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Uniform Civil Code- The opposition and left-leaning liberals being silent

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G Indira
G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Ex-Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a long pending liberal-reform. For, it has always been a binary between the Hindus and Muslims in India. The Indian criminal code is uniform i.e. the same for all Indians. But the civil code is different and is based on each religion. The Hindus in India were codified long ago. The Hindu code bill was passed way back in 1950. However, the other minority communities are not. Especially the Muslims have still been following their archaic personal law.

Article -44 of the Indian Constitution (The Directive Principle of State Policy) envisages that ‘the state shall endeavor to secure the citizen a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India’. Furthermore, it has not stated how to go about with the UCC i.e., the rules of framing. Though certain states are promising to implement in their respective domains, still the onus remains on the Central Government to see that it is applied in the whole nation.

Ever since the Shah Bano case judgment (in 1985 it came out), this UCC pot has been boiling. Shah Bano and her husband Mohd. Ahmad Khan, a lawyer, had been married and had five children. Once again, her husband married another woman by giving her triple talaq. He even rejected giving any maintenance to Shah Bano after the divorce, as it was not covered in the Muslim personal law. She made a valiant struggle in the courts and won the case in the supreme court finally.

Yet, her husband would not relent. The then prime minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi amended the Constitution to give alimony to the lady by the Government i.e. through tax payers’ money. That revolutionized and gave vigor to the UCC. Hence, UCC is for equal rights to women.

Freshly, prime minister Shri Narendra Modi announced in a public meeting in Madhya Pradesh on bringing out the UCC in the country. All the opposition parties got a jolt. The main opponents of the UCC are the orthodox Muslim clergy. Many opposition parties go by words of the conservative clergy among the Muslims than the liberal-Muslim voices or what they say.

For, the opposition has been pandering to the Muslim-minority vote-bank all these years i.e. since independence and would like them to be regressive, following age-old practices. A common set of laws for marriage, divorce, inheritance of property, custody, adoption and guardianship are needed for all citizens equally.

These are all secular (worldly) affairs and needed here and now solutions through courts. On the other hand, all citizens could follow their respective religions in other personal matters with no hitch or hindrance. The state would not interfere.

In any case, the liberals and the parties like the Congress that supports the Liberals should be supporting this UCC, at the first instance, when the prime minister announced it. They have not done so. Why? Because they have an inherent problem that it would hurt the Muslim Community. Are they not interested in bringing the community to the mainstream? 

To our astonishment, the historian Shri Ramchandra Guha lambasted the Left Communists and liberals in India for opposing the UCC in his article in 2016. This article is an eye-opener. He mentioned seven points for their opposition to the UCC. One of which says:

“The customary practices of Muslims are also not as bad as claimed; thus Muslim polygamy does not discriminate against second or third wives in the manner that Hindu polygamy does or did.” (http://m.hindustantimes.com/columns/when-progressives-turn-reactionary/story-h9Zwi5ZnbQ5Jjn0ak0A9VK.html)    

That point is absurd. The Hindu code bill would not accept such practices. If someone did, there is legal recourse for the wife to complain. In the case of Muslims it is not so. Interestingly, Mr. Guha writes, “… in our Republic, the same laws must apply to all citizens regardless of caste, community, class or gender.

There have been several articles attacking a common civil code in the widely read websites Scroll and The Wire, as well as in the staid and respected Economic and Political Weekly…The task, indeed duty, of progressive thinkers is to go beyond both political expediency and religious prejudice, and support a right policy for the right reasons.”

Those people that are saying — let us first achieve the promises that are mentioned in the preamble like: justice, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual in the journey of the nation, later India could achieve the goal/ destination of UCC — are only seeking for the law’s procrastination rather than implementation at any point of time.

For, achieving the said objectives is not a done deal in any country, even in the so-called progressive nations of the West. Nation building in those principles is work in progress. However, while passing the UCC bill, concessions could be given to tribals in the North-East and elsewhere across India that are following their customs different from other parts of India.

According to the West, the BJP is a conservative right-leaning Hindu-party, The matter of UCC it has been raising is a liberal law. As an ideological point it has been raising ever since Shah Bano case. The BJP has been making three important major promises to its electorate in its election manifesto since 1991.

Of which the party has fulfilled two huge promises viz. Bhavya Ram Temple at Ayodhya and Abrogation of Art-370 that gave special status to J&K. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is the only promise still pending. Hope the BJP would bring in the draft-bill of the UCC in this year’s monsoon-session and passes it.

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G Indira
G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Ex-Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer
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