One of the BJP’s key allies in the northeast, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, has criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), stating that such a measure contradicts India’s inherent diversity and unique cultural characteristics.
PM Modi this week revived a debate around the UCC, a common set of personal laws for all Indian citizens irrespective of religion, sex, gender, or sexual orientation, emphasising the importance of equality as enshrined in the constitution.
The Law Commission has invited public and religious organisations’ views on the UCC, setting off speculation that a draft could be introduced in the next parliament session, and enacted before next year’s election, giving the BJP a boost for fulfilling one of its longstanding promises.
“The Uniform Civil Code goes against the actual idea of India. India is a diverse nation and our strength lies in diversity,” Mr Sangma, who is also the president of the National People’s Party (NPP), said.
The comments underline the regional resistance that the BJP may face in implementing a uniform set of personal laws, a contentious issue that has sparked debates about religious rights, gender justice, and national integration.
The NPP, which is a member of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), leads the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA). The BJP has two MLAs in the state, while Mr Sangma’s party has 28 in the 60-seat assembly.
The NPP has a strong political base in Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh besides Meghalaya and the party has several MLAs in the four northeastern states.
“We don’t know what kind of bill the government is planning to introduce,” Mr Sangma added, highlighting that without seeing the actual content of the draft, it would be difficult to delve into specifics. “We (Meghalaya) are a matrilineal society, and the entire northeast has a unique culture and would want that to remain intact”.
The proposed UCC, which would govern matters like marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, has been an idea mooted by the makers of the Constitution and is mentioned in Article 44 of the Constitution’s Directive Principles of State Policy, the government says.
However, the potential implementation of the UCC has raised concerns among various communities in India, including those in the northeastern states, which are marked by distinct cultural practices and societal norms, as well as minorities like Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.