HT Image
HT Image

'My mother was wronged, gravely wronged'

Twenty-five years after govt reworked laws to deny divorced Muslim women maintenance, Shah Bano's youngest son speaks out on vote-bank politics, societal pressure, and his family's allegiance to the Shariat.
By Saeed Khan | Hindustan Times, Indore
UPDATED ON NOV 12, 2011 01:42 AM IST

A quarter of a century after the historic Supreme Court judgment on the maintenance lawsuit of Shah Bano and the ensuing storm which made the then Congress government rework the law, her youngest son Jameel Ahmed Khan recalls the deep financial distress and mortifying shame his mother suffered.

"My mother was wronged, gravely wronged," said Jameel, 60, as wrinkles on his face rearranged themselves in remembrance of circumstances triggered by her fight for maintenance.

"My mother was a simple, purdah-observing woman. Being divorced at such a late age (60, by most accounts), the publicity, paper-baazi… she was very ashamed of all this. She didn't say much but kept stewing over it."

This bottling up of emotions took its toll. "She developed high blood pressure and frequently fell ill," said Jameel, a 'property broker' (local euphemism for somebody without a steady job), who lives in a modest house in Indore. Shah Bano died of brain haemorrhage in 1992.

Mohammed Ahmed Khan, an affluent and well-known advocate, took a younger woman as second wife 14 years after he had married Shah Bano. After years of living with both wives, he threw Shah Bano and her five children out. When he stopped giving her Rs 200 per month he had apparently promised, she fought and won a seven-year legal battle for maintenance.

Prominent Muslim organisations opposed the Supreme Court verdict, which they felt, encroached on Muslim personal laws. The Congress government, which had the biggest majority in India's Parliamentary history, reworked the law — by enacting the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 — barring Muslim women from getting maintenance after divorce under civil laws.

A provision of the Act limited the husband's liability to pay maintenance to his divorced wife only for the period of iddat (roughly three months immediately after the divorce).

"Izzat ki ladai thi (It was a fight for self-respect). It was a fight against our izzat being maligned in the locality and a family matter," Jameel said.

Although Jameel, a god-fearing Muslim, was careful not to criticise his father, he conceded that Mohammed Khan increasingly favoured his younger wife's children after the two households became separate.

"It came to a pass where he'd only come on Eid, and even then my chhoti vaalida (stepmother) would send for him even before we could serve sevaiyan," he said.

In fact, it was a festive day attempt at rapprochement that finally tore things asunder. "Around two years after my mother had moved out, my brothers and I went to meet my father on Eid and asked him to forgive and forget. But he slapped me and threw us all out," said Jameel.

When the Supreme Court in 1985 upheld Shah Bano's maintenance claim, a political blizzard broke out.

"Former diplomat and prominent Muslim leader Syed Shahabuddin visited our house as did ulema (clergymen) from Indore and other cities, who told us that the verdict was against the Shariat," said Jameel. "We didn't know much about it (Shariat provisions for maintenance etc) then… our mother was illiterate. Clergymen from India and abroad contacted us and told us that there had been a mistake and explained how things should be according to the Shariat."

He added, "Several people including (names a well-known cleric from Gujarat) had offered money and even a job abroad (for refusing maintenance). But I was clear that if we refused, it would not be for material gain but Fi Sabeelillah (for Allah's cause)." Once the matter became public, journalists from India and abroad started landing up. "The pressure became such that I felt winning the case wasn't so good. It would've been better if we lost," said Jameel. "Massive processions against the judgment were staged across the country. In Mumbai, traffic was held up for hours. Even in Indore there was a lakh-strong rally which passed in front of our house. Even if every rallyist threw a pebble each, our kuchha house would have crumbled. This creates terror."

Simultaneously, the family started getting invitations from liberals in the community. "We accepted these thinking 'let's see what they have to say'," he said. A group from Ahmedabad organised a felicitation for Shah Bano.

In the meantime, the family received a message from then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He wanted to meet them. Shah Bano and Jameel travelled to Delhi and met him.

"He said the situation was very critical, serious. 'We have to find a way,' he said," recalled Jameel. "I told him (I'd since read up on Shariat directives about marriage and maintenance) there was no provision for maintenance, except for money to be paid during iddat and mehr (money to be paid at the time of divorce). I told him the law should be amended. He, in turn, asked us to announce that we were refusing the maintenance."

Jameel was candid about vote-bank politics. "Muslims across the country were ranged against the verdict. The elections were approaching. Political parties think about their interests. It was felt that if Muslims voted en bloc against the Congress on the issue, the party would lose power."

After returning to Indore, Shah Bano held a press conference to announce that she was forsaking the maintenance because it was against the Shariat. "I thought if we didn't backtrack now, azaab (grief) would be on us. Since it was a matter of religion, I didn't want us to become a precedent," he said.

"I thought, 'My mother will live for another two, five, 10 years. But if we agree (to accept the judgment), we'll be forever branded as the people who got the government, or the courts, to interfere in the Shariat. There's no point in living with such a taint on you."

Almost immediately, the whole situation changed. "My mother was feted at public functions (by orthodox Muslims) and showered with titles like 'Deeni Bahan' (Righteous Sister) and 'Islami Behen' (Islamic Sister)," Jameel said.

"Although a section of the media continued to report that our decision was the result of pressure by the clergy, we chose not to respond. We also decided to withdraw a case for recovery of mehr, which was 3,000 kaldars (silver coins), but my father only paid Rs 3,000," he added.

Asked if he had taken issue with clergymen who approached him after the verdict for ignoring Shah Bano's plight earlier, he said, "The first question I asked them was, 'Where were you all these years?'"

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Health workers wait at PMCH ahead of the Covid -19 vaccination drive, in Patna on January 16.(ANI)
Health workers wait at PMCH ahead of the Covid -19 vaccination drive, in Patna on January 16.(ANI)

Names of 800 healthcare workers go missing from Co-WIN portal in Bihar

UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:38 PM IST
  • The NMCH administration claimed it had sent the list of nearly 800 health care workers and 1,400 hospital staff to Patna civil surgeon last December, but names of those from the in medical college were missing from the Co-Win portal
Close
On Thursday, the Jagannath Temple administration waived off the requirement of a Covid-19 negative report for devotees, but made wearing of masks mandatory for those entering the shrine. (HT FILE PHOTO).(HT File Photo)
On Thursday, the Jagannath Temple administration waived off the requirement of a Covid-19 negative report for devotees, but made wearing of masks mandatory for those entering the shrine. (HT FILE PHOTO).(HT File Photo)

Puri’s Jagannath Temple administrators seek early vaccination for priests, staff

PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:24 PM IST
  • Odisha on Thursday exceeded its target of Covid-19 vaccination by inoculating 44,880 frontline health workers against an aim of 37,076 as vaccinators in 20 of the 30 districts managed to surpass the target.
Close
File photo of Rajiv Gandhi(HT Photo )
File photo of Rajiv Gandhi(HT Photo )

Decision on release of Rajiv Gandhi killers in 3-4 days, Supreme Court told

By Divya Chandrababu
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:36 PM IST
This comes as a significant development just months ahead of Tamil Nadu’s assembly elections slated for April-May.
Close
Jayant Khobragade, an officer of the 1995 batch of the Indian Foreign Service, is currently serving as a joint secretary in the external affairs ministry. (HT FILE PHOTO).
Jayant Khobragade, an officer of the 1995 batch of the Indian Foreign Service, is currently serving as a joint secretary in the external affairs ministry. (HT FILE PHOTO).

Jayant Khobragade named India's next envoy to ASEAN secretariat

UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:25 PM IST
  • India first posted a dedicated ambassador to ASEAN in 2014 following the elevation of ties between the two sides to a strategic partnership and in view of growing cooperation in areas ranging from security to trade.
Close
An Oxford spokesman said the university is carefully assessing the impact of new variants on vaccine immunity and evaluating the processes needed for rapid development of adjusted COVID-19 vaccines if these should be necessary.(REUTERS)
An Oxford spokesman said the university is carefully assessing the impact of new variants on vaccine immunity and evaluating the processes needed for rapid development of adjusted COVID-19 vaccines if these should be necessary.(REUTERS)

News updates from Hindustan Times: UK strain infects 145 people in India

By hindustantimes.com
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:01 PM IST
Here are today’s top news, analysis and opinion. Know all about the latest news and other news updates from Hindustan Times.
Close
The accused told the police that he procured the weapon, a .32 bore pistol, and live cartridges from Maharashtra for <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>55,000.(HT FILE)
The accused told the police that he procured the weapon, a .32 bore pistol, and live cartridges from Maharashtra for 55,000.(HT FILE)

Six shooters involved in murder of Mukhtar Ansari’s aide, say Lucknow police

PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:55 PM IST
  • Police claimed that Sandip Singh alias Baba who was arrested on Thursday from his Ambedkarnagar hideout told them that Ajit Singh was killed on the orders of two jailed gangsters after he refused to turn hostile in court.
Close
On Thursday, vaccination drives were held in 27 states and union territories covering, a total of 1,92,581 beneficiaries.(Satish Bate/Hindustan Times)
On Thursday, vaccination drives were held in 27 states and union territories covering, a total of 1,92,581 beneficiaries.(Satish Bate/Hindustan Times)

India vaccinated 9,99,065 beneficiaries against Covid-19 so far: Health ministry

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Deepali Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:51 PM IST
The ministry has further enhanced the Co-WIN software by increasing the number of sessions in the software.
Close
A policeman watches as an aircraft from India carrying Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute arrives at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on January 21, 2021.(AFP)
A policeman watches as an aircraft from India carrying Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute arrives at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on January 21, 2021.(AFP)

India's vaccine diplomacy in south Asia pushes back against China

Reuters
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:49 PM IST
  • India is one of the world's leading makers of generic drugs
  • New Delhi has free shipments of vaccines to neighbours
  • Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar are among beneficiaries
  • Pharma prowess allows India to counter China's influence
Close
Passengers queue to get their documents verified before entering the IGI Airport amid the lockdown in New Delhi on May 30, 2020.(Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
Passengers queue to get their documents verified before entering the IGI Airport amid the lockdown in New Delhi on May 30, 2020.(Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

UK strain infects 145 people in India; situation under careful watch, says govt

Written by Arpan Rai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:44 PM IST
The B.1.1.7 variant genome, which is much more infectious, has prompted comprehensive contact tracing for co-travellers, family members and others of those who have travelled to the UK in the last two months.
Close
He also said the unresolved borders and wars in the past with "our adversaries" challenge the myth of 'no conventional war', adding proxy war, 'Left wing extremism' and insurgencies are likely to keep the Army occupied.(PTI Photo)
He also said the unresolved borders and wars in the past with "our adversaries" challenge the myth of 'no conventional war', adding proxy war, 'Left wing extremism' and insurgencies are likely to keep the Army occupied.(PTI Photo)

India to face higher security challenges in line with rising stature: Naravane

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:33 PM IST
In an address at a seminar on Army-industry partnership, Gen Naravane talked about twin challenges of Covid-19 pandemic and the "belligerence" on the northern borders that his force faced in 2020, and said the government's focus on self-reliance will boost the country's overall strategic objectives.
Close
Farmers protest at Singhu border in New Delhi on January 20. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)
Farmers protest at Singhu border in New Delhi on January 20. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)

Farmers reject centre's proposal to put laws on hold for 1.5 years

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:05 PM IST
The ball is now again at the Centre's court as farmers have rejected the proposal of keeping the laws in abeyance for 1.5 years.
Close
At least 7.49 crore devotees have taken the dip in the waters of Sangam in Prayagraj till Sunday since the beginning of the 49-day Kumbh Mela from January 15, the Uttar Pradesh government has said. A report said that on the first day of the Kumbh Mela, which began with the first of the three Shahi Snans of Makar Sankranti, 2.25 crore people bathed in the Sangam. (Sheeraz Rizvi / HT File)
At least 7.49 crore devotees have taken the dip in the waters of Sangam in Prayagraj till Sunday since the beginning of the 49-day Kumbh Mela from January 15, the Uttar Pradesh government has said. A report said that on the first day of the Kumbh Mela, which began with the first of the three Shahi Snans of Makar Sankranti, 2.25 crore people bathed in the Sangam. (Sheeraz Rizvi / HT File)

Uttarakhand govt asks Centre for 20,000 additional Covid vaccines for Kumbh Mela

ANI, Dehradun
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:18 PM IST
The state Covid-19 Control Room chief Dr Abhishek Tripathi informed that the state government has sent a proposal to the Centre in this regard.
Close
Two Indian flights carried two million doses of Covishield to Dhaka and one million doses to Kathmandu on Thursday. (MEA)
Two Indian flights carried two million doses of Covishield to Dhaka and one million doses to Kathmandu on Thursday. (MEA)

India sends 3 mn vaccine doses to neighbours, Pak gets some from China

By Rezaul H Laskar | Edited by Sohini Sarkar
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 09:32 PM IST
  • Six countries – Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Seychelles and Myanmar – are part of India’s initial rollout of vaccines as grant assistance. There are also plans to supply doses to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.
Close
Jharkhand education minister Jagarnath Mahto(Pic: Sourced)
Jharkhand education minister Jagarnath Mahto(Pic: Sourced)

Covid-19: Jharkhand minister recovers after double lung transplant in Chennai

By Divya Chandrababu
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:05 PM IST
Only a few lung transplants on Covid-19 patients have been performed across the world and the minister’s critical condition necessitated the procedure.
Close
Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy(PTI Photo)
Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy(PTI Photo)

Puducherry CM to meet President, seek recall of Lt Governor Kiran Bedi: Report

Written by Prashasti Singh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:28 PM IST
Agriculture minister R Kamalakannan, welfare minister M Kandasamy, health minister Malladi Krishna Rao and the only member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) from Puducherry V Vaithilingam would also be accompanying the CM, sources said.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP