Uniform Civil Code row: Social, religious groups voice concerns about 'homogenisation' of India's plural society

'If Uniform Civil Code is introduced, the first sufferers will be the Adivasis (tribals)?as the community will no longer be able to enjoy the customary laws,' says Prem Kumar Gedam, national coordinator of the Rashtriya Adivasi Ekta Parishad. Photograph:( AFP )

New Delhi, India Oct 22, 2016, 08.50 AM (IST) Asad Ashraf

The debate over triple talaq, which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives by uttering the word 'talaq' or divorce three times, and the Uniform Civil Code continues to dominate Indian political discourse two weeks after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Indian government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing the practice. 

While the law commission of India later sought a public vote on triple talaq and the Uniform Civil Code -- which if implemented would replace the personal laws of religious and social communities based on their scriptures and customs with one common law -- the questionnaire prepared by the commission to seek the vote prompted the All India Muslim Personal Law Board  (AIMPLB) to accuse the ruling government of singling out the Muslim community in an attempt to polarise society. 

The Indian government has maintained that its affidavit in the Supreme Court was filed to ensure justice for Muslim women. The BJP-led government also said the proposal to implement the uniform civil code is aimed at "moving towards a progressive society". 

But it's not just the Muslim community that opposes implementation of the code. Several leaders from other religious and social groups have also voiced their concerns about the uniform civil code, saying the proposal should not be implemented. 

“Enforcement of Uniform Civil Code will not impact only one religion. India is a country where people from different religion and social groups live. If Uniform Civil Code is introduced, the first sufferers will be the Adivasis (tribals) as the community will no longer be able to enjoy the customary laws," says Prem Kumar Gedam, national coordinator of the Rashtriya Adivasi Ekta Parishad, a group that works towards preserving the identity, art, culture, history, esteem, and identity of the tribals. The group has also moved the Supreme Court seeking protection of their customs and traditions and the right to practice polygamy and polyandry.

"When we accepted Buddhism, we left behind old traditions to adopt new traditions. The Uniform Civil Code is a serious threat to us. We strongly object to the idea of homogenisation of this plural society, based on the dominant Hindu culture and tradition," Professor Babu Haste of Buddhist international circuit, a collective of Buddhist organistaions in India, told WION. 

According to Anil Kumar Mane, a member of the National Tribe Communities, implementation of the uniform civil code is a "step towards abolishing the reservations enjoyed by the scheduled tribes". He also asserts that their practices are very different from those of the Hindus.

“Our community follows polyandry as well as polygamy. Our inheritance law is different from the Hindu community. We have our own courts to settle our disputes. We do not even burn the body of our dead but we bury them.  Any effort to take away these rights from us in the name of uniform civil code will not go down well with the community and will trigger resistance," he says. 

Kumar Kale, a member of the other backward communities (OBCs), talks about the "politics behind singling out triple talaq from the entire issue of Uniform Civil Code at this point of time".

“It has been solely done with an electoral agenda ahead of the state elections scheduled in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, among other states," he says.  

(WION)