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BJP, RSS hope for consensus on UCC

August 06, 2020 06:49 AM
BJP, RSS hope for consensus on UCC

Smriti Kak Ramachandran

NEW DELHI : The Bharatiya Janata Party has fulfilled two of the three-long-standing items on its manifesto and on the wish list of its ideological fount, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the revocation of Article 370 that conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir.

Now, there is just one item left -- a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) -- and the leadership if both the BJP and RSS are clear that a “consensus” should emerge before this can happen, people familiar with the matter in both organisations said.

In the case of Article 370, the BJP pushed the move through Parliament. In the case of the temple, a Supreme Court ruling set the stage for it. But the UCC, people in both the Sangh (RSS) and the BJP say, is different.

The demand for a UCC, which had been articulated by the Sangh and later the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s political precursor, was made part of the BJP’s election manifesto starting 1998.

In that document, the party sought to entrust the Law Commission with the task of formulating a code that would ensure property rights for women and incorporate the right to adopt children and equal guardianship rights; and remove discriminatory clauses in divorce laws apart from making the registration of all marriages mandatory.

One of the directive principles of the Constitution, the UCC has been a core issue of the RSS .

The bill to outlaw the Muslim practice of triple talaq, which allowed a man to divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq thrice, which was passed by Parliament last year, is seen in some quarters as a precursor to the UCC .

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, Parliament gave its nod, and the government received the support of several opposition parties as well. As for the Ram temple, it was a long-drawn legal battle, which was resolved by the highest court of law. As far as the UCC is concerned, while it is the need of the hour; there is a clear understanding that all sections of society must agree to it and their (should be) addressed,” said a senior functionary of the RSS, requesting anonymity.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, for instance, has expressed concern over the proposed UCC and in a statement last year said India has a multicultural and multi-religious society and each group has the constitutional right to maintain its identity. It referred to the concept of UCC as a threat to the diversity of India.

Objection to the UCC does not come from Muslims alone. The RSS functionary said while the government will take measures to introduce a bill on the UCC, it also has to carry along with civil society organisations and address misgivings about the proposed code.

“We are aware that even among Hindus there are some sections who have concerns. But just as their concerns were addressed when reforms such as the Hindu Marriage Act, the Succession Act and the adoptions and maintenance laws were changed; there is a need to address their current concerns as well,” the RSS functionary said.

BJP MP Kirori Lal Meena’s attempt to introduce a private member’s bill on the UCC in the Rajya Sabha last year was stalled by the opposition on the grounds that it could lead to communal tensions at a time when protests were being staged against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which intends to fast-track the grant of Indian citizenship to minorities from Muslim-majority Afghanistan , Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But the BJP  has been unambiguous about wanting to pursue the issue.

Union home minister Amit Shah said in an interview to a television channel in January that UCC is a part of the party’s manifesto and how and when it will be implemented will be decided in consultation with everyone. “I believe any country should not have any law based on religion and there should be a single law for all the citizens,” he said.

BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha said there is a need to address the “delusion” that some people have “encouraged” that UCC is against the rituals and core practices of any religion.

“It is a scientific and modern way of achieving the goals of gender justice. The law ministry has made progress on the issue but how it will be implemented will depend on the emerging consensus.”

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