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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 46 November 5, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Nov 5, 2022

Friday 4 November 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Nov 5, 2022

The Constitution of India treats all citizens on an equal footing and included in its ‘Directive Principles’ an important guidance exhorting the state to strive to bring a common law in the personal domain for all its citizens irrespective of differences of faith. Leading statesmen in the founding years of our republic Jawaharlal Nehru and B R Ambedkar had forcefully argued in favour of such a common secular law. But decades on matters related to marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance etc continue to be governed by different personal laws based on separate religious cultures. Identity politics has grown in a big way in the country and has become a hinderance to arguments for a non-discriminatory uniform personal law. There has been a clear lack of political will on part of all political parties to go against religious and community elites and build consensus for a Common or Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and expand secular space for all. As state assembly elections approach in several states, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states such as Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have suggested introduction of Uniform Civil Code (UCC). There are no clear written drafts of these proposed UCC up for any debate in public or in the parliaments or elected assembles. The right-wing BJP seems to use the UCC as propaganda and rhetorical device to target and finger point the regressive customary social practices within minority communities while making no mention of the need for social reforms needed inside the so-called ‘Majority’ communities rife with degrading and discriminatory treatment of women in families. A BJP crafted UCC is likely to be skewed and discriminatory. Unfortunately this area remains a taboo for most secular political parties including the Left in India, they could have taken the lead by drafting and campaigning for a gender just uniform civil code in society and in elected bodies. There is already a huge public social campaign led by Far-Right Hindutva groups and the BJP against inter-religious marriages –calling it ‘love jihad’; and even undermining the 1954 Special Marriage Act. The progressive forces, secular political parties and women’s group should no longer be silent on the issue and be leading the campaign for a socially just and legally adequate Uniform civil code while actively defending the right to choose one’s life partner free from conservative social, religious and community pressures.

November 5, 2022 — HK

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