Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Agenda for UCC and CAA

As the BJP renews its push for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), promising to bring the same in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, various political parties reacted by terming it as a move to polarise India. The debate has grown shriller as the BJP attempts to cash in ahead of assembly elections in several states. UCC is a proposal to formulate and implement personal laws of citizens which apply on all citizens equally regardless of their religion, gender and sexual orientation.UCC as defined under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of the state to secure the Uniform Civil Code for the citizens of India. A UCC would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. It is meant to replace currently applicable various laws applicable to various respective communities which are inconsistent with each other. These laws include the Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Indian Divorce Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. Both Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar believed that in matters pertaining to marriage, adoption, inheritance, divorce, etc., different religions’ different laws should be replaced by a civil code that would apply uniformly to all Indians. However, the views of both Nehru and Ambedkar, were subsumed by non-secularists from among some sections of Hindus, Muslims etc. Muslims oppose UCC since it will do away with Muslim Personal Law that deprives women of various rights like that of succession and equal/fair rights in marriage and divorce and polygamy. The other reason is that, certain Maulavis (Islamic scholars) oppose the move for UCC as it would reduce their power. Christians in general are not opposed to UCC because there are no HUF benefits or polygamy exemptions for Christians. Those who argue against the UCC believe that matters like marriage, divorce, maintenance, succession et are guaranteed freedom under the constitution and that UCC will be a violation of it. UCC remains a major electoral plank for the BJP, it has occupied the centre-stage since the party won single majority in 2014 polls. In all manifestos, since 1998, the BJP has emphasised the need for a UCC for national integration and gender justice. The contents of UCC framed on the principles of one law for all, may seem logical but there are apprehensions about the actual clauses when enacted. It must be acknowledged that electorally, BJP is in a comfortable position to enact a law and establish the legitimacy. However, there is still a democratic hesitancy that is visible due to an environment of trust-deficit created by the BJP. This trust-deficit is most visible through the minority community’s anxiety in claiming their rights as citizens under this regime. A new legal regime has come in place that has fractured the very fundamental basis of legal citizenship and rights of minorities by redefining who can and who cannot be a part of the collective political morality of the future. A case in point is the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019), which provides for grant of Indian citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs,Jains, Parsis and Christians but not Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who arrived in India before 31 December 2014. By vowing to enact UCC as well as CAA, the BJP has only created an unholy alliance that has sparked mistrust among people.

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