Shatranj Ki Baazi: Muslim Women'S Activism, The Patriarchy, And Triple Talaq In Modi'S India




D'Aguilar, Danielle Ayana

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In August, 2017, the Indian Supreme Court ruled on a landmark case involving one Shayara Bano and four petitioners that instant triple talaq, a unique and controversial variation of an Islamic method for declaring divorce, was incompatible with the Indian constitution due to its detrimental effects on Muslim women and its lack of centrality to the religion. Many news and media sources both in India and around the world were quick to report this as a straightforward victory for Muslim women, while the male-dominated Islamic scholarly community expressed disdain at the least and outrage at the most. However, the matter is far more complicated and requires an understanding of history, social structure and political ideologies in India. The first portion of this paper analyzes the history of State intervention in Muslim personal law from the colonial period onward in an effort to contextualize and critique the current government’s actions. It then analyzes and compares the tactics and positions of four Muslim women’s activist groups and the one male-dominated group at the forefront of public discourse on instant triple talaq, as well as their responses to the Supreme Court judgement and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s subsequent executive order to criminalize the practice. Ultimately, the paper aims to answer the following question: What do these groups approaches to activism and stances on instant triple talaq convey about the current state of gender politics in Islamic institutions in India? In the process of providing an answer, the paper also addresses issues such as the relationship between the State and religious minorities, the competing loyalties that face Muslim women, and the inevitable consequences of inviting a Hindu nationalist regime to intervene in a prolonged conflict between Muslim women and the patriarchal forces behind the Islamic institutions.



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