Jamadi Thani 1424 H
Volume 16-08 No : 200
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India’s refusal to commit troops to Iraq should go down as a landmark decision in the annals of the country’s foreign policy. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition Government deserves to be lauded for the clarity of perspective and sincerity of approach to the issue at a crucial juncture. The fact that the NDA refused to be sweet-talked into sending the Indian troops for sub-serving Uncle Sam’s interests in the key Middle Eastern nation is something that would go a long way in imparting stable contours to India’s foreign policy. At a time when carrots of some civil contracts were being dangled before the nation, the self-denying decision is index enough that the principles over-rode the interests and the government rejected the bait. The decision is simply statesmanesque.
India’s courageous ‘No’ to overtures from the US has more facets to it. India could have genuinely apprehended that two Muslim neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh, would have shamelessly sought and indeed are seeking proximity with Uncle Sam by committing their troops and thus scoring a point over it. By rising above politics at such a crucial juncture, India has indeed enhanced its stature among the comity of nations whereas several Islamic nations have chosen to vie with each other in cozying up with the super-power or simply aquiesced against the pressure.
It is indeed gratifying to note that India has retained its independence in deciding its course on international issues and has refused to be carried away by visions of a grand alliance with US and Israel. Such combines might look attractive at a time when the Zionist media is churning up chimera of ‘Islamic terrorism’, but its gains would be illusory for an India geographically encircled by several Islamic states. Even from the standpoint of long-term interests, India has not done badly. Dependence on Gulf oil, trade, cultural ties and nearly 3.5 million Indian jobs in the Middle East are not worth sacrificing for defence ties with tiny Israel which owes its existence to brute force of the super-power that the United States has turned into.
But all said and done, a principled stand sans politics is something that deserves encomiums for the time being.
The Supreme Court suggestion to enact a Common Civil Code should not lead to a knee-jerk reaction from the Muslim community. While the Hindutva brigade is trying all possible means to tease all those who are keen to safeguard their personal laws, the fact that the Supreme Court could only suggest and not order the Government to frame such a code should not be missed. In a democracy, supremacy of Parliament remains unchallenged. Even expert judicial opinion would suggest that the Directive Principles of the State Policy wherein the Article 44 directs the Government to endeavour to adopt a uniform civil code for the people of India is a mere pious wish of the framers of the Constitution, not a binding law. It remains there along with directives such as adopting a policy of prohibition and banning the slaughter of cow. Even the Supreme Court has earlier agreed that certain of its directives are in the nature of mere obiter (mere suggestion) and not orders to the government.
The BJP is unmistakably guided by expedient communal politics when it says that it wants a debate on the common civil code. The same party in its poll manifesto for tribal-dominated Meghalaya has promised to safeguard and codify the tribal family laws and customs. It will not be surprising if poll manifesto in other North-eastern states too maintain such double standards.
But all this should not delay the reforms within the Muslim Personal Law. Nothing has been heard about its codification ever since the Imarat e Sharia took up the work after din subsided over the Shah Bano judgement and enactment of Protection of Rights (upon divorce) of Muslim Women. It may be reiterated by us, as we have done several times earlier, that status of Muslim women vis-ŕ-vis men has been undermined by steep decline of socio-economic status of the community. Relentless urbanisation, influx of rural Muslims into urban slums, huddled living, disintegration of moral authority of elders, absence of leadership, massive onslaught of media have all contributed to loosening of family bonds, erosion of moral taboos and virtual disappearance of social coherence and respect for the Sharia in the family matters. Unless the community takes into account these new factors, the mere rhetoric of divine sanction for the Muslim Personal Law would not safeguard the Muslim identity which our leadership appears so keen to protect