In the post independent India, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is probably one of the most misunderstood phrases, deliberately propagated by the politicians to confuse public and divide them on communal lines for their political gains. They created a false hype among Hindus that the Muslims, who, according to their Personal Laws, have been permitted to keep four wives at a time, will soon overtake the Hindu population and reduce them to minority and thus the descendants of Babar, the invader, will once again become the ruler of our country and this time by democratic means of majority in elections. Similarly, fear was created among the Muslims that if UCC is implemented in India; they will not only be forced to follow the laws governing Hinduism but their survival in this country will also be seriously threatened. They deliberately hide the fact that Islam came to India way back in the eleventh century, some good five hundred years before the arrival of Babar, who took the reins of Delhi in 1526 by defeating Ibrahim Lodhi, a Muslim and not any Hindu. Moreover, a very nominal population of Muslims came to India from foreign lands; and most of the Muslims of this country are the local converts, who embraced Islam due to the prevailing social compulsions of the time. This fact has been repeatedly confirmed not only by historians but even by Swami Vivekananda, the greatest exponent of Hinduism. According to him Islam was not spread in India by sword. The Mohammedan conquest of India came as a salvation to the downtrodden, to the poor. That is why one-fifth of our people have become Mohammedans. Similarly, the Sachar Committee has thoroughly exposed the Sangh Parivar’s totally false and baseless propaganda that the unchecked growth in Muslim population will result in their overtaking the Hindus, when it gave the following Report in its findings-
”Projections for future population growth in India show that by the end of the 21 century India’s total population will stabilize in which the Muslim population would be less than 20% of total “. (Pg. 45).
However, after succeeding in their mission of spreading this false propaganda against Muslims, the communalists along with the Sangh Parivar tried to garner the Hindutva vote in their favour by propagating in public that, they will implement the UCC throughout the country and thus, will not only check the abnormal growth in Muslim’s population but will also save the nation from going in their hands once again. Similarly, the self-proclaimed secularists showed their apparent sympathy to the Muslims by promising that, if voted to power, they will ensure that nothing of this sort happens in this country, and thus tried to garner their vote in their favour. Obviously, the question of Common/ Uniform Civil Code (UCC) can only be raised when there is more than one Civil Codes (CC) within the territory of India, but constitutionally, there is no CC of our country, therefore, the demand of a UCC should have never cropped up. However, the politicians deliberately and purposely kept the citizens of the country in dark to exploit them for their political gains. Ironically, none, including the media ever tried to clear this misconception by highlighting the truth in public so that the misunderstanding about UCC could have been removed before it were deeply rooted in the minds of public and acquired a communal overtone which resulted in many unpleasant happenings in the country.
In fact, in our country, there are different Personal Laws (PLs) for different communities, which govern the rights relating to property, marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance and are applicable only among the persons belonging to the same religion. While The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 governs the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhs and Jains, the Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews have their own PLs. It is universally known fact that the Sangh Parivar and its allies have always presented Muslims as villains to polarize the voters on communal lines so that they can garner the Hindutva vote in their favour. To substantiate their claim, they quote some isolated cases or false stories, conveniently overlooking the fact that such cases are not only found in Islam but are equally common among other religions including Hinduism. It is interesting to note, that Goswami Tulsi Das who is the author of “Ram Charit Manas”, one of the pillars of Hindu religion, says in this epic –.
“Dhol Ganwar Shudra Pashu Nari, Yeh sab taran ke adhikari”
(Drums, ill-mannered persons, Downtrodden, animals, women, All these deserve beating)
Though, as the author of Ram Charit Manas, Goswami Tulsi Das commands blind faith and is very highly respected in Hinduism yet no Hindu will agree to take the above quote as the governing principle of Hindu religion; but at best will accept it as a personal opinion of Tulsi Das. Therefore, some individual or isolated cases, where the personal laws have been misused can neither be generalised nor can be tagged as a governing principles or evils of that religion.
To clear the misunderstanding, let us consider the logic and spirit behind the following few provisions of Muslim Personal Laws (MPLs)—
1. Permission to keep up to four wives at a time – It is a universal fact that, since the time immemorial, the job of earning and protection of the family has always been done by the male member of the family. And to achieve this, they are required to go on difficult work sites, battle fields and other such far off and remote places where risks to their lives are many times more than the females, who are mostly confined to their homes doing their household works and looking after the other members of the family. Even today, when the women are having equal rights with their male counterparts, the protection and earnings for the family is primarily the responsibility of the male members and therefore, sheer due to the nature of their work, they are more exposed to the risks of their life than females. In such conditions, the mortality rates of the males is bound to be much more higher than the females and thus the ratio of 50:50 provided by the nature is misbalanced, leaving a lot of hapless ladies without the protection and support of males. In these circumstances, only the under mentioned two options could have been offered to such females by the society-
i. Leave them alone on the mercy of others to struggle with their own fate. In this case there was every likely hood of their exploitation in the male dominated society as we have been coming across horrifying stories about the widows and girls since ages. It was also possible that, having no other option for their survival, they might have been forced or themselves fallen in some illegal and immoral trade.
ii. Give them in the protection of another competent male who can smoothly navigate their rest of the life with peace and honour.
The latter option was naturally more dignified. Therefore, just to save ladies from social evils, the males were allowed to have more than one wife (up to four), of course with the permission of other wife and with the strict understanding that he will treat them equally in every sphere of life.
2. The right of inheritance in the property of parents – The girls were given the right of inheritance in the assets of their parents so that even after their marriage, they can have the financial and moral support at their back and do not remain only on the mercy of their husband or in-laws because in such cases there was every likely hood of their exploitation.
Only two provisions of MPLs have been quoted here with the logic and reasoning behind them to clear the misunderstanding deliberately spread by vested interest for their personal gains. There are many others, and if they are studied minutely with an open mind without any pre-conceived bias, these provisions of MPLs will appear more as reforms for the society than anything connected with the rituals of any religion.
The Article 44 of our Constitution says, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” The broad conception of UCC means unifying all the “personal laws” to have one set of good secular laws, which will apply to all the citizens of the country, irrespective of their faith or religion. Any perception that a UCC would necessitate changes in only Muslim personal laws is not correct. A truly secular, non-discriminatory and progressive code may require changes in all the personal laws or Marriage Acts. This is the reason why changes in Personal Laws have been resisted not only by one community, but by the persons belonging to every religion.
However, probably under a pre-planned conspiracy, the politicians as well as the media, instead of highlighting the merits and social values of MPLs, deliberately created the false impression about them. This was probably done to divert the attention of Muslims from the injustices done against them by the governments and its agencies. Since our independence, the politicians have used the ‘Change in Muslim Personal Laws’ as a tool to tease Muslims and to create fear in their minds so that they exhaust their resources in defending their Personal Laws, and do not concentrate themselves in demanding their due rights of education, employments and developments as guaranteed by our constitution. This conspiracy of the politicians and the Governments have left Muslims far behind in every field of life, and the Sachar Committee Report is its testimony.
We have already created enough issues, like Babri Masjid, religious conversions, Maharashtrians and non-Maharashtrians, north and south Indians, terrorism, Naxalism etc. that has cost dearly to our nation. Any further addition like PLs, in the already existing issues may prove disastrous for the country. Since the PLs are applicable among the persons belonging to the same faith, therefore, if the followers of that particular religion do not have any problem with their PLs, why should others unnecessarily poke their nose and create a national problem even after the report of Sachar Committee? In fact, even these self-appointed nationalist are not raising their voice out of sincerity to settle any issue. Instead, the only motive behind all these action is to tease Muslims and to polarise society on communal lines so that they can garner the Hindu votes in their favour and their slogan of Vande Matram is to nation but a follow up action of the same motive of capturing the communal votes. Their patriotism can be gauged from the fact that when Sadhavi Pragya, Col. Purohit, Maj. Ramesh and other members of their core group were caught for antinational activities of making and planting bombs at public places, they not only came out openly in their support but also raised the highly inflammatory slogans of ‘victimisation of Hindus for appeasement of minorities (read Muslims)’. Their innocence was not only pleaded by the highest persons of their organisation at the highest level of the country but they also openly provided accused every support including the legal and monetary assistance. Contrary to this, when Muslims are caught allegedly for the same crime, they do not allow any legal aid to them though it is their constitutional right. Anyone who dares to take up their case, is not only called anti-national but also threatened, misbehaved and even beaten along with the accused inside the courts. Ironically, apart from others, even the lawyers who are constitutionally guardians of our legal system are taking the law in their hands and doing this illegal act even inside the court rooms and the courts, which are constitutionally bound for maintaining peace and decorum inside its premises, do not act against these goons, instead, remain hapless spectator and probably mute supporter.
Therefore, the Governments should immediately clear the misunderstanding about the MPLs publically, because due to these misconceptions, the politicians along with the anti-social elements are poisoning the society with communal hatred. Those who try to polarise voters on communal lines by provoking religious feelings, should not only be punished for anti-national activities but should also be banned from contesting elections. Because, if caught in such activity, they try to present themselves as a ‘victim of communal politics for appeasement of minorities (read Muslims) and also play the drama of becoming a martyr to that community to gain the sympathy of that sect and thus their vote. The minorities should also be assured not only by words but also by action to believe that nothing-discriminatory will happen against them and our secular constitution will reign supreme. This will boost their confidence in governments tremendously, and once they develop the confidence in governance and the deeply rooted fear of their victimization on communal grounds are out of their minds, they will whole-heartedly concentrate on developmental activities to contribute their share in building the nation.
Afzal Ahmad Khan