By KA Antony
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second-largest party in the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), has once again decided not to field women candidates for the Assembly elections to be held in Kerala on May 16. The decision to deny party tickets to women was taken ignoring the demand by the Vanitha League (women’s wing of the IUML) leaders for at least one seat for a woman candidate from the women’s wing.
Though resentment is brewing in the women’s wing, none of its leaders are in a mood to make a big issue out of it as they do not want to invite ire of the clergy and party leadership.
It is a known fact that there is no dearth of educated women with a good public image in the Vanitha League and also in the Muslim community. But when it comes to gender equality, the IUML leadership often ignores women candidates fearing the wrath of the clergy belonging to the two prominent Sunni factions led by Kanthapuram AP Abubacker Musliyar and the EK faction owing allegiance to the Muslim League.
Two names that were being discussed in the IUML circles as probable candidates for Assembly elections were that of Advocate KP Mariyumma and Advocate Noorbina Rasheed. Mariyumma has previously been elected as the president of the Malappuram district panchayat while Noorbina is a member of the State Women’s Commission.
Mariyumma did not hide her disappointment when she said she had expected at least one seat for a female candidate. “After all it’s for the party leadership to decide and I don’t want to elaborate further on the issue,” she said.
Sources in the Vanitha League said they had mooted the names of both Mariyumma and Noorbina to be considered as candidates to contest the Assembly election. “The party leadership was very positive to our claim in the beginning. We don’t know why and how things went awry,” sources said.
Asked why the Vanitha League leaders were not considered for the Assembly elections, IUML state general secretary KPA Majeed said that the party had to accommodate five ministers and 11 sitting MLAs. “We wanted to give seats to a few leaders from the Muslim Youth League,” he said adding that the party would have considered female candidates if it could field more candidates.
The first and perhaps the last time the IUML, never known for a women-friendly approach, had thrown up a surprise was in 1996, by fielding Khamarunnisa Anvar from Kozhikode-11.Though she lost in that election, the IUML gesture had created an impression that the party was changing its attitude towards women when it comes to elections.
However, the issue has come up for a discussion even among members from the Muslim community who accuse the IUML of taking a male chauvinistic stand when it comes to gender equality in elections.
V.P.Suhra, president of NISA, an organization for Muslim Women said the IUML stand on denying Assembly tickets to women cannot be accepted. “They (IUML) leaders are afraid of what Kanthapuram and other clerics would think when Muslim women are allowed to contest Assembly elections. Kanthapuram is bent on suppressing women even though he himself knows that even the prophet had not banned women from taking up prominent positions in politics and society,” she said.
Suhra said she is fighting a case against Kanthapuram, who had recently said that Muslim women should be confined to homes as their only duty is to be an obedient wife and a caring mother.
Abdul Nazar K, a social observer said no progressive changes were expected from a political party like the IUML, which is very afraid of the clergy when it comes to issues like women empowerment.
“It is true that the IUML is in the habit of fielding female candidates for the panchayat elections. But they are doing so as there is 50 percent reservation norm for women in local body elections,” he said.
Salim Idid Thangal, a senior journalist said the Samastha Kerala Jammiyathul Ulama and its subsidiary organizations like SYS and SKSSF always put pressure on the IUML when it comes to the question on women’s entry into politics,” he said.