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Nehru and Uniform Civil Code

Jawaharlal Nehru with school children at Durgapur (via Wikipedia)

Jawaharlal Nehru with school children at Durgapur (via Wikipedia)

Six Thousand Days: Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister by Amiya Rao and B.G.Rao has a section on the first Prime Minister’s politics regarding the introduction of Uniform Civil Code in India. He had sponsored the Hindu Code Bills because the personal laws of Hindus had to be modified to come in line with modern thought and attitudes. It was also intended especially for, “freeing our people, more especially our women-folk from the outworn customs and shackles which have bound them.”

Even though President Bourgiba of Tunisia and President Ayub of Pakistan had changed Muslim personal law in their countries, Nehru was not willing to do so in India. The book accuses him of conceding that only the Ulema and not the Parliament had the power to make rules for Muslims purely for the vote bank. In a speech Nehru mentioned

“We have passed one or two laws recently and we are considering one … in regard to Hindu marriage and divorce … These are personal ingrained in custom, habit and religion … Now we do not dare to touch the Muslims because they are a minority and we do not want the Hindu majority to do it. These are personal laws and so will remain for the Muslims until they want to change them … We do not wish to create the impression that we are forcing any particular thing in regard to Muslims’ personal laws.”

Thus, even though Article 44 stated that the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout India, that was one path Nehru was unwilling to travel.

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