The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a constituent of the opposition UDF in Kerala, is currently engaged in fighting a fire triggered by some of its young women leaders. Haritha, a girls’ collective part of IUML’s student wing MSF, chose to speak out against the sexist approach and remarks of the MSF’s male-dominated leadership and complained to the women’s commission when the party refused to take any action. The offended IUML leadership asked the girls to withdraw the complaint and, when found that they were unrelenting, disbanded the entire Haritha committee. It then removed MSF national vice-president Fathima Thahliya and state vice-president P P Shyjal, who supported the Haritha leaders. The developments underline the churn within and are seen as the outcome of the knowledge revolution among Kerala’s Muslim community that has pushed the girls onto the centre stage. They have gate-crashed into spaces that were the prerogative of the males till now. This leap is clearly visible in academia, social life and even in politics.
The young women leaders are talking about the “politics of honourable existence”, which is beyond the comprehension of the present IUML leadership. What we see now is the conflict between the emerging politics that is sensitive to the rights of the marginalised, including women, and the conventional politics that sees only power. The IUML leadership first tried to ignore the issues of self-respect raised by the girls. Then they tried to stifle the voice when it became louder. Now, the issue has become too hot to handle. As a political party that apparently stands for minorities and the marginalised, the IUML cannot turn a blind eye to the issues raised by women leaders. As the Haritha leaders said, the IUML has to regain its democratic structure at every level of the party. It is high time it changed its priorities and policies. Unlike in the past, where the party enjoyed a monopoly over the Muslim community, there are other players in the field now. And they are more sensible and sensitive to the dreams of the new generation. The party should see the writing on the wall and transform itself to accommodate new perspectives.