Thursday 25 July 2024

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The Politics behind the Uniform Civil Code


We do not need a uniform but a pluri-form civil code to harmonize and not homogenize the diversity in our country. The cry for uniform civil code in psychoanalytic terms is an oedipal cry for the law of the father.

Several Issues that are facing us today has brought the analytic potential of the concepts of hegemony and subalternity to the centre of discussion.  Within this conceptual framework, it has become possible for us to understand how hegemony has put on a new avatar of   retroactively creating   interests it claims to represent. This will open us to a new awakening that might lead us to a discomforting realization that we are often guilty of reclaiming these interests stirred by the hegemonic forces.

It is more than clear that the divisive politics of the BJP and its allies seem to stir the interests of the majority group and successfully polarize our society.  If BJP is viewed as programmatically communal, the Congress is seen as pragmatically contaminated by the same virus. Although, there is very little to choose between the two national parties on the poison of corruption, BJP is notorious for its communal politics.  

Several political pundits have already greeted the balloon of   uniform civil code floated by the Modi Government as a new attempt to polarize our society with an eye on the elections in Uttar Pradesh.  The issue is ...will the majority community bite the bait and fail to understand the polarization games of our National Government to win a state election?  

No one seems to know what exactly is meant by the uniform civil code.  In fact, it has been a Damocles sword that has been hanging on the head of the minorities, particularly our Muslim brethren for a long time in our country.  It has been politicized from time to time and has been used to terrorise and subalternize the minorities for a long time.  

The fact that the political right is positioning the eventual enforcement of the uniform civil code  as a fulfilment of  our  constitution while the very same uniform code having a negative reception mainly among the Muslims brethren, betrays the unifying effect  of the same code. Hence, the pretentious noble goal is doomed to fail on the ground.  

What seems to ring in fears among several Indians is a perception that our constitution is being used as tool of divisive politics by BJP-RSS-VHP combine.  The mask of divisive nationalism has already fallen away from the face of BJP and it suffers from trust deficit with regard to its intensions concerning the unity and integral harmony in our country.   

Nationalism is said to be the opium of unsuspecting middle classes and therefore sometimes the divisive teeth of uniform civil code may not be visible to a great section of the people.

There is no doubt that the sudden announcement of imminent coming of the uniform civil code has sent shivers down the spine of  our Muslim brethren who unfortunately  suffer from a perception battle concerning the rights of married  women. Yet forcing a uniform civil code does not appear as a solution to several of these ills that plagues our society.  

It only seems to indicate that India is now moving from a disciplining society to a society of control.   The political right seems to think that the diverse religious groups in our country cannot be disciplined through their respective personal laws and hence, have to be brought under the control of a uniform civil code. The uniform civil code is not just a mere name but a law that would attempt to homogenize the diversity and plurality in our country which would certainly damage the openness to the plural ethos of our civilization.


That is why I believe we  do not need a uniform but a pluri-form civil code to harmonize and not homogenize the diversity in our country. The cry for uniform civil code in psychoanalytic terms is   an oedipal cry for the law of the father.  It appears to be triggered by an anxiety of loss of control. It seems to be based on a belief that our society is running into chaos and dreams to push an order of things that has been identified as one that is tainted by Hindutwa.   What is masquerading as a uniform civil code is suspected to be a camouflaged Hindutwa code. 

The fundamentalist aesthetics dreams of nation where a monist, singularized and homogenized   people are crafted through one law, one religion, and one langue.  Though such an aesthetic sensibility is anti-India, there is no dearth of people who support it.  This sensibility produces an ethics that is based on a monism that believes in a naive mantra that states that unity is uniformity. 

The proponents of uniform civil code claim that they wish to bring equality to every citizen of our country. But they seem to remain blind to the fact that one uniform that they are tailoring for all Indians will not fit everyone. Hence, openness to a pluri-form civil code may bring us closer to what is true equality.

But unfortunately, equality is based on a pragmatic sameness which is curled out by subtraction of diversity.  This constructed sameness can never be truly equal to all and cannot be beyond suspicion of privileging one section of people over the other.

Hence, several thinkers today have replaced the term universal with pluriversal. The term pluriversal lends its inclusive cognitive power and embraces diversity and does not require subtraction (supposed levelling down) which is central to uniform monism.  Hence, true equality before the law is not in a mathematically rendered singular uniformity but in an inclusive and all embracive plurality.  This is not   merely a linguistic/ terminology issue but one that touches the plural heart of our country.

In this context, even with several of its short comings the uniform civil code that is operative in Goa is a good model that is truly pluriversal in spirit.  But for our country, we do not need the pluriversal spirit trapped in out-dated terminology like the uniform civil code. Hence, a change in terminology as well as one that is authentically plural and opens room to personal laws of all religious groups to operate with autonomy is the real need of the hour. 

As of now the pluri-form approach which is the guiding principle of law does not need any uniform civil code, though several religious groups may stand in need of reformation of their personal law. But this reformation can never be attained by a uniformity forced from outside.           

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Fr Victor Ferrao

Fr. Victor Ferrao is a Dean of Philosophy and teaches at Rachol Seminary in Salcete taluka of Goa. He has done his Phd in Philosophy of Science. He writes often on socio-political scenario.


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