Justice Ranjana Desai (retd) who headed J&K Delimitation Commission to head Uttarakhand panel on Uniform Civil Code (UCC)
Dehradun , May 28
Few days before the crucial Champawat bypoll in which Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is ruling BJP candidate, Uttarakhand state government has constituted a five member committee to suggest the modalities of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state.
Justice Ranjana Parkash Desai (retd) , a former judge of the Supreme Court has been made the chairperson of the committee. She was also the chairperson of the J&K Delimitation commission which gave a highly controversial report changing the profile of the state assembly and parliamentary seats in the restive state. All the major political parties of the state except BJP and RSS including those from Hindu majority Jammu region have been highly critical of the delimitation award. They had rejected the delimitation and charged that the member of the delimitation commission acted on the “recommendations” of the BJP and RSS and did not listen to them. They also staged a day long dharna in Jammu against the Delimitation report few days ago.
Justice Ranjana Desai (retd) is the chairperson of the committee on Uniform Civil Code (UCC) while other members include Justice Parmod Kohli (retd) , a former judge of the High court, Shatrughan Singh , a former Chief Secretary of the state who was rehabilitated as Chief Information Commissioner after his retirement. Manu Gaur, a social activist and Surekha Dangwal, Vice-chancellor of Doon University.
Interestingly, the ruling BJP has regained power in the state riding on a highly polarised communal campaign during the state assembly elections held in February 2022. The party has managed to overcome the huge anti-incumbency on the plank of a campaign which bordered on ‘Islamophobia’, labelling the main opposition Congress as a party of minority Muslims. Muslims form nearly 15 per cent of the total population of the hill state.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, a few days before the February 14, 2022 state assembly polls had announced to introduce Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state which proved final nail in the aspiration of Congress which was hoping to defeat BJP as was the trend since the inception of the state in 2000. The BJP and Congress has in turn ruled the state since its’ inception but this time BJP with a shrill communal campaign was able to buck the trend and influence the majority community voters in its’ favour. Uttarakhand has a majority population of upper caste Hindus-namely Thakurs and Brhamins.
After winning the state assembly elections and becoming the Chief Minister again even after losing his own assembly segment of Khatima, Pushkar Singh Dhami in the first cabinet meeting of the newly elected government passed a resolution for constituting a committee on Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The implementation of the Uniform civil code (UCC) has been on the agenda of the BJP and ‘Sangh Parivar’ since long. Dhami has quoted Article 44 of the Constitution to defend his decision to implement Uniform civil code (UCC) in the state which advises the state to work for a uniform law for all its’ citizens.
After the order to form a committee on the UCC, Pushkar singh Dhami wrote on his facebook page,” to provide uniformity (in law) to all religious communities and to preserve culture of ‘Devbhoomi’, the land of Gods, an expert committee has been constituted for the implementation of Uniform Civil code under the chairmanship of (retd) Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Desai as has been promised in our Sankalp patra(manifesto) at the time of (assembly) election.” The notification said that the committee will give a detailed report on all applicable laws relating to marriage, divorce, property rights, succession, adoption, maintenance.
During the campaigning for the state assembly polls, the BJP and RSS successfully put across its’ narrative that the Hindu culture and its’ shrines in Uttarakhand hills are under threat of ‘Muslims’. While, an innocuous demand by a small time Muslim leader of Congress for a university was blown out of proportion and Harish Rawat, the Congress Chief ministerial candidate was shown as another Sir Syed Ahmed khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University(AMU) by morphing his photos and showing him in white flowing beard resembling AMU founder. The Union Home Minister Amit shah in his campaign cautioned the people that Congress has been trying to bring in Rohingya Muslim in Uttarakhand. There was a virulent social media campaign to ‘stop’ muslims from buying land and establishing mosques in the hills. In this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his electoral rallies cautioned people against the alleged design of Congress party to damage their culture and religion and to ‘save’ Uttarakhand which has been the cradle of religion.
There has been lot of controversy about the implementation of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in a state. Since all these issues mentioned in the notification are in the concurrent list of the Constitution both the state as well as the central government can legislate. However, a law passed by the parliament which will overrule any such law passed by the state assemblies.
It is believed that the step by the BJP government is the first one by the RSS to get its’ agenda of having a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country. It will be a testing ground for the ruling dispensation to implement UCC in a state having less than 15 per cent Muslim population and a majority upper caste Hindu population. Later, the experiment could be implemented at the national level in the coming years. There is a possibility that implementation of a Uniform Civil code (UCC) throughout the country could be a major poll plank in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.