Uniform Civil Code is a ploy for BJP to flame UP ahead of polls

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
Nilanjan MukhopadhyayJul 02, 2016 | 19:35

Uniform Civil Code is a ploy for BJP to flame UP ahead of polls

There are three issues related to Uniform Civil Code (UCC).

The first is whether there should be a common family law or not.

The second question is how a consensus on this is going to be built and how does one prepare minority communities to make them believe that this move is not an assault on minority rights.

The third issue is the timing - when is the matter being raised and why.


Because in politics, timing is all-important, there is a necessity to examine the reasons behind the decision of the Modi sarkar to get law minister Sadanand Gowda to now write to the Law Commission.

BJP has made several attempts to polarise Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the polls.

Given that the Bharatiya Janata Party has made several attempts to polarise Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the polls in the state likely to be held in February 2017, this decision cannot be delinked from various strategies being devised for victory.

Why does the BJP wish to trigger a debate on UCC at this stage? What is the principal objective of the BJP – does it reflect a genuine concern for the plight of Muslim women, or is the campaign being mounted as symbol of majoritarian triumphalism?

Before exploring an answer to this, it is important to recall that the BJP, when it formed the government in 1998 with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister, decided to put its three "core principles" on the back burner.

These were abrogation of Article 370 of Constitution, introduction of UCC and construction of Ram temple.


When quizzed about the rationale, senior BJP leaders of the time explained that it made little political sense to propose inclusion of the demands in the national agenda for governance because the BJP did not have a two-third majority in Parliament, required for passing constitutional amendment Bills.

The BJP still does not have a two-third majority. If it imagines that it would somehow be able to enact a law to introduce UCC, then it better recall its inability to get even the GST Bill passed.

There will be a vertical divide in Parliament on UCC, and several parties that have been somewhat supportive of the BJP on other matters, will not be on board on this issue.

The aim is obviously to generate political fury, secure another near washout in the Monsoon Session and then provide ammunition to its fanatical campaigners to stir UP’s communal pot.

In the process, the issue of Muslim women facing continued repression from a patriarchal order will die another silent death, this time at the altar of majoritarian ambition.

In October 2015, when the Supreme Court decided that an unwed Christian mother can be the sole guardian of her child, it also made an observation regarding the utility of UCC.


In the debate that ensued, every secular group – including the "anti-nationals" – agreed that almost every religious law is discriminatory towards women, and thereby needed to be modernised or reformed.

The debate was whether there should be a state-sponsored civil code or community-based internal reform.

Without a doubt, the level of insecurity and fear among religious minorities is at an unprecedented high ever since the Modi sarkar assumed office. The prime minister has not done or said enough on even a single occasion.

Even in the much-feted-by-bhakts Times Now interview, Modi put the onus on media: "You do not report and they will not become heroes," he told the interviewer. At no point did he send a message to his party leaders and cadre – even a couched one – that they should not make statements with potential to communally vitiate the political and social conversation.

The demand for UCC has always been a tool in the hand of the BJP – and the Jana Sangh previously – to embarrass the Congress and other secular groups.

For the past several decades, the primary argument of the Sangh Parivar has been that by not introducing UCC, listed as part of the directive principles of state policy, the Congress – and other secularists – was playing the appeasing game.

Since the Sangh Parivar’s advocacy of the Ram temple issue in the 1980s, the demand for UCC among secularists took a back seat because of the greater challenge faced from Hindu majoritarianism.

It was felt that secular groups could resist majoritarian onslaught and simultaneously alleviate suffering of minority women by shifting the emphasis to reform of specific personal laws from the campaign for UCC.

The online campaign run by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) been quite successful, and the Supreme Court agreed this week to examine the extent to which courts can look into Muslim personal law, including triple talaq, if they violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The senior "anti-national" counsel, Indira Jaisingh contended that the court must ensure that personal laws should be subject to the regime of the fundamental rights.

The campaign of BMMA will be weakened at this stage because they are already facing opposition from Muslim orthodoxy led by self-appointed custodians, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

The BJP’s move to force a debate will undoubtedly enable it to gain political capital. But this will weaken the fight for justice for women among minority groups.

By framing the debate in the "pro-UCC versus anti-UCC" framework, the BJP will further enfeeble progressive groups among religious minorities.

This is what the BJP aims for because this will enable it to consolidate the Hindu vote bank.

Last updated: July 04, 2016 | 14:45
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