Welcome Social Reforms


So what if Modi is accruing political advantage, his shrewd calculations seem to be benefitting the society

The Supreme Court verdict holding triple talaq unconstitutional is a big political victory for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party which took a calculated risk by opposing the practice. Muslims could have launched a country-wide stir terming it an anti-Muslim party – a party which had launched a movement for construction of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple and which resulted in demolition of Babri mosque in Ayodhya; a party which they blame of igniting post-Godhra riots in Gujarat; a party which has enacting Uniform Civil Code (UCC) on its agenda.

The gamble however, paid off in the end. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a major role to play in this. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a campaign out of triple talaq and its deleterious effect on Muslim women during Uttar Pradesh assembly elections earlier this year. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath too claimed that the UCC was the best method of ending the practice of gender discrimination.

By referring the practice as inhuman and against gender equality, he pleased Muslim women no end. The move succeeded in winning over them. Muslim women even voted for the BJP during Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections held five months ago. But, Modi didn’t stop at that only. He kept stoking the issue regularly, referring it in his Independence Day speech this year.

Those aware of Modi’s political strategies know that he is likely to take the issue forward. Next in line could be reforms in Muslim Personal Law regarding marriage and inheritance. Muslim women abhor practices like Halala and polygamy as much as they hated triple talaq.

Halala prescribes a woman to marry someone other than her divorced husband first before re-marrying her first husband. Popular film actress of black and white era, Meena Kumari, was a victim of this practice. Having been divorced by her husband, Kamal Amrohi, she had to marry Zeenat Aman’s father Amanullah Khan before remarrying Amrohi. She could not accept the fact that she had to sleep with someone else due to the tradition of Halala, slipped in to depression and died due to excessive drinking.

Modi is aware of these fault lines. But, he has been treading cautiously. He is waiting for the court’s verdict before taking a step himself. In another first, Article 35A of the constitution has been challenged in court. This is the article which is backbone of Article 370 that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP has been demanding abrogation of Article 370 for past 65 years. But, it had to put the demand on the backburner due to electoral compulsions between 1998 and 2004. But, with a strong Prime Minister like Modi at the helm of affairs and having a huge majority in the Parliament, the BJP has started taking calculated political risks. The party leaders have already started talking of bringing in Uniform Civil Code in place of personal laws of various religions.

Article 35A protects J&K residents’ rights of settlement, marriage, jobs, scholarship and acquisition of property. That means, anyone from outside J&K won’t b able to acquire any property, won’t be entitled to scholarship and jobs. It also creates discrepancies in marriage and inheritance laws. If a Kashmiri man married a non-Kashmiri woman, the woman won’t have rights on his property. Similarly, if a Kashmiri woman marries a non-Kashmiri man, neither her husband nor her children will have any right on her property in the state.

In case court dilutes Article 35A, it would mean dilution of Article 370 also. Thus, without abrogating the latter, the BJP would get rid of harshest provisions of it. That no doubt, will please BJP’s Hindutva constituency too. But before achieving its goal, the party will have to deal with massive protests breaking out in the Kashmir valley against tinkering with Article 35A. The BJP therefore, is succeeding where Congress failed. Latter developed feet of clay when Supreme Court in 1986 ordered payment of alimony (maintenance allowance) to Muslim women in a case which became famous after the litigants name – Shah Bano. Muslim clerics pressurized the government to bring in a law overturning the SC verdict. Then PM Rajiv Gandhi, in an apparent bid to win over the community on the eve of elections, succumbed to the pressure. The party lost support of half of Muslims – the women – and the 1989 elections too.

Similarly, Congress party-led governments at the Centre during past 65 years have been dithering on a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as mandated by Article 44. Their plea being it is not part of the constitution but only part of directive principles of State Policy. In fact, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru despite being major proponent of the UCC, had not implemented it in view of the massive riots that had engulfed the country in aftermath of partition.

This is why the BJP had been constantly accusing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government of ‘minority appeasement’.

But, the BJP initiated the work on UCC soon after being voted to power in 2014. The law ministry asked the Law Commission to issue a questionnaire eliciting people’s response to the issue. The questionnaire had questions on divorce, polygamy, triple talaq and UCC. It received over 40,000 responses. But Law Commission slowed down the process of compiling their report till the SC pronounced verdict in the tripple

talaq case.

The objective is clear and so is

the process. But, so long as the act benefits the society, no one should have

any objection to the proposed

reforms, their political fallout notwithstanding.


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