When the NDA Government was formed in 1998 with the help of smaller so-called secular parties, the BJP had to omit three items from its agenda as desired by its partners. These were (1) the removal of Article 370 of the Constitution regarding special status to J&K State, (2) building of Ram temple in Ayodhya and (3) legislation of a Uniform Civil Code for all Indian citizens.
Out of the above three, there could be two opinions on the first two items. Constitutional purists could argue that the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was allowed as a concession for the accession of the Muslim majority state on the border to India. Especially the Congress and its offshoot parties could say that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had made solemn assurances in Parliament not to change the status of the state as long as the people wanted it.
However, after 55 years of the Constitution coming into force, nothing has been done towards securing a Uniform Civil Code. What we have today are Hindu code, Christian code and of course the Muslim religious code based on the Shariat.
The Hindu code is not at all Hindu; it is based on modern jurisprudence of the western democracies. The Christian code is essentially British in character, and there is not much of a difference between the laws for the Hindus and the Christians. As such, there is no general opposition from the Hindus and the Christians for a Uniform Civil Code. The radical differences are between the Muslim Personal Law and the laws for the rest.
What are the salient features of the Muslim Personal Law that differ from the envisaged Uniform Civil Code, which the religio-political Muslim leaders want to have retained? Freedom for man to have four wives and summarily divorce them by pronouncing Talaq thrice. Then Muslim couples are not allowed legally to adopt children and bequeath their property to them. These provisions are meant to pamper the permissiveness of men and are obviously anti-women.
As for Muslim males, only a small segment of feudal remnants and mullahs indulge in polygamy and instant Talaq. The social behaviour of a community should be judged by the life-style of the educated middle class. Hardly any Muslim male from that segment normally take advantage of these religious laws. Then why should they oppose a Uniform Civil Code that would do away with these social evils?
The problem is that even the so-called secular political parties across the Indian political spectrum?the Congress, the Janata splinters and regional ones?recognise the Muslim parties and communal Muslim leaders as the real representatives of the Muslim population as a whole. No Kamal Ataturk has come up in free India. Unfortunately, the man with real potential to that role who openly declared that he would modernise Indian Muslims, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, chose the separatist path to create a Muslim state for him to rule. And his dream of establishing a secular Pakistan was dashed when the horse he was riding, Muslim communalism, ditched him. He died a sad man regretting the fathering of Pakistan that became a spoilt child?an Islamic state.
However, that historic catastrophe did not register in the minds of our so-called secular leaders of post-Independence era. They continue to look on the Muslim separatist leaders as the representatives of the whole Muslim community. And these leaders did everything to prevent the Indian Muslims from joining the national mainstream, so much so, they insisted calling Indian Muslims as Muslim Indians, giving preponderance to religion over nationality.
As mentioned earlier, it is a myth to claim that the Muslim communal leaders represent the Indian Muslims as a whole. But this myth has been taken as the gospel truth by politicians in general. As a result, the very party that had been instrumental to the Partition of the country, the Muslim League, was made a partner for sharing power by the so-called secular parties.
Ironically, the communists, who claim to be against God and religion, were the first to woo the Muslim League to be a partner in the E.M.S. Namboodiripad Government as far back as 1967. This enabled the Muslim League to arm-twist the government to form the Muslim-majority district of Malappuram, a mini-Pakistan in the State. (The people of Pakistan lost their political clout when they surrendered their democratic rights to communalism and are now perpetually under military jackboot or mullah-dominant political outfits. Fortunately for the Muslims of the little Pakistan of Malappuram in Kerala, they are a part of India and could ditch the Muslim League when they were disillusioned of the party that claimed to be the sole spokesman of all Muslims. In the last Assembly elections, Malappuram Muslims defeated all the Muslim League candidates.)
Now reverting to the subject of Uniform Civil Code, it is the only issue against which the Muslim leaders of all hues are united. They say that the Muslim personal law is the symbol of their identity. And the so-called secular parties accept the contention unquestioningly.
How many Muslim men take advantage of their personnel law to marry more than one woman and to summarily divorce their wives? One in a thousand. The educated middle class finds polygamy and instant divorce reprehensible to civilised human behaviour and economically unrewarding. The poor too can'tindulge in such permissive ?luxuries?.
Then who wants the Muslim personnel privileges? The mullahs and the men of Muslim orthodoxy. They want to assert their male superiority and indulge in perverse sexual pleasures. They want to have young women howsoever old they themselves may be by dumping their previous wives. Also there are the Kazis (priests) who solemnise marriages of the old oil-rich Arabs for a night with poor young virgins and bear witness to the bridegroom pronouncing Talaq in the morning. The pimps legitimise their trade in the name of their religious personnel law.
There is not a single reason for the common Muslims to retain such an unjust personnel law and oppose a Uniform Civil Code. But the question asked by the mullahs and Muslim communal leader is, why should they ditch their own personnel law to adopt the Hindu code?
This question is mischievous to mislead the Muslim masses. First, the Uniform Civil Code is not going to be a Hindu code, but a new code encompassing all good features of all personnel laws to have a civil code fit for the modern Indian society irrespective of their respective religions. Second, it will not be against the tenets or scriptures of any religion.
The impression that a Uniform Civil Code is against the wishes of the Prophet or the Koran is false, meant to mislead the Muslim masses. There was opposition from Hindu orthodoxy when the Hindu code was being enacted on the plea that it was against the tradition of Hindus. And there are people who say even now why Hindus should have laws restricting their personal life when Muslims (males) are allowed the luxury of their medieval indulgences.
The Muslim masses, especially women, cannot enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy guaranteed by the Indian Constitution as long as the constitutional directive principle of the Uniform Civil Code is not enacted into a law. This can'thappen as long as the political parties accept the Mullahs and Muslim communal leaders as the exclusive spokesmen of the Muslims in general. It is time the young modern-minded Muslim leadership asserted its right to represent their community and showed that the place of the mullah is the masjid and not the political arena.
(The writer, a veteran journalist, can be contacted at 42-B, Pocket 1, Mayur Vihar Ph.1. Delhi 110091, Email: [email protected])