Legalization of Hinduvta: The Indian Uniform Civil Code Debate

by Abdul Wajid Khan

The term “right-wing Hindu extremism” is often associated with Prime Minister Modi. The Hindu nationalist movement has rapidly gained popularity and prominence in India’s political scene under his leadership. In his address before the Lok Sabha on June 23, 2023, he introduced the topic of a standardized civil code for the first time. During his speech, he focused on parties opposing government policies and questioned the feasibility of two different legal systems coexisting within a single family, highlighting the challenges on a national scale. Notably, Modi’s stance seems to challenge the existing Muslim personal law. It’s important to emphasize that across India’s diverse religious spectrum, people and groups advocate for adherence to and respect for India’s secular constitution rather than a binary system tied solely to their beliefs, whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or any other.

Upon India’s independence on August 15, 1947, a new constitution was drafted, acknowledging the significance of Muslim personal law in accordance with the Constitution of India. This constitutional framework recognized the historical heritage of Muslim traditions and religious practices, demonstrating a profound respect for the religious orientations of the Muslim population. This recognition was achieved by honoring the historical legacy of Muslim customs and religious practices. During deliberations in the legislative assembly at that time, parliamentarians issued a clear proclamation, stating that there would be no interference or intrusion into matters concerning Muslim personal law.


Presently, debates are ongoing nationwide regarding the possibility of replacing Muslim Personal Law with a single, standardized civil code. A uniform civil code entails laws tailored to a region’s inhabitants, considering sociopolitical sensitivities. These laws, known as “civil codes,” encompass various aspects of private and family life, including marriage, divorce, inheritance, and wills. It’s crucial to note that these laws transcend religious affiliations and are adopted without regard for individuals’ religious practices.


In the Indian context, such a civil code implies that Muslims would need to adhere to norms conflicting with their religious practices. As a result, disputes related to marriage and divorce would be adjudicated under a civil system influenced by Hindu traditions, potentially disregarding an individual’s religious identity’s impact on the outcome.


This approach contradicts Muslim personal law’s principles and attempts to impose a universally applicable civil code, fundamentally opposed to the concept of Muslim personal law. This modification plan faces opposition from both prominent Muslim and Hindu leaders, suggesting that Prime Minister Modi might be using these contentious issues to divert attention from more pressing concerns affecting India’s populace.


An announcement has been made to implement the universal civil code in Uttar Pradesh, similar to the situation in the neighboring state of Uttarakhand. The central government has formed a high-level committee tasked with establishing a foundational framework for eventual adoption of the unified civil code.


A delegation from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board raised concerns about potential revisions to Telangana’s constitution during discussions with the Chief Minister. The Telangana administration issued a joint statement clearly opposing any changes brought before the Lok Sabha. It’s important to emphasize that this perspective isn’t limited to a single chief minister but is shared by others who perceive Prime Minister Modi’s actions as fostering division.


Reacting to Modi’s remarks on the Uniform Civil Code, the Congress party accused him of attempting to sow discord. Chidambaram, a prominent Congress leader and former federal minister, strongly contested the analogy drawn between the country and a household controlled by the Uniform Civil Code.


The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), currently in power in Delhi and Punjab, asserts the importance of extensive discussions with relevant institutions and religious groups before implementing the Uniform Civil Code. They emphasize the need for consultations prior to implementation.

Other Congress party members oppose coercive adoption of the Uniform Civil Code, advocating for a careful approach. They express concerns that the timing of UCC discussions might divert attention from urgent state issues.

The DMK party in Tamil Nadu voices concerns about the impending Uniform Civil Code adoption. TKS Elangovan, the party’s leader, suggests implementing the UCC first within the Hindu community before extending it to the general public due to complexities within Hinduism.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin criticizes Prime Minister Modi for potentially increasing religious tensions. The Sikh organization Shiromani Akali Dal also expresses worries about the UCC’s impact on tribal communities and minorities.

Farooq Abdullah, President of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, raises concerns about the implications of implementing the UCC when India already has a civil code. He calls for reconsideration of the UCC’s implications and potential consequences.

In summary, individuals from various religious backgrounds voice concerns about the potential risks posed by Modi administration policies. During the last election campaign, the administration promised to fulfill four significant obligations. While three pledges, such as repealing Article 370, building the Ram Mandir, and passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, catered to Hindu voters, the fourth promise regarding the Uniform Civil Code is seen by some as a further attempt to appeal to Hindu voters, potentially deepening divisions in Indian society. This viewpoint is shared by others who fear the commitment could lead to greater polarization.

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