Uttarakhand set to introduce Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as Muslim activists served notices, section 144 imposed
Scheduled Tribes (STs) out of UCC ambit
Dehradun, Feb 4
Uttarakhand state which has become the latest laboratory of ‘Hindutva’ politics of Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) and its’ political arm Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the state of Gujarat, is all set to bring in Uniform Civil Code (UCC) supposedly for bringing uniformity in civil laws for all communities. However, the ‘pilot project’ of bringing in UCC in a state had been on the agenda of the RSS and BJP, present ruling dispensation since long has a strong Muslim bias. The Muslim personal laws by which Muslim community is governed in civilian matters of divorce, inheritance and marriage in India is being targeted in a systematic manner in the name of uniformity.
The UCC is being brought in Uttarakhand, a Hindu upper caste majority state which off late had become a favourite playground of ‘Islamophobia’ since the last state assembly elections of 2022, which paid handsome political dividends to the ‘Sangh Parivar’ in the shape of a resounding victory much against their own expectations.
The draft of the UCC prepared by a five member committee headed by Justice Ranjana Desai, a former judge of Supreme Court submitted its final report to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on February 2, 2024 and would be placed before a special session of the the state assembly for passage as a law on February 6, 2024.
Although the draft of the UCC is not in public domain but the Chief Minister had stated that it was not discriminatory against any community. Interestingly, it is believed that scheduled tribes of the state have been kept out of the purview of the proposed law, puncturing the logic of uniformity in law for everyone.
Moreover, the Muslims who form nearly 12 per cent of the total population of the state and had been at the receiving end of the vilification campaigns of the ruling dispensation again find themselves in a storm over the issue. While, the majority of the Muslims in the state are opposed to the proposed laws which infringe upon their personal laws are not allowed to even protest. A group of Muslims who had decided to oppose the proposed UCC in a peaceful manner has been served notices of 107/51of IPC for breach of peace and asked to seek bails from their respective police stations. “I have received such a notice and asked to seek bail,” said Razia Baig, advocate, a former Chairperson of Uttarakhand Bar Council and a former member of State Minority panel.
Uttarakhand Police has imposed section 144 of the IPC in and around state assembly premises in a bid to prevent any protests against the UCC during it’s passage. The UCC proposed to give equal rights for women inheritance in ancestral properties, adoption and divorce. It reportedly recommended making ‘Halala’, ‘Iddat’ and ‘Triple Talaq’ as punishable offences, common marriageable age, 18 for women and 21 for men, banning polygamy but kept the scheduled tribe population out of its’ ambit.
The ruling BJP has been facing opposition from its’ own ranks in taking the tribals under the UCC. With crucial Lok Sabha polls around the corner, the proposed bill has kept them out as any opposition from tribals would have affected the poll prospects of BJP. In Uttarakhand also, there are five tribal groups including Bhotiyas who are influential in border belts of Chamoli and Pithoragarh.
But Muslims are easy game and their vilification and targeting helps the party and even any opposition from Muslims would help polarise and consolidate Hindu votes.
In Uttarakhand, in the past more than three years before and after the state assembly polls of 2022,the state BJP government and its’ ‘Sangh Parivar’ affiliates have attempted to malign and vilify the minority Muslim community on trivial pretexts.
From ‘Mazar Jehad’ started by the state government against graves of Muslim saints all over the state, ‘Love Jehad’ and demographic changes and even invasion by Rohingya Muslims are invoked to target the minority community. Every other day, some ruckus is created on these lines.
Last year in November, Bageshwar Baba, a controversial Hindu saint during his visit being felicitated by Chief Minister Dhami and ruling BJP leader announced that there is no place for ‘Chaddar’(meaning mazars or graves of Muslim saints) and ‘Father” (Christian religious leaders) in the ‘Devbhoomi’ of Uttarakhand. He shared stage with some of most controversial personalities who had been in the forefront of minority bashing in the state. The controversial baba was hosted by the Chief Minister at his residence later.
Earlier, in May 2023, in Purola town of Uttarkashi district 42 Muslim shopkeepers were forced to flee after three days to demonstrations by locals headed by BJP and Hindu leaders on the charges of allegedly indulging in “Love Jehad” after two boys one a Hindu and another a Muslim were caught with a local girl. The Muslims who were forced to flee returned to their places after few months amidst fear and apprehensions.
The ruling BJP had already successfully tested the “Gujarat” formula of creating scare of Muslims amongst the upper caste dominated Hindu majority state of Uttarakhand by reversing the poll trends and winning the 2022 state assembly elections in March 2022.
In the past six months, the state government and forest department had demolished more than 325 ‘mazars’ some more than a century old in the forest and public land in the state. Some Hindu temples were also removed but many of the famous Hindu shrines located in the forest remain intact. This was cited as a major achievement of the state BJP government.
The introduction of UCC is going to be another set of honour for Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who is the latest heart throb of the Hindutva forces in the country and a hot favourite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.