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Noorbina Rasheed ’s candidature a victory for women in IUML- The New Indian Express

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By Express News Service

KOCHI: The selection of Noorbina Rasheed as the candidate of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for the Kozhikode South constituency has been hailed as a bold step by the party to overshadow the orthodoxy in the community.Noorbina’s candidature was celebrated as the victory of the ‘progressives’ in IUML over the hardliners who never wanted women to enter the public sphere. But those familiar with the history of the All India Muslim League, IUML’s precursor, say women played a significant role in the party in pre-independence era and shortly after the country became free.

“There were prominent figures such as Begum Aizaz Resul who was the Muslim League party leader in Uttar Pradesh assembly from 1950 to 52. She joined the party in 1935 and was elected to UP Assembly in 1937,” said historian M C Vadakara, who has written the book ‘Hundred Years of Muslim Politics.’

Born in the family of landlords, Begum was at the forefront of the agitation against ending the zamindari system and went to jail. “She was the lone woman member in the constituent assembly and was the president of the Indian Women’s Hockey Federation and Asian Women Hockey Federation,” Vadakara said.

Begum Shanawaz, the leader from Punjab, moved a resolution against polygamy and got it passed at the Lahore session of the Muslim League in 1918. “She was the president of the women’s wing of the Muslim League in Punjab and was elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1937. She also represented the League in the delegation for the Round Table conference in London,” he said.

Another stalwart among the women leaders was Begum Ameerudeen, who was the member of the assembly of Madras Presidency from 1946 to 1952. “She was an orator par excellence. It is said C Rajagopalachari once came to the House only to hear her speech even while he was down with fever,” Vadakara said.

There were other leaders such as Begum Habeebullah, the working committee member of the Muslim League, who was a novelist and a journalist worked with the BBC. “The All India Muslim League had a women’s wing of volunteers, the leaders of which were also women,” he said.

What made the party and parliamentary posts in the Muslim League inaccessible to women after 1960s? “Religion was not the basis of the League in the beginning though it carried the religious tag. Many early leaders of the party were not very religious. But later, the party became subservient to religious organisations and consequently, women were pushed to the side-lines,” said writer Mujeeb Rehman Kinaloor.

“Vote bank of organised religious outfits became important for the party and decisions were taken after consulting with them. The dominance of the orthodox Sunnis in IUML prevented women from entering the public space,” he said.

Noora V, who wrote a book on the legendary Muslim leader Haleema Beevi, recalled how Beevi was elected as the Tiruvalla taluk secretary of the Travancore State Muslim League in 1946. “Haleema Beevi was the secretary of not the Vanitha League, but that of the party that consisted of men and women. The membership in the committee was dominated by women and she was elected the secretary,” she said.

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