Triple Talaq Petitioner Harassed by In-Laws, Snubbed by Neighbours
Justice is a distant dream for this triple talaq victim from Bengal who’s being harassed by her in-laws.
After the Supreme Court declared instant talaq unconstitutional, Ishrat Jahan has reasons to smile. She faced attacks and was humiliated by the police in her quest for justice. But Ishrat has succeeded in bringing a ray of light into the lives of hundreds of Muslim women who suffer silently within the walls of their homes.
Ishrat, who lives in a Muslim neighbourhood of Pilkhana in Howrah district of West Bengal, is among the five women who petitioned the Supreme Court against the misuse of triple talaq.
She has emerged to represent the collective voice of those abandoned like old furniture and left to fend for themselves for no fault of their own.
Harassed for Dowry
The apex court in its historic judgement on 22 August declared the age-old practice of giving divorce by pronouncing ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ as unconstitutional.
This decision is not less than a big victory for Ishrat who fought tooth and nail against the practice that has ‘ruined the lives of six people’.
Thirty one-year-old Ishrat, hailing from the Nawada district of Bihar, got married to Murtaza Ansari of Pilkhana, Bengal in 2001. He was fourteen years older than her. Ishrat’s father had given Rs 5 lakh as dowry, and yet failed to satisfy the greed of her in-laws.
They began to torture me few years after the marriage and demanded for more dowry. The assaults increased after I gave birth to three daughters as they wanted a male child. Fortunately, my fourth child was a male, but the harassment for dowry continued.Ishrat Jahan
In January 2015, her husband, an embroidery worker, went to Bihar and married another woman. A few months later, he left for Dubai.
My husband also forcibly took our four children to his second wife in Bihar. She tortured them and forced them to do odd jobs. Two of my children have returned, while others might follow soon.Ishrat Jahan
‘Justice for Herself and Her Children’
Soon after Ishrat’s husband Murtaza left for Dubai, his elder brother allegedly tried to molest her after she refused to leave the house.
Narrating her hardship, Ishrat said,
He (brother-in-law) tried to molest me twice. I went to the local Golabari police station, but instead of filing my complaint the police suggested I go for mutual settlement. They even humiliated me and shooed me out of the police station when I demanded the arrest of the accused. They didn’t bother to take any action.
Ishrat refused to leave the house and decided to stay put in the same flat along with her in-laws. Angry over her decision to approach the police, her in-laws disconnected the power supply of her room last year. Since then, she has been living in darkness, heat and humidity.
In early 2016, Ishrat met with Nazia Elahi Khan, an advocate in Kolkata who was so moved by her plight that she decided to fight for her.
When she first met me, she was broken but not shattered. She wanted justice for herself and for her children who were virtually reduced to beggars with the pronouncement of mere three words. I decided to fight the legal battle on her behalf.Nazia Elahi Khan, Ishrat Jahan’s lawyer
Nazia was present in the apex court when the judgment was delivered on 22 August.
Villain in the Eyes of Her Kin
Ishrat says, that she has become a villain in her locality since the Supreme Court judgment:
People had serious objections with my decision to move to the apex court; even my parents were against it. But I refused to budge. The neighbourhod where I stay is dominated by the Muslim community and lot of men are angry with me. They have also threatened me of dire consequences if I do not mend my ways, but I refused to pay any heed to them.
“After all, my husband has ruined the lives of six people including my four children and his two wives. He should be brought back and awarded an exemplary punishment. That is what he deserves,” said Ishrat.
As Ishrat had described, the maulvi of a local mosque described the judgment as shocking and sad that could lead to a rise in social evils.
The judgment is shocking and amounts to interference in the custom of others. I express my full sympathy for the community and condemn it in strongest words.Maulana Md Sabir Hussain Alimi
Few Hurdles Remain
On 25 August, Ishrat wrote to West Bengal CM Mamta Bannerjee and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (since she hails from Bihar and two of her children still live in the state with their stepmother) seeking protection for herself and her family. She feels threatened because she has been asked by her sister-in-law to vacate the house and their neighbours have also boycotted her.
Despite her own hardships, the gutsy woman urges all other women suffering silently behind the four walls of their houses to come out and fight for their rights.
The Supreme Court verdict is nonetheless historic for women like Ishrat who have undoubtedly won an important battle, but still have to fight a long war.
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
(The writer is a Kolkata-based freelance journalist.)
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