Within one and a half years of the enactment of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act on July 31, 2019, popularly known as law on Triple Talaq, a member of Parliament of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party from poll-bound West Bengal, Saumitra Khan, publicly announced before the media on Dec 21 that he would be sending a divorce notice to his wife Sujata Mondal Khan as she had earlier on the same day re-joined the Trinamool Congress.
The couple were both in the TMC and Saumitra had even won the 2014 Lok Sabha election on its ticket. But ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll they had both joined the BJP. Saumitra got elected as the MP from Bishnupur. He was even made West Bengal President of Bharatiya Yuva Janata Morcha, the youth wing of BJP. His wife, who once even shared dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, played a crucial role in his victory.
Now that she has just decided to part political ways and embraced her old party, her feudal lord in full public view pronounced that he would be sending divorce notice to Sujata.
The big question is: “Has a woman no right to choose her own party independently?” No, Saumitra has not charged her with abandoning the religion, or had not levelled any other serious allegations against her, such as causing family discord.
Can a wife in 21st century Bengal, the land which is considered as the earliest bastion of movement for the emancipation of women, not take her own political decision? Should she be thrown out of house just because she has criticized the party to which her husband is associated with?
The issue is not whether Saumitra pays maintenance to her or not. How can a law-maker, who most probably might have voted for the enactment of the law on Triple Talaq indulge in such a bizarre act.
By humiliating the wife in full view of the cameras and then telling the whole world that he is sending divorce notice to her, Saumitra has exposed his intolerance towards the woman who was his spouse for so many years.
This is worse than a poor, illiterate and ignorant man pronouncing Triple Talaq in a fit of anger or frustration. At least he does not humiliate his wife in full public view.
Anyway, the society has double standards so far giving divorce is concerned. Only recently renowned Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve divorced his wife of 38 years, Meenakshi Salve, and married a British woman Caroline Brossard. Not only that, he even embraced Christianity.
Legally speaking there might be nothing wrong in it. But the big question is: had the champions of women’s right and the media remained silent if any powerless person would have done the same?
The author is a senior journalist based in Patna