Lucknow, June 30: Imrana’s face was a picture of despair, underlined by the blackness of the burqa that covered her body. Except for the hands, which were folded as she begged to be left alone.
She is alone, with no political party barring the Left willing to speak up for her.
“She told me she has had enough,” said National Commission for Women chairperson Girija Vyas, who spoke to Imrana and husband Noor Ilahi for two hours at a Muzaffarnagar guesthouse today.
The 28-year-old mother of five, raped by her father-in-law, stopped by clerics’ fatwas from returning to her husband and turned into a pawn by politicians, seemed on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
She had just one plea: the rape and the publicity was bad enough; let her not now be paraded every day before the media and rights groups.
“Every time she is brought in to speak, her recent dark memories are rekindled,” Vyas said.
But there was no let-up. After meeting Vyas’s seven-member team, she was brought before the media around 12.30 on a ground near the guesthouse. Dozens of cameras focused on her face as Imrana folded her hands nervously.
“I will do whatever the Shariat orders me to do,” she said in a low voice. After a long pause, as if recalling what she had been tutored to say, she added: “If they tell me to leave my husband, I will. I will follow the fatwa (by the Deoband school of theology).”
Forced to leave her in-laws’ place in Charthwal village, Imrana has already moved in with her parents at Kukra.
Asked about father-in-law Ali Mohammad, she said: “Mujhe desh ke kanun me astha hai (I have faith in the law of the land).”
It was more or less what the Congress ' Vyas’s party ' had said, with Muslim votes uppermost in its mind.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had gone one better. Requested by the state women’s commission to come to Imrana’s aid, Yadav had openly backed the clerics.
“The decision of the Muslim religious leaders must have been taken after a lot of thought,” he said yesterday.
The politicians’ caution was easy to understand. The Saharanpur school of ulemas has threatened to hold a march if “outsiders” try to interfere in Shariat law. Some ulemas have offered Imrana financial help, but on condition that she desists from speaking against the Shariat or the clerics.
Even Vyas was all sympathy and little support. She put the ball in the court of “the Constitution” and “the judges who alone can interpret it and pass a judgment”.
Support, however, came from women Congress workers ' the sort Imrana seems to anxious to avoid. Even before Vyas had reached the town, hundreds of these women made for the guesthouse.
The All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board stood up for Imrana in Lucknow. Its chairperson, Shaista Ambar, held an “open panchayat” in which women activists lambasted the Deoband clerics and All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Ambar demanded the expulsion of two law board members, Begum Nasim Iqtedar and Khalid Rashid, for supporting the Deoband fatwa.