Friday, August 5, 2011

It’s the time to re-assess Hindu Code Bill

Decades may pass but if anything (be it any notion or bill), introduced once, continues to affect a particular community incessantly, neither its source nor factors responsible for its enactment can be written off ever. Hindu Code Bill, passed in mid 1950s in India, alleged to unify Hindus and thus the whole of India, is still a controversial subject and is considered by many as a ploy to retain Hindus in a cocoon of pseudo nationalism and pseudo secularism. These thoughts did surface then too but a great section of Hindus having faith in the State structure refuted. After several decades it is being mulled over by pundits that the Bill has done more harm to Hindus.

Witnessing hapless situation of Hindus these days, some schools of thought nowadays comprehend the reality and also the myth of Hindu Unity through Hindu Code Bill nurtured smartly by Indian state structure. It is worthwhile to mention that four Hindu Code Bills were passed and these are Hindu Marriage Act (1955), Hindu Succession Act (1956), Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956) and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956).

Here is a synopsis of Hindu Code Bill.

Hindu Code Bill, as per historians and legal experts, was aimed to render a civil code instead of a Hindu personal law. Well, such an idea did come up in British India too but the law was amended to a certain extent under the alien rule. On April 9, 1948 Hindu Code Bill was introduced to the Constituent Assembly for the first time but the following ruckus, raised by its antagonists, proved to be too heavy for the then Union Government of India. To make it easier and also to delude Hindus, the bill was fragmented to three more specialized bills. These were again introduced between 1955 and 1957.

Hindu Marriage Bill, in short, illegalized ancient Hindu tradition of polygamy and also contained provisions managing inter caste marriages and divorce procedures. Hindu Succession Bill, with regard to inheritance of family property, placed daughters similar to widows and sons. Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Bill concentrated on the saga of adoption of girls. Many Hindus considered these as blazing torches of liberalism. But even after 50 years of enactment of these bills, problems remain same. To be exact, they have become murkier than before and in this case, application of Hindu Code Bill, hurried and wrongly assessed, can’t be ruled out.

Hindu Code Bill faced sharp criticisms of Hindu nationalists including Dr. S.P. Mokerjee and N.C. Chatterjee as they considered such an act was not only an assault on Hindus but also a threat to stability and veracity of traditional forms of marriage and the family in Hindu society. Swami Karpatriji, highly revered sanyasi belonging to the Dandis, launched a mass struggle to call this move a halt.

Ram Rajya Parishad, his own political party, organized copious demonstrations against the Hindu Code Bill. 15,000 people did attend a week-long conference in Delhi at the beginning of 1949 and some of them were personalities like Princess of Dewas Senior (a former princely state in Central India).

What did infuriate the said two Hindu nationalist leaders from Bengal? They were annoyed since the civil law reform concerned Hindus only, while the Constitution instructed (in article 44 of the Directive Principles) the State to give India a uniform Civil Code. Dr. Mookerjee criticizing the bill fervidly stated "government did not dare to touch the Muslim community."

What did prevent Nehru from introducing a Muslim Code Bill? He, modern scholars suggest, was eager to turn himself as custodian of minority Muslims, including those who preferred to remain in India after partition.

Even Rajendra Prasad, elected as President of the Republic in 1950, was hurt by this notion for having 'new concepts and new ideas…. are not only foreign to Hindu Law but may cause disruption in every family'.

But Nehru was unstoppable and Hindu Code Bill continues to rule Hindus.

Is it a stigma? Has not the time come to reassess Hindu Code Bill once more and build up strong movements for its eradication, if necessary?

No comments:

Post a Comment