That the relevance of a uniform civil code should turn out to be a hot topic for debate and political contestation is a paradox mirroring the confusion in present political discourses of India.Nobody in the Constituent Assembly probably thought it would take such a turn.It had been mooted as part of a modernizing project for transformation of a backward,tradition-bound society into a progressive democratic state.Though difficult it was considered an eminently desirable goal.
Now it has generated bitter discord and dispute and BJP seems to be sitting with smug satisfaction over the turmoil.Led by the Prime Minister,its brigade of fire and brimstone rhetoric have denounced the critics and dissenters as enemies of the country’s unity and progress.The latter are harping on the danger of threatening the country’s communal harmony and social peace.
That the BJP,known for its stubborn defence of the most outworn and toxic ideas and practices should strike this heroic pose of advance-guard of social progress is cause for critical concern.The real attraction of this proposed measure is the handle it gives to their camp to disturb,alarm and create panic among Muslims caught unawares.Plainly they have been so busy defending their heritage against attacks from unexpected angles that they are at present in no mood to consider the question calmly.Progressive democrats,conventional orthodox Muslims,rabid preachers,all are getting involved in a last-ditch attempt to defend their right to decide their own future voluntarily and independently.In the name of promoting individual liberty the UCC is being rammed down their throats while they are in a frame of mind far from peaceful and reflective.
The opposition rightly understands and assesses this situation and opposed it as inopportune and unwelcome for real unity and harmony in the country.I believe Shiv Sena(Uddhav) has struck the right note by insisting that while just in principle this is not the right time to introduce and further,there should be proper and ample consultations among minorities before it is carefully enunciated and proposed.
The surprising odd man out happens to be AAP,which appears caught in a perpetual ‘will he-won’t he’ cleft on the road.On the one hand it wants to crave the security of a joint front against a powerful and aggressive BJP,and on the other hand it hankers after the social homogeneity that would enable it to conduct its technocratic economic and social engineering campaign without any hitch.Needless to add this scorn of ideology is not only an elusive ideal but also a potential risk to the country in so far as it leaves the doors wide open to fanatical brawls and chaos.
It is good that the opposition has so far stood firm and unfazed and has reacted coolly to all the rant of the vicious ‘unity at all cost’ mobs.But since it is a contentious issue,confusing to some honest citizens also,they should also get together vibrant teams of distinguished constitutional lawyers,social scientists and civil society activists in different states to take the message to the people. For let there be no mistake,the BJP is determined to rake it up before 24 elections to create confusion among opposition ranks and among the people at large.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator