“I have to get on with life and carve my path just like Malala did. We have to each fight our own battles,” said 16-year-old Mampi Khatoon in an interview with The Times of India. The teenager sparked a debate after she uttered the word ‘talaq’ thrice and divorced her husband when he opposed her wish to continue studying.
The triple talaq debate has been under the scanner for quite some time in India with leading Muslim women groups demanding its abolition under the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
Hailing from Mullickpur Mandirbazar, a village near Kolkata, Mampi was married off against her wishes by her parents in 2015. Sarjul Gharami, her father, a tea stall owner was happy to receive a proposal from a family in Tekpanja village in Mandirbazar, about 6km away. With three daughters two sons to look after, Sarjul refused to give into Mampi’s wishes.
Mampi, then a class nine student wanted to study further, but was in a state of learned helplessness. However, she got her in-laws and husband to agree that she would continue studying post-marriage. She was in for a shock when her in-laws ridiculed her desire to study and forced her to do domestic household chores.
She persisted and passed her Madhyamik exam this year. But when she told her husband that she wished to get admitted to Class XI, he refused. Neither her husband nor her in-laws budged. When she visited her parents’ some days later, she told them she wanted to study and would not return to her husband’s house.
Things turned better when she got admitted to Krishnachandrapur High School at Mathurapur, around 9 km from her home. Impressed by her eagerness to get back to school, Headmaster Chandan Kumar Maity waived the admission and tuition fees.
But when the news of her admission reached her in-laws they stormed into her parental home and humiliated her parents for sending her back to school. They forced her to pack her bags and return with them.
Sarjul Gharami and Sahera Bibi decided to defend their daughter and the situation worsened. When Mampi reached breaking point, she walked up to her husband and yelled “talaq” thrice. And complete silence prevailed.
“My in-laws were stunned. They left after that, but my parents stood by me,” said Mampi.
While most members of the community have applauded her bold move and drawn parallels with the youngest-ever Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai (who defied the Taliban’s diktat against women’s education), others have questioned her act, which as per the law is only entitled to men. Mampi Khatoon has decided to ignore the attention.
“We made a mistake by marrying her off against her wish. She can stay here and study as long as she wants,” her mother told TOI.