Ajmer, Rajasthan: Nearly 5000 Muslim women, from 26 states, took part in an unusual discussion on family planning and divorce in Ajmer. Unusual, not just because these issues have been contentious with the community but because the discussion took place at a conference organised by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch or MRM, a forum that has links with the RSS.
Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, patron of the forum, argued there is logic behind keeping families small. "A burgeoning population delights politicians as it increases their vote banks but along with the spurt in population, poverty and illiteracy also grows," he said.
"A family should be small and happy, because demographic imbalances also lead to tension in society," said Mr Kumar, who was questioned by the CBI in 2010 in the Mecca Mosque blasts in Hyderabad and also named in the Ajmer Dargah blasts of 2007. The political subtext of this conference and its timing has also raised questions.
"The BJP is nothing without the RSS. After the Bihar elections, the RSS has decided to bring up contentious issues, not targeting them directly but by soft pedalling them," said Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot. "If they want to reach out to the Muslims and Christian communities of this country, they should talk about their social welfare. Why must they talk about divorce and family planning?" he questioned.
This is the first time since 2002 that the MRM has organised a conference for women where it discussed divorce and family planning. The participants also took a pledge to keep their families small and passed a resolution condemning terrorism.
Reshma Hussain, national convenor of the forum, said, "Under Islamic law, a thief should have his hands cut but that does not happen in our country. Why are the draconian provisions applied only to women?" Propagating uniform civil law is one of the thrust areas of the RSS and its affiliates.
Ishrat Khatoon from Bihar said, "Our religion does not tell us to have a lot of children but forbids abortion and foeticide. It says one must educate and take care of the wellbeing of the children. Where is the contradiction with Islam?" Shenaz from Delhi said all marriages should be registered. "It will help us access our rights in case of divorce," she explained.