The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parties shy away from Imrana
- CPM alone in support

New Delhi, June 30: Imrana, the 28-year-old raped by her father-in-law and ordered out of her house by the clergy, has been left to fend for herself as political parties shy away from taking a stand on an issue that could cost them votes.

The Congress, which heads the government in Delhi, has been silent on the fatwa ordering Imrana and her husband Noor Ilahi to separate, save to say that the law should take its course.

The Samajwadi Party, which rules Uttar Pradesh, where Imrana lives, has come out openly in favour of the fatwa issued by the Deoband clergy.

And the BJP, the Opposition both at the Centre and in the state, sees in Imrana’s helplessness an opportunity to put its rivals on the mat with the charge of “votebank politics” and draw attention to its once-vocal demand for a common civil code.

Only the CPM has declared it will fight for her, in Parliament and outside.

Politburo member Brinda Karat said women’s organisations are exploring legal options to bring an end to all caste- or religion-based diktats that hurt women.

“We will also raise the matter in a big way in Parliament,” she said.

The BJP described Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s support for the fatwa as a “national shame” and said the silence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi was “even more serious”.

“This is a cruel example of vote-bank politics,” spokesperson Arun Jaitley said.

Jaitley said the fatwa highlighted the need to bring personal laws in conformity with constitutional provisions. But sources said the party did not intend to revive its demand for a common civil code, put in the deep freeze after the BJP opted for coalition politics.

The BJP did call for a revocation of the fatwa, but did not offer to campaign for it.

In taking the easy way out, the political parties were acting in character. Two decades ago, Rajiv Gandhi had kowtowed to the Muslim clergy by bringing in a bill that overturned a Supreme Court ruling in the Shah Bano case and denied alimony to divorced women from the community.

But leading members of the Muslim community criticised the fatwa sharply.

“The maulvis are losing ground in terms of popularity among Muslims, and they want to reassert themselves. They realise their constituency is rapidly shrinking ' a reason why they keep issuing such atrocious proclamations from time to time,” said poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar.

Ashgar Ali Engineer, an expert on Islamic Studies, said: “The clergy can only target the illiterate Muslims, who have not read the Quran' The maulvis are virtually ridiculing Islam and Shariat.”

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