer, have accused MSF leaders of using vulgar language, and trying to oppress women. The allegations are against MSF State President PK Navas and Malappuram District General Secretary V Abdul Vahab.

However, since the IUML leaders did not take any action against Navas and Abdul Vahab, the Hairtha wing leaders approached the State Women's Commission and submitted a complaint last week. Haritha's decision to go public took IUML by surprise because in comparison to them, the Vanitha League, the IUML's women's wing has always followed the party diktats. According to the complaint, PK Navas and Abdul Vahab spoke to them in a vulgar manner during the state leadership meet of the MSF which was held in Kozhikode on June 22. They have alleged that PK Navas termed the Haritha wing leaders as "infertile feminists". When the Haritha wing leaders expressed their opinions during the meeting, PK Navas allegedly said that "even prostitutes" have opinions and that the Haritha wing leaders could therefore express theirs too.

During the meeting, Abdul Vahab allegedly threatened a Malappuram district leader of the Haritha wing, stating that if they wanted to continue in the organisation, they should toe the line drawn by male leaders. The fight between the MSF and the Haritha wing began when the former's state committee drew up the composition of the Malappuram district committee of the Haritha wing without consulting the state leadership of the latter.

When the Haritha wing leaders filed a complaint with the Women's Commission, the IUML leaders scrambled to work out a truce between the MSF and the Haritha wing. “A slew of deliberations happened after it,” said one of the complainants. The police have also contacted the Haritha wing leaders after intervention from the Women's Commission, she added. Earlier, Women's Commission member Shahida Kamal had said that they will conduct an inquiry about the complaint.

However, the IUML was unhappy that the Haritha wing made the matter public and went to the Women's Commission, flouting the boundaries set by the party. They wanted the complaint to the Commission to be withdrawn, and claimed that action will be taken only after that.

On August 16, the IUML leaders gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Haritha wing to withdraw the complaint. But, the Haritha leaders refused to budge on their demand that action is taken against Navas and Abdul Vahab. The ultimatum was given at a meeting of leaders from both the MSF and the Haritha wing, convened by the IUML in Panakkad. On August 17, when the Haritha wing did not back out, the IUML froze the women students' wing.

“When PK Firos was the state leader of the MSF, he started Haritha, a separate wing for female students. He envisioned it as the Vanitha League under the wing of the IUML. But, Haritha is not standing under the leaders of the MSF. They have their own opinions, views and aspirations,” said Muhammad Haneefa, IUML political observer.

Even though the IUML has a women’s organisation and women leaders, the party does not encourage them to come into the public sphere. Contrary to this, the younger Haritha wing has grown in numbers and is considered to be stronger than the MSF. It has created political awareness among women students, and the wing actively participates in meetings and protests conducted by the MSF.

“So, if the IUML takes action against Haritha and dismantles the organisation, it will be a blunder,” said Muhammad Haneefa. The IUML leaders are of the opinion that the Haritha wing should be "controlled", he added.

Haneefa pointed out that in this issue, the IUML has set aside their factional war, and is taking a united position against the Haritha wing because of the IUML's conservative views on women's freedom. However, MK Muneer, IUML leader, told Asianet that several leaders of the Haritha wing have been members of local self government. “They are our children. The discussion is going on to reach a consensus. A public discussion should be avoided," he said earlier. However, he did not comment on the delay in responding to the complaint given to the party leadership by the Haritha leaders.


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