Asaduddin Owaisi’s eloquence and his debating skills remain beyond doubt. There is no gainsaying that he is a fine speaker and presents his points of view in a very refined and logical way. Many Muslims in the country have started seeing him as a leader who has wherewithal to withstand pressure from all sides and talk about the community issues.
The latest round of applause for the Hyderabad Lok Sabha MP, who also heads All India Majlid-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), is due to his forceful defense of the triple talaq and decimation of government argument brought forward for making triple talaq a non-bailable offense with three year jail term.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 that has been stalled in the Rajya Sabha by a united opposition on this very issue was passed without any hitch from the lower house of the Parliament. The only person who tried to powerfully and convincingly showcase the malafide intent of the Modi government in making the triple talaq a criminal offence, he even didn’t spare Prime Minister Modi in his Parliament speech. Apparently, taking a dig at the PM, firebrand Hyderabad MP said, justice should be given “20 lakh abandoned women” from all religions, including “our bhabhi in Gujarat”.
Decimating government argument
The government has tried to justify the triple talaq bill by claiming that the triple talaq is banned in several countries including Turkey and Pakistan. The Supreme Court has already banned the triple talaq, making it void. This means that the affected woman will continue to remain the wife of the person irrespective of the fact that he gave her three verbal divorces simultaneously.
The main opposition to the bill is due to the fact that the contentious legislation makes triple talaq a criminal offense. Owaisi tore to shreds the government argument in the Lok Sabha. “The Union law minister has failed to discriminate between civil law and criminal law. Not a single Muslim country has a penal provision. Triple talaq is verbal and emotional abuse,” Owaisi said.
He criticized Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as a poor law drafter and said, “In Section 3, the law minister accepts that triple talaq will be void, then how can you punish him (the husband)? Something which is void cannot be punished as it has no legal force”.
The Hyderabad MP said that in no Muslim country, the triple verbal talaq has a penal provision. Prasad had given the example of Pakistan, but Owaisi rebutted it by saying, that the law minister has quoted Pakistan, but Section 61 of the Pakistan law has been stayed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and no Muslim country has a penal provision.
Comparison with two Muslim clerics in Lok Sabha
The community media is all praise for Owaisi and condemnation of two Muslim clerics including Congress MP from Kishenganj, Maulana Asrarul Haq Qasmi and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief and perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal.
The two Lok Sabha MPs who, being the graduates of India’s top Muslim seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, were expected to present the case of the Muslim community and the shortcomings of the triple talaq bill brought out by the saffron camp.
The two MPs who are being condemned by the community activists for letting down the community by not putting forward the Muslim point of view, were absent on the day when the bill was brought for voting in the Lok Sabha. A community news portal Muslim Mirror while quoting a Muslim activist and the larger anguish of the Muslim community said, “under pretext of protecting Muslim women’s rights, this government infringed upon the fundamental rights of the Muslim community enshrined in the Constitution and Muslim MPs were supposed to raise the concerns of the community but they failed to them on this very crucial matter which would have far-reaching impacts”.
There has been so much outpouring of hatred and criticism against the two that Maulana Asrarul Haq Qasmi had to clarify that there was a gag order from the Party on the issue and he was persuaded by the party leadership not to speak anything on the triple talaq bill in the lower house of the Parliament.
Meanwhile widespread resentment is brewing against the billionaire perfume baron, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. Detractors are claiming that unlike Asrarul Haq Qasmi, there was no pressure on Ajmal and his brother, also a Lok Sabha MP, from his party leadership. A Muslim activist was quoted by the MuslimMirror as saying, “The absence of Muslim MPs from the parliament during Triple Talaq debate is unacceptable, more unacceptable is their lame excuses after the bill was passed in lower house of the parliament. This shows how ill prepared they are and ill equipped to face such challenges and high voltage debates in the parliament. Their track record as Member of Parliament is very poor. They keep sitting idle and unfortunately they represent most backward regions of the country”.
It is needless to say that the comparison between Owaisi and other MPs is being increasingly made by his fans. There are many new ‘converts’ who used to oppose him earlier, but are now showering fulsome praise on the Hyderabad MPs.
Owaisi as a polarizing force
There is no denying that Owaisi is a good debater and reasonably good public speaker. But this shouldn’t obfuscate the fact that he has been a polarizing force in areas wherever his political outfit contests elections. AIMIM, a Hyderabad, Telangana based party has been trying to expand into areas that were out of bound for it. He has fought elections in Maharashtra, Bihar, UP, Karnataka and Delhi, but without much luck thus far.
There is a perception among the community activists that Owaisi helps polarize pro BJP votes in its favor by his high-pitched speeches during election time. Maulana Arshad Madani of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind says “I have heard his speeches, they tend to be such that they add to the already heated political climate. Spewing fire is not a viable election strategy… I cannot make an exception to my opposition to polarisation politics for a Muslim party. When BJP does it, it’s bad; when AIMIM does it, even then it is bad.”