Not Muslims only, all Religious  and Tribal groups oppose UCC

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Not Muslims only, all Religious and Tribal groups oppose UCC

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New Delhi: The uniform civil code issue is not only opposed by the Muslim community but also by a host of other religious communities and tribal groups. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP could not have anticipated the furious opposition from his present and former allies when he brought up the uniform civil code issue at his party’s gathering in Bhopal.

The AIADMK, the Akali Dal, and other allies of the ruling BJP have all expressed opposition to the proposed UCC, so it appears that the move has backfired. Even Sikh organizations warned of severe repercussions if the government tried to impose UCC.

Ruling parties in the northeast including the NDPP in Nagaland, the NPP in Meghalaya, and the MNF in Mizoram have opposed the common code on the grounds that it will affect the local tribes’ customs and laws, Resolutions against the potential UCC move have been passed by several assemblies in the northeast. Additionally, they warned to break off all connections with the BJP if this step is taken.

While Tamil Nadu’s main opposition, the AIADMK, maintained its opposition to the UCC.

“Our stand on UCC is explained clearly in our election manifesto for 2019. Read it carefully, and you will understand it clearly,” AIADMK general secretary and Leader of the Opposition (LoP), Edappadi K. Palaniswami, or EPS, responded to the media when questioned about his party’s stand on the UCC. He noted that the AIADMK’s general election manifesto for 2019 mentioned the UCC issue a couple of times.

In its chapter 14 titled “Secularism”, the manifesto stated, “AIADMK will urge the Government of India not to bring any amendments to the Constitution for a Uniform Civil Code that will adversely affect the religious rights of minorities in India.”

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and ruling DMK chief MK Stalin said if the BJP government really wants to bring uniformity in personal laws it should first bring in the Hindu Marriage Act.

In the tribal state of Chhattisgarh, tribal organizations are also hostile to the UCC. A well-known tribal leader from the state and former Union minister Arvind Netam have cautioned the Modi administration against passing a UCC in a hurry, claiming that it would be impossible to implement in tribal communities without proper input.

80-year-old Netam, the head of the Chhattisgarh Sarva Adivasi Samaj, claims to speak for the state’s more than 70 lakh residents and 42 different tribal groups.

In a news conference in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh, Netam stated: “A UCC will have an impact on all groups. India has a reputation for being diverse. The Indian government shouldn’t launch a UCC in tribal communities right away.

The party has sent a memorandum on the issue to President Droupadi Murmu seeking her intervention in the matter.

“Tribals do not have a codified law. We have customary laws that are well-accepted within our community. It’s not that we do not want change… With time, customary laws change too. But we first want the Indian government to understand the tribal system and build confidence among them. Without consultation and dialogue, a UCC is impractical,” Netam, who was a minister during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government, said.

Article 13(3) (a) of the Constitution recognizes the customary rules of tribal communities. According to the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution, the tribal people also have unique rights to land and property, he added.

“For example, marriage, divorce, land rights, religious customs, and several other community rules followed by the tribals will be unlawful if a UCC is implemented… I would say we tribals have the most advanced law when it comes to marriage. A tribal woman has a lot of liberty… She can walk out the day after getting married, she can get a divorce and marry multiple times,” Netam said.

Another tribal leader from Chhattisgarh, Amit Jogi, son of the state’s first Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and heads the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh-Jogi (JCC-J), also supported Netam on this matter. “Babasaheb (Ambedkar) could have put UCC in fundamental rights (of the Constitution), but he decided consciously to put it in the Directive Principles of State Policy because he believed that unless and until there is unanimity among all people, there cannot be a UCC ,” Amit Jogi said.

In Jharkhand, another tribal dominated, ruling JMM and other parties also registered their strong [protest to the move. It is to mention that tribal groups are demanding to be identified as separate religious groups in the forthcoming census. They claimed they are adherent of Sarna dharma which has nothing to do Vedic religion.

On July 4, here in the national capital, a gathering of Sikh organizations took place to talk about the UCC issue. They cautioned the leadership of Modi that attempting to impose UCC would have catastrophic repercussions for the integrity and unity of the country and that the Sikh community would oppose it tenaciously. The meeting was addressed by former presidents of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), including Paramjit Singh Sarna, Manjit Singh GK, and Harvinder Singh Sarna.

Sarna and GK talked to the media following the meeting to express their opposition to the UCC and how they thought it was an effort to splinter the country.

Speaking with Islamic Voice, Paramjit Singh Sarna said “We passed resolutions demanding the government withdraw the UCC proposal and the recently passed Punjab Government’s revision to the Sikh Gurdwara Act”.

Sarna asserted that it is useless to contact religious organizations regarding the Law Commission’s proposed UCC before a draft has been submitted. Since we cannot express an opinion if we do not understand what is right or wrong about us.

Sikhism, according to Sarna, is a distinct religion that has nothing to do with Vedic religion, and the promises made to the Sikh community upon the country’s independence have not yet been fulfilled.

Sarna criticized the AAP’s choice to endorse the UCC in response to this correspondent’s query and referred to the AAP as the “B-team of the BJP”.

Earlier in a statement, SAD national spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “SAD is of the firm view that implementation of UCC is not in the interests of the minorities in the country. The 21st Law Commission has already opined in its consultation report that UCC is neither desirable nor feasible. Implementation of UCC will affect the civil rights of minorities, and unrest and tension will start in the country.”

When questioned if Sikhs assert that they are an autonomous religion but are subject to the Hindu Marriage Act, Sarna said the Anand Marriage Act was partially acknowledged under the UPA government, and we are striving to have it fully accepted.

Hinduism, which lacks uniformity in every way, should adopt UCC if the government is so eager to do so, Sarna said.

After a meeting of Delhi-based Sikh activists on the UCC at Gurdwara Mukherjee Park, the Sikh Collective announced the creation of the Sikh Personal Law Board.

“We are a unique and distinct religion but are already facing unification under the name of uniformity of civil laws,” said Jagmohan Singh, activist and columnist on Sikh affairs.

A legal expert underlined that the UCC cannot be implemented until and unless Article 371 is scrapped from the statute book which grants security to tribal groups on matters of their customs and personal laws in 11 states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.