Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday once again desperately sought to project his image as a messiah of Muslim women while addressing the nation in his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat.
His concern for Muslim women came just days after his government had hurriedly passed the Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha making the pronouncement of instant divorce a criminal offence.
On Sunday, Modi said that his vision for new India was to create a place, which would be free from casteism and communalism. He also took credit for removing the mahram (a family relative who the woman is never allowed to marry) rule for women above Hajj pilgrims while referring to his government’s new announcement that they can now travel to Saudi Arabia without being accompanied by a male guardian.
He said, “Why this discrimination? And when I went into the depth of the matter I was surprised to find that even after 70 years of our independence, we were the ones who had imposed these restrictions. For decades, injustice was being rendered to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it.”
Union Minister Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was moved by Modi acknowledging a step taken by his ministry. He moved in with lightening speed to tweet thanking Modi.
His tweet read, “Thanks to PM Shri @narendramodi Ji for mentioning in today’s #MannKiBaat, the decision of Minority Affairs Ministry to lift ban on women going for Haj without “Mehram” (male guardian).”
— Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (@naqvimukhtar) December 31, 2017
Once again, Modi and his minister weren’t being truthful and appear to have indulged in either in blatant lies or simple ignorance. The mahram rule that made it mandatory for women pilgrims to be escorted by male guardians was the rule imposed by the Saudi Arabia authorities, not the previous governments of India and males in Muslim society.
Saudi hajj policy requires women to travel with a mahram, or male guardian, but current regulations clearly state that women over 45 may travel in groups.
A statement by Saudi ministry of Hajj and Umrah had said, “If a woman is 45 years old or older, she is allowed to go without a mahram if she travels with an organised group or family and submits a notarized No Objection Certificate from her mahram,”
That’s precisely what the Modi government has done. Their new policy has simply tinkered the existing rules to bring them in line with the current Saudi regulations. Nothing extraordinary as claimed by Modi and his minister.
Where the prime minister can truly take credit for, if he is able to ensure that women even below the age of 45 can travel to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj and Umrah without having to be escorted by a mahram. But, the government and the prime minister know it well that they simply can’t do so unless the Saudi themselves relax the rules.
If Saudi rules in the past barred Muslim women above the age of 45 from travelling alone without a mahram, it had less to do with the non-BJP governments or discriminatory attitude of Muslim men in India. The Saudi rule affected Muslim women pretty much everywhere in the world. So Modi taking credit for the decision while holding the previous governments and society’s alleged discrimination responsible has once again nothing to do with truths.
But speaking truth hasn’t really been a key attribute of this government.