Need Uniform Civil Code of conduct to counter divisiveness 

India is universal consciousness, where separate elements thrive as one, having stayed united in heterogeneity for centuries.

Published: 10th April 2022 07:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th April 2022 07:47 AM   |  A+A-

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If God had so wished, he would have made all Indians speak with one language ... the unity of India has been and shall always be a unity in diversity.

—Rabindranath Tagore

India is the Omkara of the world. Everything, that has been, and will be finds resonance in its ancient vastness, as it exults in its Oneness. It unifies a billion identities with Oneness, which is what makes us truly the children of Bharat. Hence, unity cannot be ensured through uniformity. But it can be ruined by the imposition of monochrome identity.

India is universal consciousness, where separate elements thrive as one, having stayed united in heterogeneity for centuries. It is a country of maximum languages and minimum conflicts. Its culinary traditions change according to region. Its costumes and dresses are woven from the same textile of national identity. Temples dot its landscape, and so do mosques and churches. This quilt of faith reflects the multi-religious colours of the nation which has over 75 per cent Hindus as inhabitants. Exceptional unity in diversity has always been India’s USP to the world.

But this homogeneity is under severe threat from the new politics of identity emerging in India. In spite of over 5,000 years of heritage, there is an ominous revival of a clash between communities. As Indians celebrate both Ram Navami and Ramzan, fringe elements are raising their ugly heads and voices seeking malefic relevance. In the recent weeks, some political leaders have been clamouring for a ban on meat sale, erroneously claiming that most Hindus are vegetarians during this period. Ram Navami is celebrated to mark the arrival of Lord Ram as Vishnu’s avatar on Earth. A substantial number of Hindus fast for nine days. This is not the first time that Ram Navami is being observed. It is as old as Lord Ram himself. But never before has any politician raised such a demand. The mayors of Delhi’s municipal corporations ordered the closure of meat shops, but ironically not a complete closure of slaughter houses.

If a temporary ban on meat retail was manifestly ridiculous, so was the opposition to it. Descending into a vociferous vortex of absurdity, the naysayers argued that the sale of onions, garlic and liquor must also be banned because their consumption is considered impure during holy days. Numerous Hindu illiberals indulged in chest thumping, claiming that they are proud beef eaters who oppose the meat ban. There were other freeloaders who used international forums to defame India and claimed Muslims were under threat. In order to claim their fundamental right, they were fuelling the communal divide. Curiously, the meat ban coincided with Ramzan when Muslims consume non-vegetarian dishes after fasting. It has become a dismal first across the social metric.

Another such first in India is a section of vocal Hindus imposing their personal beliefs on others. Equally aggressive sections of Muslims in Karnataka flexed muscles to dictate their beliefs on education. Undoubtedly, the hijab was adopted in the Islamic women dress code a few decades ago, but was never an issue until now. But suddenly, its conservative defenders decided that their daughters would rather give up studies than accept the school dress code. There is hardly a school in the world which doesn’t insist on a uniform for students. The hardcore Muslim leadership has rejected the court ruling. However, the radical Hindu reaction to this stubbornness is stupefying and shocking. In yet another dismal first, many temple authorities denied permission to Muslims to run businesses near shrines, which they were doing for decades. Creating a din to make the presence of the divine felt is the Uncivil Code of political opportunism which is paraded as faith.

The conflict is not confined to just meat. Many BJP states have made teaching the Bhagavad Gita compulsory in schools. The Gita is not a religious book but a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna which forms the manual of inner knowledge to fight evil with good — it is the soul of eternal India. But secularists perceive its introduction as imposition of majoritarianism on the minorities. When yoga was introduced in educational institutions to make the younger generation healthy and acquire a positive mindset, it was opposed. But the illiberals beat a hasty retreat when yoga found international acceptability.

Changing names of cities, dictating sartorial choices and imposing food restrictions are perhaps misguided attempts to achieve unity through uniformity. It is an ominous sign of the majority striking back at the flaws of the past. Those who back the newly glamorous but politically incorrect promotion of a divisive agenda assert that their actions are only meant to correct and reverse the historical blunder of appeasement by the previous Indian establishment. According to them, the right to religious freedom was misused more by the majority. Yet, Muslim preachers rarely follow judicial orders limiting the noise level of the azan. The minarets of mosques are wired with equipment with the decibel power to disturb the entire locality. The growing trend of using public roads for namaz on Fridays and blocking traffic is infuriating Hindu youngsters. In addition, they have been seeking special subsidies for education and even Haj visits. The case is equally applicable to temples. They turn up the volume of heavy duty loudspeakers to amplify prayers. Fortunately, Sikhs and Christians do not advertise their faith with noise.

Versus is the new vicious. As political confrontation becomes a lethal game plan to grab power, my dress vs. theirs, my food vs. theirs, my religion vs. theirs and my culture vs. theirs have become the nasty narrative. No political leader has ever proposed a compulsory Uniform Civil Conduct Code for all Indians. They are happy to demand a Uniform Civil Code since it will get votes. Indians are never known to observe basic civic behaviour in public. Religion is not meant to be displayed as a privileged asset. It is a private practice. Sadly, the Vicars of Bray sporting saffron and green costumes in public, wielding swords and trishuls are feted as the true soldiers of the community. Authorities turn a blind eye to self-appointed contractors of faith capturing public land for the construction of illegal religious buildings. Any official who attempts to demolish these unlawful structures is immediately transferred. Uncivilised behaviour has become a badge of honour.

In the early 1990s, former prime minister VP Singh made an attempt to end the religious menace of loudspeakers, processions and unauthorised construction of religious buildings. He advised one of the members of the National Integration Council (NIC) to move a resolution banning such wrongdoings. But when the resolution was moved in Parliament, no MP seconded it. The member requested eminent parliamentarians and BJP leaders, but to no avail.

Since then, raising religious slogans, invoking the scriptures and seeking political legitimacy through provocative speeches have become essential qualifications for budding political leaders. They exploit the colour of a dress, the ingredients of a recipe, the architecture of a religious building and the name of an individual to get ahead, rather than be committed to the welfare of citizens. For them, uniformity in thinking and living are the only twin tests for a prosperous Bharat. But a Swasth, Swachh, Surakshit and Samarth Bharat needs a humane Common Civic Code of Conduct to be followed without discrimination by all Indians. Respect for all and hate for none should be the only standard for Bharat to live by.  

India Matters


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  • Jaideep Ghosh

    1 year ago reply
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