Mahesh Trivedi & Pervez Bari | India Tomorrow
AHMEDABAD/Bhopal–Even as the February 25 death by suicide of a young, educated, Muslim working woman in Ahmedabad has sent shockwaves in Gujarat’s six-million-strong minority community and triggered a storm on social media, the police collared her absconding husband from Pali town in neighbouring Rajasthan and brought him to this city for investigation on Tuesday.
Harassed by in-laws for dowry after being married off to Arif Khan living in Rajasthan’s Jalore town in July 2018, a depressed Ayesha (23), who had moved to her parents’ home in Ahmedabad in March 2020, ended her life by jumping into the swirling waters of the Sabarmati river on Thursday afternoon.
According to the police, before meeting her watery grave, she informed her husband from her cellphone about her immediate self-destruction plan but Arif, who had times out of number beaten her black and blue over transfer of her parental property, told her to go ahead but send a video before taking the plunge.
Ayesha, who later also spoke to her parents from the suicide point, had recorded a two-minute video in which she made an emotional appeal to her father, requesting him to not pursue a case of domestic violence against her husband. But as the heart-rending video went viral, the police booked Arif under the Indian Penal Code Section 306 for abetment to suicide.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, which has been making all-out efforts for the establishment of a strong society and happy family through its countless counselling centres, opined that the fact that even an educated woman was compelled to end her life should worry the clergy and community leaders.
“Time is ripe to launch awareness campaigns against the dowry system and other worthless customs as well domestic violence with the help of religious heads,” said Shakeel Ahmed, president of the Gujarat unit of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
Dr. Asma Zehra, chief organiser the women’s wing of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, said that dowry was haraam and an act of sin, and appealed to the Muslim community to eradicate the evil on a war-footing as marriages, she said, should be made simple and easy according sunnah of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
She also urged the elders of the community, especially ulema and imaams, to create awareness of “simple marriage” and condemn the taking and giving of dowry in any form at Friday khutba (sermons) in mosques.
Dr Zehra pointed out that Ayesha was suffering from harassment by husband and in-laws. She was under deep depression and grief with loss of hope together with severe social pressure. Her last words that she “doesn’t want to see the face of any human being” reflects her agony and pain in her departing video has shaken the community especially women, she lamented.
“Daughters of community are precious pearls. Their safety and security should be the top priority of the community. It is time to introspect and repent for this collective criminal negligence of Muslim community towards the daughters”, she moaned.
Gujarat High Court advocate Iqbal Masud Khan told indiatomorrow.net that thousands of women in the Muslim community were facing a sense of helplessness and deprivation, thanks to fatwas by the clergy, whose only job, he said, was to advise these women to observe sabr (tolerance) and serve their husbands like slaves.
“If they raise their voice, Allah will put them in hell. Aysha preferred Allah’s hell to her husband’s hell. The community needs education more than anything else, the only hope of loosening the grip of fake mullahs,” said Khan, who is also a veteran journalist.
According to Hasina Khan of Bebaak Collective, a Mumbai-based grassroots women’s group campaigning for the rights of Muslims and other marginalised sections, Ayesha’s suicide and other ‘painful’ incidents of domestic violence and mental stress were on the increase during the pandemic-induced restrictions.
Activist-journalist Kalim Siddiqui, who was hounded by the police for campaigning against the anti-Muslim amendment to the controversial citizenship law, felt that even if a harassed woman knocked at a court door, the dowry cases went on for donkey’s years because of police inaction, adding that stricter anti-dowry laws were the need of the hour to save many Ayeshas who were being tortured by in-laws.
Social activist Dev Desai pointed out that tormentors got away with murder because of many loopholes in the laws on domestic violence, and called for stringent, exemplary punishment for those demanding dowry.
“Ayesha’s suicide is a slap on the face of the Muslim community and an eye-opener for parents and in-laws who do not care to know the feelings and aspirations of the young girls,” said community leader Zahid Kadri.