In photo: An Indian Muslim bride accepts the terms of her marriage in a mass wedding in New Delhi on June 15, 2014. Photograph: (AFP)
Law Commission of India has been seeking a public vote on the implementation of uniform civil code with an aim to 'address social injustice'
Different Muslim organisations under the banner of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) launched a scathing attack on Narendra Modi government today accusing it of trying to divert the attention from the burning issues facing the country.
The Muslim law board was reacting to the latest questionnaire drafted by the Law Commission of India where it sought a public vote on the implementation of uniform civil code with an "aim to address social injustices".
The questionnaire also made a reference to triple talaq, which according to Islamic law based on the Quran permits a husband to pronounce talaq three times to instantly divorce his wife.
The commission had stated that the objective of seeking a public opinion is to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise cultural practice by ensuring that "norms of no one class, group or community dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms".
'Uniform civil code will violate fundamental rights'
The Muslim law board, however, announced a boycott of the questionnaire.
"The questionnaire has been drafted by the commission on the behest of those sitting in the government," the board said in a statement, adding that the commission was not acting like an independent body.
Commenting on the nature of the questionnaire, Kamal Farooqui, a prominent member of the law board said: "The fact is that the questionnaire points to the ulterior intentions of the commission and is an attempt to nullify the Muslim Personal law. The question is framed so as to confuse the respondents. By referring to Article 44 of the (Indian) Constitution, an attempt has been made to give a constitutional position to uniform civil code. This is false and deceit as the clause is a Directive Principle not bound to be implemented. "
"So far as the Constitution is concerned, basic importance is given to the fundamental rights. According to Indian Constitution, each and every individual has the right to follow, practice and propagate the religion of his/her choice," he added.
While India's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to implement the uniform civil code, observers feel it will instil a sense of deprivation among different communities living in India.
"The uniform civil code will create a sense of deprivation among the minorities. This will be detrimental to the nation. People of the country following different faiths, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivaisis, fought together during India's freedom struggle against Britishers. In spite of variation in personal laws, all these groups fought single-mindedly and shoulder to shoulder," said Wali Rahmani, the acting general secretary of AIMPLB.
The law board and allied Muslim groups are also of the view that the intention of the affidavit by the Modi-led government in India's top court last week is aimed at clearing the way for the uniform civil code. The affidavit referred to the issues of triple talaq, polygamy and maintenance of divorcees.
Navaid Hamid, president of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mashawrat, one of the Muslim bodies voicing their concern against uniform law code, dubbed this questionnaire a 'bogus' aimed at creating a civil strife in the country.
"India is a nation of different religions, cultures and dialects. We have different tribal groups who are brought to the mainstream and have been assured that no interference will be made in their cultural identity. Any step for forcible uniform civil practice will a threat to the security of the nation itself. " he told WION.
The members of the law board or any other Muslim organisation refused to comment on the question of triple talaq .
Asma Zehra, an executive member of the law board, told WION that they stand by the affidavit submitted by the body in court on the issue of triple talaq and that they will not compromise on Sharia laws.
"We are working towards reform within the community and also taking steps to ensure that the number of triple talaq cases be minimised, but we will not seek abolition of any law derived from the religious text," Zehra said.
She also accused the Modi government of politicising the issue of triple talaq and uniform civil code ahead of the state elections in northern Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Muslim women's body welcomes public vote
However, one of the Muslim bodies, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, called this questionnaire a welcome step towards ensuring gender justice.
Zakia Soman, who heads the women's body, told WION : "We consider this a welcome step by the Law Commission of India, which is abiding by its responsibilities. The Constitution has given it the mandate to make recommendations and they are not just talking about Muslim women, but also issues like Hindu women's right to property, the waiting period in a Christian marriage among many others. "
Responding to the question of politicisation of issues like triple talaq and accusations made by Muslim Personal Law Board that the law commission was acting at the behest of the government, she said: "I think there is a need to stop articulating conspiracy theories and work towards ensuring gender justice."