The Indian People's Party, with its far-right tendencies, led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeks to enact laws targeting the religious and civil rights of Muslims in India (Anatolia)

The Legislative Council in the northern Indian state of Uttarkhand approved a unified civil code in the state controlled by the country's ruling nationalist Indian People's Party. The law includes regulations governing issues of marriage and divorce, land ownership and inheritance, and other community and family laws.

The provisions of the law will not apply to members of the tribes in the state, most of whom are Hindus who are governed by their own personal status laws. The law also excluded other categories of the state’s population mentioned in the constitution, while it was obligated to Muslims from the state’s population.

Non-tribal Hindus follow civil law because there is no specific law for them, unlike Muslims who have a clear and specific law. For example, the new law prohibited polygamy, and set the marriage age for men at 21 years, and for women at 18 years.

The law came in response to the trends of the "Indian People's Party" led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has been calling for years for a unified civil law to deprive Muslims of following Islamic law with regard to personal status.

Muslims in India have complied with the provisions of Islamic Sharia in personal status since the English era. After the fall of the Mughal state in 1857 at the hands of the British, Muslims continued to adhere to Islamic personal status laws in issues such as: marriage, divorce, division of inheritance, and custody.

The British gave this right a legislative cover when they issued the “Sharia Law” in 1937, which is still in effect in India.

Successive Indian governments also confirmed after independence that Islamic personal status will not be affected except at the request of Muslims.

With the arrival of the "Indian Nationalist People's Party" to power, extremist Hindus began to promote that Muslims' adherence to Islamic law in their personal affairs hinders their integration into Indian society, and therefore it must be abolished and a unified civil code imposed on the country.

But the truth is that the Uniform Civil Code, even if it is issued, will be implemented on Muslims only, as the Uniform Civil Code will only be the civil law currently in effect in India, to which Hindus are subject, and therefore nothing will change for Hindus, while Muslims alone will be forced to work. Civil law, and abandoning Sharia law in their personal circumstances.

There are hundreds (between 250 and 300, according to former Law Minister Weerappa Moili) of social segments that enjoy their own civil law, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, tribal segments, and residents of mountainous regions. It is certain that the government will find excuses to exclude these segments from the implementation of the Unified Civil Code, and Muslims will remain the only ones on whom this law will be imposed.

Pretexts and arguments

The leaders of the Indian People's Party continued to raise their voices from time to time to enact a unified civil code, in order to deprive Muslims of the enjoyment of Islamic law.

Hindu extremists claim that the Indian Constitution obliges the Indian state to enact a unified civil code, and they point to a “guiding principle” in the constitution, even though the Indian state is not obligated to implement it. This guideline has not been implemented despite the passage of 72 years since the issuance of the Constitution, and the Indian state has continued to assure various groups that it will not tamper with its personal status laws.

They forget that the Uniform Civil Code is only one of the 23 directive principles mentioned in the Indian Constitution, and most of these principles have not yet been implemented, including the prohibition of liquor (Article 47), the provision of health care to all citizens (Article 47), and the provision of food, education and a good means of life for all. Members of the people and protecting them from exploitation (Article 46).

Dividing the country’s wealth fairly, creating equality between men and women, preventing the concentration of wealth in some hands (Article 39), providing justice for all and ensuring that no one is deprived of justice due to poverty (Article 41), and organizing village councils to ensure the establishment of village governance (Article 49) .

Providing education and employment opportunities for all Indians, providing assistance to the sick, elderly and infirm (Article 41), ensuring workers’ participation in ownership of factories (Article 43/A), protecting the judiciary from government interference (Article 50), and providing justice at all social, political and economic levels (Article 50). Article 38/a), and reducing the difference between salaries (Article 32/2).

Eliminate social inequality, provide opportunities for all citizens (Article 38/2), ensure reasonable salaries for workers (Article 43), work to strengthen peace and security at the global level (Article 51), and provide free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 (Article 51). Article 45) etc... All of these guidelines have not been implemented or have been implemented only partially.

Hindu extremists do not talk about the necessity of implementing it, but rather work to reverse it. For example, the Modi government is working to strengthen the wealthy and accumulate wealth in their hands, and it is constantly working to control all state agencies, including the judicial system.

It is strange that, despite persistent calls for a unified civil code, a draft of it has not yet been drawn up and published. So that people know what is meant by the Uniform Civil Code.

Old demands

The demand for a unified civil code in India is old and dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Hindu women called for it. This is because Hindu law does not give Hindu women any rights regarding inheritance, family management, sponsorship of children in the event of separation, the right to divorce, or the right to custody. Hindu divorcees and widows are allowed the right to marry again.

After independence, the Indian state issued several laws to provide these rights to Hindu women. These laws were strongly opposed by Hindu extremists at the time, but they were passed because of the majority that the Congress Party enjoyed in Parliament during the first decades after independence, and because of the respect enjoyed by leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru.

The issue of the Uniform Civil Code was repeatedly discussed in the Indian Parliament, but no agreement could be reached on it. The Constituent Assembly had decided to give every citizen the option to work according to the general civil law (which was drafted by the English) or according to personal status laws specific to his religion and heritage.

Dr. Ambedkar, the framer of the Indian Constitution, said during the discussion of the issue in the Constituent Assembly on December 2, 1948: “No government should exercise its powers in a way that forces the Muslim community to revolt. I think that a government that would attempt this would be a crazy government.”

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said during this discussion: “Any change of this kind (in the Civil Code) will only apply to any sect when that sect accepts it.”

Shah Bano case

The issue of the Uniform Civil Code arose again when a Muslim woman named Shah Bano went to the Supreme Court in 1985. Because her husband divorced her and did not give her alimony according to Indian civil law. The Supreme Court decided to give her alimony for life based on some translations of the Holy Quran.

Here, the Muslims of India revolted and forced the Rajiv Gandhi government to retreat. It enacted a law excluding divorced Muslim women from the civil law, which gives the divorced woman alimony for life.

The issue arose again in 2015, when the Supreme Court recommended in one of its decisions the enactment of a unified civil code for all citizens, and Muslims revolted against it, saying: Enacting any such law would mean withdrawing the religious and cultural rights that the Indian Constitution gives to religious minorities.

The Modi government has expressed more than once its desire to enact a unified civil code, but it has not dared to do so until now, except for enacting subsidiary laws such as prohibiting triple talaq in one sitting.

When the Indian Law Commission demanded last year the necessity of enacting a unified civil code, Muslims and others attacked it harshly. The Islamic Personal Status Council (an Islamic civil society organization established in 1973 to preserve the Islamic Personal Status Law) submitted a memorandum opposing this recommendation, bearing the signatures of 48.1 million people.

Slogan to attack Muslims

Hindu extremists use the slogan: “Uniform Civil Code” to attack and frustrate Muslims. It is certain that when it is actually issued, whether at the state level or the central parliament, it will be implemented on Muslims only. Because the existing civil law is Hindu law and many segments of it have been excluded.

It is not expected that the "Indian People's Party" will impose the Uniform Civil Code on Hindu, Christian, Sikh and tribal segments who enjoy exceptions; Because that would mean widespread rebellion in all regions of India.

As for Muslims, the leaders of the “People’s” Party believe that they can be played with, as they will not revolt. The Hindu extremists have tried this over the past ten years with various trial balloons, such as: killing Muslims based on their identity, killing them on charges of eating beef or slaughtering cows, destroying mosques, shrines and religious schools, prohibiting the hijab and halal meat, and demolishing Muslim homes with bulldozers for the most trivial reasons and without taking into account the law and procedures. Judiciary, and the arrest of thousands of young Muslims on charges of terrorism and supporting ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which are false charges, but are fabricated from time to time with the utmost intelligence.

It is expected that after the state of Uttarkhand approves a unified civil code, other states will follow suit, especially those governed by the Indian People's Party, until the appropriate environment exists locally and globally for the central government to pass a federal civil law through the central parliament.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.