WILL MODI NOW SPEAK FOR 6 CRORE HINDU WIDOWS?

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India is said to be the home of the largest number of widows in the world, followed by China

Mumtaz Alam | Caravan Daily

FOUR days before the last Independence Day, the Supreme Court of India had expressed deep concern over the plight of thousands of widows in the Hindu holy town of Vrindavan and crores of others across the country. The highest court of the land went ahead setting up a committee to suggest measures to rehabilitate the widows abandoned by their family members and even asked the government to promote widow marriage.

It is a pity that these widows have been so unfortunately dealt with, as if they have ceased to be entitled to live a life of dignity and as if they are not entitled to the protection of Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution,” the SC bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said on August 11. The apex court also said that widow marriage should be encouraged in the society as it “might enable our society to give up the stereotype view of widows”.

As per Census 2011, there were 5.6 crore widows, which was 4.6% of the entire population of the country. Around 10% of them were in the age group of 10-39 years and 32% in the age group of 40-59 years. India is said to be the home of the largest number of widows in the world, followed by China with around five crore widows. The Census 2001 had recorded only 18.5 lakh widows in the country.

Hardly can one question the PM’s concern about a section of women in the country. But one will certainly be wondering why he is not giving such attention to the widows that constitute a far bigger portion of the women population than those facing Triple Talaq or going on Haj.

In his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi boldly talked about various issues including those related to women. One might have hoped that the PM would also speak about the plight of widows – the issue raised by the Supreme Court just four days before the Independence Day. But the PM chose to speak about the “very difficult life” of Muslim women due to Triple Talaq.

“In the context of women empowerment, I’d like to honour those sisters who have been forced to lead a very difficult life due to ‘Triple Talaq’. There is no recourse for them, and such victims of ‘Triple Talaq’ have launched a massive movement in the country.  They shook the conscience of the intellectual class of the country, the media of the country also helped them and a movement against ‘Triple Talaq’ was started in the country,” said the PM.

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“I heartily commend those sisters who have launched this movement, who have been fighting against the ‘Triple Talaq’ and I’m confident that the country will help them in this struggle. The country will help these mothers and sisters in securing this right. India will fully support them and they will ultimately achieve success in this very important step in the direction of women empowerment; I am fully confident about this,” the PM promised.

Before and after the Independence Day speech, PM Modi has raised the issue of Triple Talaq at various platforms including the electoral ones. His deep concern about the issue pushed his government to draft a law criminalizing Triple Talq with three years sentence for guilty husbands. And thanks to the absolute majority his party BJP enjoys in the Lok Sabha, the bill was easily passed in the House on December 28, and will now be moved in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday (January 02).

In his last address to the nation in 2017, PM Modi spoke to the country through his Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast on Sunday (December 31). Besides various issues, he talked at length about Haj pilgrimage of Muslim women.

“It has come to our notice that if a Muslim woman wants to go on Haj Pilgrimage, she must have a ‘Mehram’ or a male guardian, otherwise she cannot travel. When I first heard about it, I wondered how it could be possible! Who would have drafted such rules? Why this discrimination? And when I went into the depth of the matter I was surprised to find that – even after seventy years of our independence, we were the ones who had imposed these restrictions. For decades, injustice was being rendered to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it. Even in many Islamic countries this practice does not exist. But Muslim women in India did not have this right. And I’m glad that our government paid heed to this matter,” said the PM.

Hardly can one question the PM’s concern about a section of women in the country. But one will certainly be wondering why he is not giving such attention to the widows that constitute a far bigger portion of the women population than those facing Triple Talaq or going on Haj. The population of 6 crore widows belongs to various faiths including Muslim but their huge majority are indeed Hindu.

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