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The most vociferous critics of reforms in Hindu law are now arguing for the UCC

Written by Faizan Mustafa | Updated: November 11, 2016 4:51 am
Uniform civil code, India uniform civil code, Muslim laws, triple talaq, india uniform civil code debate, uniform civil code report, muslim personal law board, ucc, congress on ucc, bjp, bjp on ucc, civil code, common civil code, polygamy, triple talaq debate, women property rights, asaduddin owaisi, owaisi, india news, indian express news The RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, Dharma Mahamandal, Akhil Bhatiya Dharma Sangh and several other organisations fiercely opposed the Hindu code Bill.

“The best way to reform Mohammedan law is not to reform it at all. Let its inconvenient and archaic features wither away. Once it is accepted that this is the policy, it will wither away fast enough. If there is a frontal attack on personal law, it will survive with a tenacity it has been unable to show in countries where the majority of the population are and always have been Muslims,” said eminent jurist Duncan M. Derrit. This author is for uniform civil code in a piecemeal manner.

The article by RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya (‘The price of personal law’, IE, November 1) has done a great disservice to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) debate as he has explicitly said that Muslims and Adivasis should lose their right to vote in Parliament and state assembly elections if they refuse to accept the UCC. So the cat is finally out of the bag.

But then, hold your breath. Ravishankar Shukla, the premier of the central provinces and the first Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, in a two-part article carried by Kalyan in July and August 1947 had argued that “Hindustan should become a Hindu rashtra and its state religion should be Hinduism. Hindus or non-Muslims should hold the top posts. Any person who does not believe in Hindu culture should not be made a part of the government of Hindustan.” Shukla, a member of the Constituent Assembly, went on to say that Muslims should not be given citizenship rights. Thus, Vaidya alone should not be criticised.

Let us recall the history of the Hindu right’s opposition to the Hindu Code Bill. The RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, Dharma Mahamandal, Akhil Bharatiya Dharma Sangh and several other organisations fiercely opposed the Hindu code Bill. The most vociferous critics of reforms in Hindu law in the 1940s and 1950s are now arguing for the UCC. The RSS itself was leading the opposition. As many as 79 public meetings were organised in 1949 by the RSS in Delhi to oppose the Hindu Code Bill which was termed as an atom bomb on Hindus.

It is true that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee said in Parliament that instead of the Hindu Code Bill, the government should bring in the UCC. There was much substance in this argument and Nehru indeed did a disservice to Muslim women by not bringing reforms for all communities in one go. Hindu law reform proposals received a lot of opposition not only from the extreme right but also from Congress leaders such as Vallabhbhai Patel, deputy prime minister, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Congress president, Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, speaker of the constituent assembly. Madan Mohan Malviya and Kailash Nath Katju also opposed the reforms. When the debate on the Hindu Code Bill took place in 1949, as many as 23 out of 28 speakers who participated in the debate opposed it. On September 15, 1951, Rajendra Prasad threatened to use his powers of returning the bill to Parliament or vetoing it. Nehru had to concede and the bill could not be passed.

In 1949 itself, the Hindu right had formed an All-India Anti Hindu Code Bill Committee under the leadership of Swami Karpatri Maharaj who made even Ambedkar’s “low” caste an issue. Karpatri justified unregulated polygamy and freely quoted Yajnavalkya:

“If the wife is a habitual drunkard, a confirmed invalid, a cunning, a barren or a spendthrift woman, if she is bitter-tongued, if she has got only daughters and no son, if she hates her husband, (then) the husband can marry a second wife even while the first is living.” Geeta Press’s Kalyan magazine published a number of articles which favoured polygamy, opposed the daughter’s right to inheritance and questioned the Constituent Assembly’s right to legislate on religious matters.

If we are interested in reforms, just like the Hindu Law Reforms Committee formed in 1941, the Modi government should constitute a Muslim Law Reforms Committee, a Tribal and Indigenous Law Reform Committee and Christian and Parsi Law Reforms Committees, and based on their recommendations, take the UCC process forward. We would then need a Hindu Law Committee as well, as some of the existing provisions such as solemnisation of marriage, kanyadaan, joint family, preference of issueless husband’s parents in the self-acquired property of the daughter-in- law etc. may not find a place in the UCC and provisions like dower or nikahnama (prenuptial contract) are to be incorporated. Is the RSS of 2016 ready for these changes?

The writer is vice-chancellor NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. Views expressed are personal

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More From Faizan Mustafa
  1. P
    Nov 11, 2016 at 6:48 am
    Author has very cleverly used the word ADIVASI or tribals nd tried to portray them with Muslims,,,,,,she must remember that even Adivasi are ready to change,,,they never see everything from the prism of Religion,,
    1. R
      Rajiv Parashar
      Nov 11, 2016 at 7:04 am
      Mr. Faizan Mustafa, forget about others. You talk about you. Do you want UCC or not? Do support Tripple Talaq or not? Do you support Muslims having 4 wives or not?
      1. P
        Nov 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm
        It is almost impossible to believe that this person is a vice chancellor of a law university. I feel pity for the students. Anyone who has read consution is aware about rights guaranteed under article 25 and 26 of the consution of india. So basically they first resort to this article claiming that it is their fundamental right to practice and propogate religion. But at the same time they won't agree to the keshvanand Bharti verdict which said that even fundamental rights are subject to amendment i.e. the state has prerogative to make changes as far as it is not encroaching the basic structure. Moreover, UCC is a DPSP under article 44 of the consution and is already a successful concept in a state like goa. So please stop taking mileage by inflicting fear in the minds of impressionables and move over your baseless philosophy. This is not a madra where you will say anything and people will accept it. At least for once try to act like a lawyer rather than being one fundamentalist person you seems to appear. May be this is your way of showing graude towards the congress regime under which you must have been appointed as a VC.
        1. P
          Nov 11, 2016 at 10:13 pm
          What a bakwas !
          1. S
            S. C.
            Nov 11, 2016 at 3:58 pm
            How prohibition of triple talaaq and polygamy puts Islam in danger should have been explained. Only muslim women, daughters and sisters of muslim men will benefit. Hindu code bill did not cause any damage to Hindu religion, but contributed to progress of hindu women and the hindu community at large. Every community should put forward their views on UCC and object if it genuinely damages their religion. That some Hindu groups were against Hindu code bill in 1950 is no argument to object to improving the fate of Muslim women.
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