A large throng of approximately 70,000 women, mostly clad in hijab, stepped out of their houses in Malegaon to join a silent march protesting against the Centre’s Triple Talaq Bill. Holding placards, they stated they did not want any interference in Sharia (Islamic law) by the government. This is the biggest gathering so far of Muslim women in the country joining voice against the imposition of a new law on triple talaq.
The protest march was organised by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board(AIMPLB) and supported by all sects of Muslims, apart from NGOs and social workers. A nondescript town on the national map, Malegaon is a textile hub. It has a population of 4.71 lakh (as per the 2011 census) — and around 350 mosques.
All the roads in Central Malegaon were cleared for the protest. “As per our estimate around 60,000 to 70,000 women participated in the silent rally. Not a single untoward incident was reported. We had deployed mostly women police personnel, and additional staff was called in from outside Malegaon to maintain law and order,” said Gajanan Rajmaney, the deputy superintendent of police of the town. Unofficial estimates put the figure at well over a lakh.
Rajmaney added that besides police cameras, over two dozen CCTV cameras were installed especially for the procession at various locations. “We did not allow even any bicycle along the entire stretch of the rally. It was a peaceful bandobast,” he said.
Well qualified women including teachers, lawyers and doctors were among those who chose to make themselves heard. “We participated in the rally to oppose the triple talaq Bill. We don’t want any interference in our Sharia law,” said Aafiya Kaleem, a homemaker who travelled two kilometres to join the march.
Gazala Nasir Royal, a doctor who attended, said that India is a democratic country and everyone has the right to follow his/her religion. “The government should not interfere in anyone’s religion. We will not tolerate this. To register our protest, we carried out a silent and peaceful march,” she said.
Rizwana Hamdani, a schoolteacher, said she participated to register her protest against the hypocritical discourse around gender equity. “Why is there no talk of 22 lakh abandoned Hindu wives? Why shed crocodile tears for Muslim women alone? I am completely opposed to the criminalisation of instant triple talaq,” said Hamdani.
Dr Saiqua Jabeen, a gynecologist, said, “We love Allah and his Prophet and cannot tolerate any interference in our Sharia. Islam has given maximum freedom to women. We don’t want any change in Sharia and that is why we protested.” Dr Arshiya Malik Ambar, an eye specialist, stated that the triple talaq bill be rejected.
Ulema from different sects including Maulana Umrain Rehmani, general secretary of the AIMPLB, handed over a memorandum to the additional collector in Malegaon requesting that it be sent to senior officials.