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The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced a landmark decision for Muslim women of the country, by barring the practice of triple talaq, by which Muslim men could divorce their wives by simply repeating the word 'talaq' thrice.
Simmering anger over trivial and unexpected announcements of triple talaq increased across the nation resulting in several petitions against the practice in the apex court. While some men announced their divorce to their wives via WhatsApp, others sent a telegram, leaving no choice to their wives.
The same frustration over unfairly being given triple talaq, of being treated simply as the property of men, of being undeserving of divorce took 35 years to simmer in real life, but was depicted expertly by Salma Agha in B R Chopra's 1982 film Nikaah.
Based on the concept of divorce in Muslim society, the movie was initially titled 'Talaq, Talaq, Talaq' by producer, director B R Chopra but the title was changed to Nikaah after consultation with a Muslim friend.
The Bollywood hard-hitting and hit film followed the story of a Muslim woman Nilofar who was given triple talaq by her husband on their first wedding anniversary. The character of Nilofar played by Salma Agha, is a university student who is loved by her classmate Haider (played by Raj Babbar) an aspiring poet. Nilofar does not return the love as she is engaged and later married to Wasim (Deepak Parashar), but her marriage is not a happy one. Several arguments mar their married life and finally on the occassion of their one year marriage anniversary, in the heat of an argument Wasim says the dreaded Talaq word thrice, thereby divorcing Nilofar.
Picking up the pieces of her life, Nilofar goes to work for a magazine, which is owned by Haider. As Haider still loves her, Nilofar agrees to marry him. Meanwhile, Wasim realises his mistake of divorcing Nilofar and wants her back. He consults a Qazi who tells him to have Nilofar marry another man, divorce the concerned man and then only Wasim can marry her again according to Muslim Sharia law. Haider comes to know of Wasim's interests in re-marrying Nilofar and offers to divorce her so the two may remarry.
This time, Nilofar does not agree so easily to having her life decided for her by a man, simply by uttering three words. Nilofar lashes out at the two men, and through her comes the voice of countless Muslim women past and future who have no choice in what happens to their life.
“How conveniently you men accept and reject, marry and divorce, love and abhor, use and throw a woman as if she is not a living being. Is woman man’s property?” Says Nilofar.
Nilofar does not back down untill both Wasim and Haider admit that they have wronged her and the choice of whom she will spend the rest of her life with is given to her.
Decades later in the real world, 35-year-old Shayara Bano a mother of two, was visiting her parents home in Uttarakhand for medical treatment in October 2015 when she received a talaqnama or divorce message from her husband of 15 years who lived in Allahabad. Despite repeated attempts, she was not able to contact her husband.
Speaking to media she had said: "He's switched off his phone, I have no way of getting in touch with him."
Bano became the first petitioner to file a plea with the apex court questioning the constitutionality of the practices of triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala.
In her plea, Bano said: "Muslim women have their hands tied while the guillotine of divorce dangles, perpetually ready to drop at the whims of their husbands who enjoy undisputed power. Such discrimination and inequality hoarsely expressed in the form of unilateral triple-talaq is abominable when seen in light of the progressive times of the 21st century."
"Further, once a woman has been divorced, her husband is not permitted take her back as his wife even if he had pronounced talaq under influence of any intoxicant, unless the woman undergoes nikah halala which involves her marriage with another man who subsequently divorces her so that her previous husband can remarry her," she went to describe in her plea.
On August 22, the Supreme Court responded to multiple pleas and barred the process of triple talaq, issuing a directive to the Parliament to form a related legislature within the next 6 months.