Featured Heritage

Mehrunnisa Dalwai – The Unsung Heroine of Pune’s Social Reform

Some reformative groups have changed our city; with their consistent and dedicated efforts, they have positively influenced Pune.

Through the pre and post-independence period, Pune has always had a lot of social reformative activities and groups. A lot of them fizzled out due to several political reasons, but a lot stayed and are still operational. These reformative groups have changed our city; with their consistent and dedicated efforts, they have positively influenced Pune.

Image by eSakal

One such group happens to be Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal, which turned 49 this year. Co-founded by Mehrunnisa Dalwai, wife of the prominent Muslim activist and reform leader Hamid Dalwai. This Muslim couple strived for equal rights and justice for Muslim women. Her noteworthy contribution for uplifting the female movement and marching to the ‘Mantralaya’ in Mumbai for the abolition of triple talaq are well known. Or are they?
This courageous woman and her husband are the quiet heroes of reform. Very little is spoken about them, let alone making them an important part of Pune’s history. After the death of her husband, she spearheaded the movement and became the president of the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal. She is also the founder of the Islamic Research Insitute and Maharashtra Talaq Mukti Morcha. Her autiobiography, “Me Bharun Pawle” is considered to be a breakthrough and an inspirational take on the female progressive movement.
The pivotal contribution of Mehrunnisa Dalwai and her husband started with implementing scientific temper in order to eradicate the orthodox and blind beliefs which exist in the Muslim community. In April 1966, Mehrunnisa and six other Muslim women marched to Mumbai for the protest of triple talaq. They did this without any political support and it was the first step towards something really powerful.
In our traditional and orthodox community, women have always been denied equal rights. Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal and their work is just a tiny reminder of the amount of changes which must be implemented for a better life and harmony.
Mehrunissa Dalwai passed away last year. She was 87 years old. Speaking about the march in an interview, she said she was pregnant with her second child at the time. The group of ladies then met Vasantrao Naik, the Maharashtra Chief Minister at that time and handed over their memorandum of demands.
After the news of their march spread around, they soon faced opposition and even death threats. Even during their meetings, they were constantly interrupted and threatened and they had to beg the opposition to let them finish. However, they strived on and the movement gathered support –both physically and emotionally.
It’s been almost fifty years since the foundation and the march. Little has changed despite the efforts, to be honest, the situation has only worsened. We all need to spread awareness and do our bit for the education and abolishment of the triple talaq movement- this unjust act has broken far too many female lives.
Featured image by Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal