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Who Is Ishrat Jahan, Bengal BJP’s Newest Weapon Against Mamata?

Shunned by Mamata, here’s a look at Ishrat Jahan’s crusade against triple talaq and her induction into the BJP.

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Explainers
4 min read
Who Is Ishrat Jahan, Bengal BJP’s Newest Weapon Against Mamata?
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Triple Talaq crusader from West Bengal, Ishrat Jahan, joined the BJP on Sunday, 31 December. She is being hailed as the Bengal BJP’s new Muslim face and a crucial catch ahead of the impending Panchayat polls in the state.

Who Is Ishrat Jahan?

Ishrat Jahan is one of the five petitioners whose plea in the Supreme Court led to a historic verdict on the issue of triple talaq in August 2017. The court declared the nearly 1,400 year old practice of verbal divorce by Muslim men illegal. By invoking triple talaq, men could earlier divorce their wives instantly by saying the world ‘talaq’ thrice.

In April 2015, Ishrat (now 31), received a call from her husband of 15 years, Murtaza, who was living in Dubai. He said “talaq, talaq, talaq” thrice and disconnected the phone. Like many living in and around the Muslim colonies of Kolkata, Ishrat and Murtaza were from Bihar. They married in 2000 and moved to Howrah. She filed a petition in the Supreme Court next year.

Who Is Ishrat Jahan, Bengal BJP’s Newest Weapon Against Mamata?

  1. 1. The Divorce and Ishrat’s Fight Against Triple Talaq

    A few months into their marriage, Ishrat gave birth to three daughters. Murtaza, who did embroidery for a living, was intent on having a son and wanted a second marriage. Ishrat gave birth to a son in 2010 but that did not help matters. Her husband, who had already moved to Dubai, kept threatening her with divorce. In the meantime, Ishrat continued to be mistreated by her in-laws and husband and even filed a domestic abuse case against them in 2014.

    In April the next year, Murtaza divorced her. He later remarried and claimed custody of all his children.

    It took the class 12 pass-out a year to take the matter up in court with the help of Muslim lawyer Nazia Elahi Khan whom she met in 2016.

    Ishrat Jahan with her lawyer Nazia Elahi Khan.
    (Photo Courtesy: Zee News)

    Nazia and her NGO helped Ishrat file a PIL in the Supreme Court and covered all her expenses. In the days after the divorce, Ishrat continued to live in Howrah, in her matrimonial house. Her father paid Rs 4 lakh in dowry towards the house, she claimed.

    In 2016, she also filed two FIRs against her brother-in-law (who lived in the same house with his wife) alleging that he had molested her. The police took no action, she later said.

    Ishrat and Nazia also managed to get custody of Ishrat’s son through the West Bengal Commission For Women. She did not claim custody of any of her daughters.

    I don’t accept the talaq by phone. I want justice. I want my three daughters and one son back from my husband who snatched them away and I want maintenance for their upbringing. That’s why I have gone to court. I will fight to the finish.
    Ishrat Jahan to NDTV before her matter was to be heard in the Supreme Court for the first time.

    In October 2015, a Supreme Court bench requested the Chief Justice of India to set up a separate bench to examine discrimination faced by Muslim women in divorce cases. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was asked to assist the court in pleas challenging the validity of Triple Talaq and polygamy. The government had vehemently opposed the practice in the court.

    A five-judge Constitution bench was set up to hear the plea in May 2017. The Court, which made it clear that it will only look at the “constitutionality” of triple talaq and not delve into issues of polygamy, declared the practice illegal despite protests by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

    Expand
  2. 2. After Triple Talaq, Another Battle

    Two days after the Supreme Court verdict, Ishrat wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking police protection.

    The decision has opened a floodgate of abuse, she said. Her husband and his family were furious with her for fighting the case in court and had ostracised her. Her children were also being turned against her. Later in the month, Ishrat also filed a case with the police stating that two of her four children were missing. The police later traced them to her husband. She was not accorded any protection by the state.
    (L to R): Trinamool MP Idris Ali and MLA Siddiqullah Chowdhury who were show-caused by the party for making distasteful comments against Ishrat Jahan.
    (Photo: ANI/Indian Express/Altered by The Quint)

    Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee who had kept quiet on the verdict, was in hot water when two Trinamool leaders made distasteful comments against Ishrat and called her fight “un-Islamic”. The two leaders were show-caused by the party but Ishrat maintained that that was not enough.

    Expand
  3. 3. Entry Into Politics

    Observers believe that Mamata’s alienation of Ishrat and her silence on the issue of triple talaq is what helped the BJP convince Ishrat to join them. Right after her discreet induction into the party at the BJP’s Howrah office, Ishrat launched a scathing attack against Mamata Banerjee.

    Ishrat Jahan joins the BJP at the party’s office in Howrah, West Bengal.
    (Photo: PTI)
    Despite the fact that our CM is a woman, nothing has been done for gender justice in my case and in the fight of Muslim women. I was fighting alone, there was no cooperation from any corner or from political parties.
    Ishrat Jahan to News18, after joining the BJP

    Interestingly, Bengal BJP Chief Dilip Ghosh told reporters that he learnt about Ishrat’s induction after it was done. The BJP is planning to showcase her as the face of the party in its first minority meet in Kolkata on 11 January.

    This is being seen a masterstroke by the BJP ahead of the crucial panchayat polls in 2018, attacking Mamata’s key vote bank – Muslim women. Whether it is the central government’s bulldozing of the Triple Talaq bill through Lok Sabha earlier this month, or having Ishrat as their new Muslim face, the BJP is definitely looking to cash in on the triple talaq momentum. All eyes now on Mamata’s next move in this game of communal chess.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The Divorce and Ishrat’s Fight Against Triple Talaq

A few months into their marriage, Ishrat gave birth to three daughters. Murtaza, who did embroidery for a living, was intent on having a son and wanted a second marriage. Ishrat gave birth to a son in 2010 but that did not help matters. Her husband, who had already moved to Dubai, kept threatening her with divorce. In the meantime, Ishrat continued to be mistreated by her in-laws and husband and even filed a domestic abuse case against them in 2014.

In April the next year, Murtaza divorced her. He later remarried and claimed custody of all his children.

It took the class 12 pass-out a year to take the matter up in court with the help of Muslim lawyer Nazia Elahi Khan whom she met in 2016.

Ishrat Jahan with her lawyer Nazia Elahi Khan.
(Photo Courtesy: Zee News)

Nazia and her NGO helped Ishrat file a PIL in the Supreme Court and covered all her expenses. In the days after the divorce, Ishrat continued to live in Howrah, in her matrimonial house. Her father paid Rs 4 lakh in dowry towards the house, she claimed.

In 2016, she also filed two FIRs against her brother-in-law (who lived in the same house with his wife) alleging that he had molested her. The police took no action, she later said.

Ishrat and Nazia also managed to get custody of Ishrat’s son through the West Bengal Commission For Women. She did not claim custody of any of her daughters.

I don’t accept the talaq by phone. I want justice. I want my three daughters and one son back from my husband who snatched them away and I want maintenance for their upbringing. That’s why I have gone to court. I will fight to the finish.
Ishrat Jahan to NDTV before her matter was to be heard in the Supreme Court for the first time.

In October 2015, a Supreme Court bench requested the Chief Justice of India to set up a separate bench to examine discrimination faced by Muslim women in divorce cases. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was asked to assist the court in pleas challenging the validity of Triple Talaq and polygamy. The government had vehemently opposed the practice in the court.

A five-judge Constitution bench was set up to hear the plea in May 2017. The Court, which made it clear that it will only look at the “constitutionality” of triple talaq and not delve into issues of polygamy, declared the practice illegal despite protests by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

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After Triple Talaq, Another Battle

Two days after the Supreme Court verdict, Ishrat wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking police protection.

The decision has opened a floodgate of abuse, she said. Her husband and his family were furious with her for fighting the case in court and had ostracised her. Her children were also being turned against her. Later in the month, Ishrat also filed a case with the police stating that two of her four children were missing. The police later traced them to her husband. She was not accorded any protection by the state.
(L to R): Trinamool MP Idris Ali and MLA Siddiqullah Chowdhury who were show-caused by the party for making distasteful comments against Ishrat Jahan.
(Photo: ANI/Indian Express/Altered by The Quint)

Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee who had kept quiet on the verdict, was in hot water when two Trinamool leaders made distasteful comments against Ishrat and called her fight “un-Islamic”. The two leaders were show-caused by the party but Ishrat maintained that that was not enough.

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Entry Into Politics

Observers believe that Mamata’s alienation of Ishrat and her silence on the issue of triple talaq is what helped the BJP convince Ishrat to join them. Right after her discreet induction into the party at the BJP’s Howrah office, Ishrat launched a scathing attack against Mamata Banerjee.

Ishrat Jahan joins the BJP at the party’s office in Howrah, West Bengal.
(Photo: PTI)
Despite the fact that our CM is a woman, nothing has been done for gender justice in my case and in the fight of Muslim women. I was fighting alone, there was no cooperation from any corner or from political parties.
Ishrat Jahan to News18, after joining the BJP

Interestingly, Bengal BJP Chief Dilip Ghosh told reporters that he learnt about Ishrat’s induction after it was done. The BJP is planning to showcase her as the face of the party in its first minority meet in Kolkata on 11 January.

This is being seen a masterstroke by the BJP ahead of the crucial panchayat polls in 2018, attacking Mamata’s key vote bank – Muslim women. Whether it is the central government’s bulldozing of the Triple Talaq bill through Lok Sabha earlier this month, or having Ishrat as their new Muslim face, the BJP is definitely looking to cash in on the triple talaq momentum. All eyes now on Mamata’s next move in this game of communal chess.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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