Two Fathimas, Taliban and Muslim League

MG Radhakrishnan


View From My Window

What is common to Nimisha Fathima and Fathima Thahiliya, apart from that they are two feisty Malayali women sharing the name of the Prophet’s daughter?

Nimisha Fathima and her husband were among 21 persons who had left Kerala five years ago for Afghanistan to join the terrorist ISIS and been in a jail in Kabul for more than six months. She has now been reported to be among the many prisoners freed by the Taliban after it took over the country now. This was among the many measures initiated by Taliban to convince the world that they were no more the fierce fanatics and the tormentors of women of the past.

Fathima Thahiliya is the national vice president of the Muslim Students Federation who along with her 10 women colleagues is at the receiving end from their own political party, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). Their offence: raising charges of sexual harassment against some of their own leaders.

view from my window
Now, look at the irony. While Nimisha was being granted freedom by the extremist Taliban in an attempt to claim itself a moderate face, the predicament of Thahiliya has unsheathed the fangs of the IUML, considered Indian Muslims’ most moderate and modern political organisation.

It is not fair to compare the fierce Taliban with the moderate League which practices only “transactional communalism”. Yet the incident exposes the little Talibans living within all of us. At the same time, the incident is also an instance of Malayali women’s rising resolve not any more to suffer silently the deep rooted misogyny pervasive in the avowedly progressive Kerala society. Leadership of all political parties and religions, irrespective of differences, have been the worst enclaves of patriarchy. They have been most responsible for perpetuating Kerala women's much debated “invisibility” or the “enigma” in spite of her advances in various fields.

The dramatic revolt by Lathika Subhash, state president of Mahila Congress, in April against the Congress leadership for denying her ticket to contest the last assembly election was a recent pointer. The shrill debates about the entrenched patriarchy inside the CPI(M) which always cries hoarse about gender equality were rekindled on the occasion of the passing of K R Gouri Amma, the symbol of Malayali woman’s discrimination and resistance. In spite of their progress in human development indices like education, health etc, they lag behind men in employment rate or in political leadership. Their presence in legislature has been as pitiable as of the notorious northern “BIMARU” states where women lag behind men in every field. In the six decades since Kerala was born, women’s number in the state legislature has never crossed 10%, even though the first MLA to swear in the first assembly was a woman - Rosamma Punnoose of CPI.