Many of us didn’t support Modi as PM. That was due to concerns about his character and the BJP ideology in general. But there were many planks of his recent campaign that I’m sure resonated with us all regardless of whether or not they were realistic. We all want a financially stable India – one whose fiscal deficit is in check. Everyone desires a PM who doesn’t sit quietly on the sidelines, but gets involved in the issues important to us all. I’m sure no one likes corruption and we all find the idea of a streamlined bureaucracy very appealing.
I think that the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is one of these. That every right thinking person wants the same laws to apply to every Indian citizen. I mean – that’s just common sense right? Government and religion should have no overlap. We’re not Pakistan or Iran and we don’t want to be. We don’t have separate laws for people with long hair, or a different set of rules for those with brown and black eyes.
So why have separate civil laws for different religions? What if a person is an atheist like me? When more and more people are refusing to identify themselves with a particular religion, what is this stupid passion for having disparate legal codes? To me, this is crystal clear and I thought that every reasonable person feels this way too.
There was a time when I was okay with having different laws for various religions. My views have evolved since then and I realize that if we’re going to have laws in the first place, they must apply equally. I would have no objections if the government were to remove all laws relating to marriage, inheritance etc and simply leave it up to individuals. That would be ok. But to have a set of laws for one Religion 1 and another set of laws for Religion 2 is just terrible. It means the that the government and individual faith are not disconnected from each other. That is a bad thing.
And you know who suffers most from the lack of a Uniform Civil Code? Women. Big surprise.
But I’ve been reading a few opinion pieces and articles from prominent figures who feel otherwise. A senior diplomat called Gopalkrishna Gandhi for example, wrote an open letter to Modi calling the demand for a Uniform Civil Code “old and hackneyed” and puts it on the same footing as the Ram Mandir issue! I mean…the two demands are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. One seeks to lay down equality for all regardless of religion, and the other is a symbol of disharmony. It’s obvious that a government should never favor any particular religion, so the Ram Mandir issue is crazy. Modi himself seems to realize this in his manifesto when he says he wants the Ram Mandir issue to be resolved by Constitutional and legal means. Duh. Captain Obvious anyone? But I fail to see how the UCC is anything but a good idea.
Far from being sectarian, it promotes equality and fair treatment for all. While the Ram Mandir issue is divisive, the UCC promotes fairness. And you know who suffers most from the lack of a Uniform Civil Code? Women. Big surprise. They’re the most common victims of outdated laws allowing for unilateral divorce, mistreatment, and unfair inheritance regulations. This is because human rights have evolved whereas religion has not. Science has swept away many of the artificial barriers that relegated a woman to second class status, but religious beliefs still hold firm in their outmoded opinions. A Uniform Civil Code based on logic, consistency, and human rights will smooth over these irregularities and bring large swathes of Indian women into the modern world.
Some view the UCC as an attack on their cultural identity. But if a cultural identity means the right to deny equal treatment to people, then it’s better to lose your cultural identity. In other words: Human Rights > Cultural Identity How do you feel about a Uniform Civil Code? If you’re against it, what are the reasons? I’m strongly in favor of it and feel that a government with an absolute majority for the first time in 30 years has a golden opportunity to do the right thing. God knows when such a chance will come again.
Whatever our apprehensions regarding Modi, let’s make the best of the situation. There is a window of opportunity for our legal system to finally do away with unequal treatment on the basis of religion. We should all extend our support to it.