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India Can Never Be One Nation Without a Uniform Civil Code and Abrogation of Article 370 for Kashmir
India is a nation divided by religion. The sad part is that this division is perpetuated by the Indian leadership( Read Congress Party) who have ruled India for 55 of its almost 66 years of independence which came on a platter in 1947.
In 1946 with independence around the corner the task of drafting a constitution was given to a constituent assembly led by Dr. Ambedkar. The committee chose the West Minister model of a Parliamentary democracy for India. In addition, the constitution also framed as its preamble the aim of the Indian state with ‘Directive Principles’ to govern the republic. The Directive Principles is the cornerstone of the Indian constitution and lays down the path the Indian state is to follow.
Uniform Civil Code.
One of the directive principles framed under the aegis of Dr. Ambedkar is that the state shall enact a uniform civil code for all citizens of India irrespective of caste, religion or creed. This was a very farsighted provision and laid the path for the unity of the Indian state. Thus the requirement incorporated in the directive principle is that all citizens of India be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian are to have a uniform civil code including marriage.
Nehru and the Uniform Civil Code
The first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was almost half Muslim. His daughter Indira Gandhi had married the son of a Muslim and there are rumors that he himself had strong Muslim connections. He was thus averse to Muslims being brought under the purview of a Uniform Civil code. Many enlightened Muslim leaders tried to convince Nehru that the Muslim marriage laws were archaic, but Nehru did not budge from his stand.
The Hindu Marriage Act 1955
In 1955 the Hindu marriage act was passed and Hindu law was superseded.The act was made applicable to Sikhs, Jains, Parsi and all others except Muslims. Thus the norm of one wife was passed for all communities except Muslims, who were allowed to carry on with their marriage laws of 4 wives and triple talaq, which is stopped in many Muslim countries like Turkey and Egypt also. But in India Nehru did not make this act applicable to Muslims and thus sowed the seeds of a division of Indian society.
Muslim Marriage Laws and Division of Indian Society
Nehru with his misconceived notion of Secularism allowed Muslims to have their own laws of marriage which were based on the Sharia. This allowed the Muslims to have 4 wives and also divorce by triple Talaq (repeat the word Talaq 3 times, even on phone). This was a travesty of the Directive Principles enshrined in the constitution.
This creation of a special class militated against the unity of India. Muslims now began to think more of Pakistan as their home than India, though Pakistan was not ready to accept them. Muslims also went out of the mainstream of India and became introvert and economically backward.
Article 370 of the Constitution
Nehru had a warped way of looking at the polity of India. He was a Kashmiri and had strong Muslim connections. He introduced Article 370 in the Indian constitution and got it passed, despite the opposition of Sardar Patel the Home Minister. Article 370 gave a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and ensured that the state would never be integrated fully with India.
Nehru wished to keep the demographic profile of Kashmir as a Muslim majority state and as such refugees coming from Pakistan were not allowed to settle in Kashmir. This was a blunder of the first magnitude and later led to an insurrection against the Indian state.
Article 370 also had many obnoxious features like no Central laws were automatically applicable to Kashmir unless approved by the state legislature.
Creation of the Kashmir problem
Article 370 not only thwarted the state's accession to India but also created the Kashmir problem. Pakistan pointed to it as the Indian acceptance that Kashmir was not an integral part of India. Nehru further committed a folly of agreeing to a plebiscite in Kashmir. With a Muslim majority, Kashmir was bound to vote for accession to Pakistan. Later he tried to backtrack but the damage had been done.
India as One nation
Over the past six decades, these two issues have continued to bedevil the Indian nation. The point to be noted is that the uniform civil code is applicable only in the areas ruled by the British and in Portuguese ruled areas like Goa, a uniform civil code is enforced and Muslims have accepted it. Thus had Nehru enforced the uniform civil code in the rest of India there would not have been much opposition. It was just extending the Goa pattern to the rest of India
The BJP in its manifesto has talked of both these contentious issues and one hopes that in case the BJP comes to power and has a 2/3rd majority the issues of article 370 and uniform civil code may be solved and India becomes one nation. Otherwise, this state of affairs will continue and the Congress party will carry on its vote bank politics.