Patriot meets two Muslim women who are the first few taking their husbands to court for pronouncing triple talaq despite the new law in place
Asma Sahiba was 23 when she married Tauseef on March 5, 2017. There was no ceremony, only family present for the signatures on paper declaring the union. She didn’t leave her parents’ home until February 22 the next year, when all the dowry demands were met.
She is one of the women in the Capital city who have been ‘divorced’ by pronouncement of triple talaq since the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 came into force on August 1, and made the practice a criminal offence.
“We didn’t have a place to move into so I stayed in my parents’ home till he got a room above his family home”, Sahiba tells us. He gave her a list of things to bring for their home and it included a new scooter. But the 64 items in total which were given as dowry was not enough to secure her husband and in-laws’ happiness.
We meet Sahiba in her parents’ home to which she returned after being thrown out of the house she shared with her husband and child on June 10th.
Trying to narrate almost all the misfortunes of her married life while we sit on a carpeted floor of the living room, she says her husband’s family did not show any sign of their intentions or greed before the
Afterwards, Sahiba alleges that she was repeatedly harassed, verbally and physically abused by her husband, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.
Numerous complaints later, the Delhi Police helped her secure child support on a weekly basis from her husband. They also asked him to give some money for Eid-ul-Adha for which she went to Tauseef’s workplace at Ajmeri Gate. It was 5:30 in the evening of August 9, “Tauseef was standing at the gate of his office having a cup of tea while a friend of his was sitting close by. When he spotted me, he started saying something to his friend”.
Usually, she says, her husband on sighting her would run away instead of having to part with the measly amount of Rs 200 he has promised as child support. He chose not to run this time but told Sahiba that he wouldn’t give any money. “Go have more kids, get a job,” he said, “but I’m not giving any money to you.”
Abuses were hurled and the next minute Tauseef started hitting Sahiba in broad daylight in the middle of the street. No one came forward to help; her father and mother who are present while we speak say that when there’s a domestic dispute, usually people choose to remain quiet.
“He beat me so much, saying I’m not scared of the police, I will give you talaq. And then he pronounced talaq three times”. Tauseef’s friend who was witness to this told him to run away: “He kept telling him, what have you done? This is unlawful now…”.
In the meantime, Sahiba’s younger brother’s friends saw what transpired and asked if they should call her brother. The neighbourhood was now all out on the street watching a distraught Sahiba, asking her to call the police. Instead, she herself went to Kamla Market police station. The husband and his family were called to the station, and the husband roughed up by the police. However, the complaint was not filed.
“I was crying a lot and narrated my entire story but they said it doesn’t matter if he has given you triple talaq, you are not divorced. You’re still married to him. I said he had declared talaq in front of everyone.” When Tauseef reached the station, Sahiba says the police kept asking him to apologise. “I don’t know why the police kept saying ask for forgiveness.”
The FIR was finally filed on August 11 after the intervention of the Delhi Commission for Women. “When the counsellor from the Mahila Aayog got in touch with the station, they claimed to not remember any case of triple talaq coming to them, let alone my name. I then went to the station with her”, Sahiba says. She further alleges that the police personnel present at the time said they didn’t know of any FIR being filed on triple talaq cases yet. “When they checked with other police stations, they came to know that cases are being registered.”
Since August 11, Tauseef has been in jail.
A pass out of 12th grade, Sahiba met Tauseef when his workplace was right below her home. His parents approached hers and the marriage was set.
“A month after I moved in, I became pregnant. I was taunted for this but wanted to have the child”, she says blaming the family for her miscarriage. “My mother-in-law and sister-in-law made me wash heavy clothes even though we have a washing machine. I lost the baby that day.” But a month and a half later she became pregnant again.
She then decided to move back home until her baby is born. “My parents took care of all the doctors’ appointments. Even when I had to have a C-section, they got me a bed, else my husband had left me to share a bed with two other women”.
Three months later, when she went back home, things got worse. “They would constantly berate me and my sister-in-law’s husband would message dirty things to me”, Sahiba says, adding that she has lodged a case against him as well and also shows us the messages received on Facebook.
The family soon decided they didn’t want her around. They made up a story, Sahiba says, that they were going on holiday to Nainital and couldn’t take her because of the baby. “They said he’s too little. He was just five months old at the time.”
“A week had passed and I kept asking when should I come home? He said not now. They hadn’t even left for the holiday.” Another 10 days later, she got a call from her mother-in-law while she was spending the evening with her cousins at a park in Nizamuddin. She wanted Sahiba to come home right away and if she didn’t, her mother-in-law declared she would not be allowed to step foot inside the house.
“So, I went and immediately after I reached, she started abusing me. She asked why have I not brought anything with me, and how much money I was carrying.” Then Sahiba was told to bring a goat home for sacrifice for Eid. When she refused, citing her family’s financial condition, the abuse became worse. “My husband came home and joined her and my sister-in-law. She pulled my hair, scratched me… they really tortured me and then threw me out.”
In this instance as well, Sahiba went to the police station. The husband and family were called and made to apologise but again, nothing changed. Right as they stepped out of the station, the verbal abuse began. Sahiba showed us the video she had taken with her phone; her husband and his mother can be seen hurling abuses and threatening her.
“They used to say first we will kill you and then go to jail — but we will kill first”.
Only for a month of her brief marriage has Ruksaar not been abused. After that the demands for more dowry began, she tells us, her voice shaking, her body evidently too tired but her resolve for justice just as strong.
Each time she would be physically abused by her in-laws and husband, she would come home to her parents, who would always send her back after assurances by the husband and family of better treatment. And each time their words were proven wrong.
She approached the panchayat of her village of Niwari in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, at least 10 times she says, and they made her go back. “Every time my husband and family would come and apologise and say it won’t happen again and then it would be repeated, again and again. All of them would physically abuse me and my father-in-law always looked at me in a dirty way”.
Mohd Insaad, the eldest of four siblings, says he wishes they had never allowed his sister to go back. “They really tortured her and we would always force her to go back because we didn’t want to get entangled in a court case. But that’s exactly what has happened and she bore the abuse for so long”.
Her brothers look visibly disturbed and angry. They were present on August 17 when Imran came home to see them. Ruksaar had been thrown out of her marital home with nothing but the clothes she was wearing and her month-old baby in her arms just days before, on August 14th — she had walked the streets asking for help to reach her parents’ home.
When she reached home and narrated everything to her family, Ruksaar’s father Naushad called up the father-in-law. “He refused to speak to me. He said we will come to your home and then talk. And then he just hung up the phone”, says Naushad, who the villagers say tried to hurt himself after the incident.
When Imran arrived, he wasn’t alone. He had come with a relative and three others the family does not know, in a Santro car. “He came in and demanded we give Rs 3 lakh and a Swift Dzire car”, Naushad tell us. This was supposedly to compensate for his wife giving birth to a girl child. “I am a labourer. I said, I can’t afford this. I have given you everything I could”.
Around the same time Mohd Savij, another one of Ruksaar’s siblings, went to buy cold drinks and samosas for the guests, while Naushad went to fetch water. Imran then took Ruksaar inside a room where an argument ensued. “He would raise his hands at the slightest of disagreement. And this time too it was no different”, she tells us.
“He was beating me a lot so my elder brother rushed in to save me and then my husband put a gun to his head”, Ruksaar says, and added that he continued to hit her and even tore her clothes — and in the fit of rage shouted “Talaq” three times.
I was screaming, so all the neighbours rushed to our home. When they saw what was happening, the visitors ran away. The men even had an airgun which they fired in the air as they ran. Imran was caught by the villagers.
Imran is now in prison and the FIR filed against him under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019. Other sections under the IPC included against him and the father-in-law and mother-in-law include 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) 506 (criminal intimidation), 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Dowry Act.
The SHO of Niwari police station, where the case has been lodged, told Patriot that the claim of Imran carrying a gun is false. “He was caught by the people and we came and took him to the station. What we saw is what we will take as fact, not every claim. If he had a gun, we would have seen it, where would it have gone?” he asks. The investigation on the case is ongoing he adds.
The abuse meted out to Ruksaar was a constant but the gravity of it increased after the birth of their daughter on July 5 of this year. “They would constantly berate me. They didn’t give me enough food and even what they did, it was given with a lot of taunts. They would call me all sorts of names. They never gave me any money”.
The elder brother says that sometimes a month would pass before they would be allowed to speak to her. “We called and asked, ‘Have we sold off our girl to you that you won’t even let us speak?’ And her husband says, ‘Tell me how much money you’ll take for her.’ I have a recording of this.”
When they gave her a phone, the husband accused Ruksaar of using it speak to other men, so Insaad took the phone back from his sister. “But whatever happens, no matter for how long you may hide it, when a person is tortured it comes out into the open one day or the other,” the eldest sibling says.
They are hoping for a swift court case, one which will give Ruksaar some long overdue justice.
A weapon for justice
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 which criminalises triple talaq came into force on August 1. Far from acting as a deterrent, the last three weeks have seen many cases of triple talaq emerge — five already from Delhi.
This includes the case of Raima Yahwa, whose husband Atir Shamin of almost eight years pronounced talaq by saying, “Mein tujhe talaq deta hun” (I give you talaq) three times. She also cites ‘unfulfilled’ dowry demands which saw her being ‘harassed’ by her husband and in-laws.
“I continued to bear all the cruelties with the hope that with the passage of time everything would be all right, as I wanted to save my matrimonial life on account of the social pressure”, she writes in her complaint.
The talaq was announced on June 26 and she was asked to leave the house. Two days later she says they sent her brother a message on WhatsApp which said, “The divorce is complete and she can’t come back again.”
Then in Uttar Pradesh, about three dozen cases have been reported of triple talaq since the law came into effect. Not all have ended in imprisonment. A 22-year-old woman was reportedly burnt to death by her husband and in-laws in Shravasti district on August 16 after she tried to file a police complaint against her husband who gave her instant talaq.
Reports say the husband Nafees announced the talaq over phone to his wife Sayeeda from Mumbai where he works, on August 6. Her father claims that Sayeeda’s complaint was not registered, and instead the police called her husband to the station on August 15 and made Sayeeda go back to her marital home.
What transpired next has led critics of the new law to highlight this as an example of how things could go horribly wrong for a woman.
Zakia Soman, a women’s rights activist and one of the founding members of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan — one of the petitioners for the abolishment of triple talaq says that the incident should not be used as an example to show the law in a bad light. “The incident is ghastly but it’s nothing which has not happened before. Men being abusive or killing their wives has happened across all communities, despite laws in our country”, she points out.
Instead, she says one must see how for the first time women are able to resort to a legal measure where without it, the husband enjoyed a completely unilateral law. “We should treat this legal tool as a welcome development and not link this murder with the law. One who is so violent, law or no law, he would do what he wants.”
Soman believes police have a grave responsibility in responding quickly and paying heed to all complaints that come their way, while also the community must identify such wrongs.
The law sanctions a jail term of three years for the husband who gives instant triple talaq, but is bailable and compoundable — which, Soman says, leaves a lot of room for the wife to negotiate with her husband and get the marriage back on track if she wishes.