Saturday, November 12, 2016

Give Hindus Religion Based Personal Laws or extend Uniform Civil Code to all communities

By Nithin Sridhar

This article was published in DNA newspaper on October 17,2016

Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has been one of the long pending promises of the Constitutional makers of modern India, who had enshrined it as a duty of the State to implement it for all its citizens irrespective of their religious affiliations in the Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Yet, even after 69 years of our Independence, it remains a distant dream, mostly due to a lack of political will, minority vote-bank politics, and aggressive opposition by the clerics of the Muslim community, as is evident from the recent opposition by the All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board and other Muslim outfits to Law Commission’s questionnaire about the UCC, which they have termed as a “war” against their community.

Though we will not delve into the merits or demerits of UCC in a society like India rooted on the eternal principles of Dharma, it is suffice to say that the essence of UCC- enforcing a uniform law in all personal matters: marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance across all religious communities by discarding diversity and localized customs and traditions- which is a product of Western Secularism and Materialism, rooted in Abrahamic monotheism is completely alien to Indian civilizational ethos, which celebrates diversity and has evolved tailor-made cultural and religious practices to cater to the specific needs of different communities. In other words, UCC kills cultural diversity that caters to community-specific needs and implements “monotheism” in the garb of “secularism.

Since Independence, in the name of creating uniform Hindu laws, Hindu personal laws have been thoroughly secularized through the passage of various civil laws like Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu Succession Act 1956, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, etc., which despite pays a lip service to the importance of customs and usage, ignores them on the ground. As a result, on the one hand, Hindu communities have been denied access to be governed by their religious Shastras, and on the other hand, the prevalent community specific traditions and practices have been dismantled. Dr. Parminder Kaur, who is an Assistant Professor in Guru Nanak Dev University Regional Campus, Gurdaspur, rightly observes: “The Hindu Code Bills were a series of laws aimed at thoroughly secularizing the Hindu community and bringing its laws up to modern times, which in essence meant the abolition of Hindu law and the enactment of laws based on western lines…” [Law Mantra Journal, Vol 2, Issue 5].

Thus, on the one hand, the Hindu majority has been forcibly de-rooted from their age old cultural and religious practices, which constitute the core of Indian ethos; and on the other hand, minority communities- Muslims, Christians, Parsis, and Jews- all have continued to live by their community specific religious personal laws, which are rooted in their religious principles. This is a gross discrimination inflicted upon the majority Hindu community by successive Union governments in the name of secularism and modernity, all the while ignoring issues of gender inequality prevalent in minority communities (Triple Talaq, for example), for the sake of vote bank.

It is high time that the center either fulfills its Constitutional mandate by extending the UCC to all communities; or discard secularized Hindu personal laws and allow different Hindu communities to come up with their own religious personal laws catering to their unique community-specific traditions and Hindu Shastric mandate. In any case, the Modi-led government, should end this gross discrimination of selective application of secularized laws against its majority community.