The issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is more about values existing within communities and not about their lifestyle and identities – is what Tufail Ahmad, executive director of Open Source Institute, a Delhi-based think tank, feels.
Ahmad, who proposed a draft UCC on Wednesday to initiate a public debate, told Firstpost: "This draft UCC is the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion. It is necessary to emphasise that the issue of UCC is not about the lifestyles and identities of Indian citizens but to ensure that certain fundamental rights to equality and liberty are protected for them by the Indian state. It's more about values existing within communities."
It has been observed that UCC despite being a good idea, whenever a debate takes place on this issue, gets into a controversy and gets a religious colour as the focus is on Muslims. A section within the society feels that instead of making the debate Muslim-centric, the debate should first be within the communities and why it shouldn’t begin with Hindus.
"It's a misleading argument. The move for UCC has predominantly been opposed by a section of Muslims, clerics and their institutions, and not by other religious communities. Other groups are open to change. Unlike a class of liberals which believes that this change comes from within, I strongly feel it comes from an external source. Like Raja Rammohan Roy opposed the practice of Sati and it was an outcome of his interactions with foreign scholars and ideas," said Ahmad, a former journalist with BBC World Service.
Stating that his draft UCC is the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion, Ahmad said, "At present, no draft UCC exists that could enlighten the people of India regarding the specifics that would constitute a code."
"This UCC is drafted within a broader context of a Universal Bill of Rights for the Indian citizen (Ubric). In the name of secularism, often a biased stand is taken. This discriminatory identity divides communities. Even the judiciary, including some judges of the Supreme Court, often fails to understand that Right to religion and beliefs is available to Indian citizens and not to communities and religious organisations. As a result, while hearing cases of individuals – say a case related to a Muslim woman, they allow Islamic institutions to be a party in it," he pointed out.
Ahmad, the author of ‘Jihadist Threat to India - The Case for Islamic Reformation by an Indian Muslim’, in his 12-clause document – a blueprint for the UCC – said, "The issue of UCC has emerged into India’s political discourse recently because many Muslim women, affected adversely by the personal laws have begun knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court to uphold their fundamental rights to equality and liberty, in keeping with constitutional provisions. Gradually, a realisation is gaining ground that UCC will protect the constitutional rights of Indian citizens."
The 16 clauses in the draft UCC highlights the importance of fundamental right to education; religion and beliefs; unhindered freedom of thought and speech; application of rule of law to every citizen; any child born throughout the territory of India, including Gilgit Baltistan (which being the part of J&K) should have an automatic right to be citizen of India; use of words (like bhangi, chamar, kafir, etc) that describe an individual or groups in a discriminatory and hateful manner shall be a criminal offence; etc.
"We appeal to the members of Parliament to enact this Bill as Law in fulfilment of the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution and in particular Article 44 that says — The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India," added Ahmad.