Tribal bodies in Jharkhand have decided to oppose the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), arguing that its enactment would dilute their customary laws.
“We will not only register our protest by sending emails to the law commission but also stage a protest on the ground. Meetings are being planned to chalk out our strategies. The UCC will dilute the provisions of Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution,” a former member of the Tribes Advisory Council of Jharkhand, Ratan Tirkey, said.
The Fifth Schedule deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in these areas in tribal states, including Jharkhand. The Sixth Schedule contains provisions concerning the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
The 22nd Law Commission of India on June 14 sought fresh suggestions from stakeholders on the UCC. Several religious minorities have already registered their protest. An official with an NGO working for the education and rights of minorities in Jharkhand had last month sent an email to the Law Commission requesting it to set aside the UCC in “national interest’.
“It is common perception that the UCC will displace personal laws which govern marriage, divorce, inheritance and other family issues of all communities. Personal laws are an integral element of religion and society. Any tampering with personal laws would be equal to interfering with the whole way of life of people who had followed them for generations. India is a secular state and it must not do anything that would jeopardise people’s religious and cultural ethos,” states the email sent by Tanweer Ahmed, the president of the Friends of Weaker Society in Ranchi.
Kendriya Sarna Samity, which oversees the conduct of tribal festivals in Ranchi and has a significant influence in Jharkhand, has questioned the silence of Droupadi Murmu, the first tribal woman to become President of India, on the issue.
“We are surprised that our President, who is herself a Santhali tribal, is silent on the issue. We are going to hold meetings across 24 districts of Jharkhand and mobilise tribal members to write emails to the Law Commission,” Samity general secretary Krishna Kant Toppo said.
“It (UCC) would infringe upon our customary laws of marriage, divorce, inheritance and transfer of land,” said Santosh Tirkey, a senior functionary of the Kendriya Sarna Samity. Women in their community do not inherit land and the custom of dowry is not followed, he added.
Santosh added that members of the samity would visit tribal-dominated districts in Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh to mobilise support so that a large number of emails can be sent before July 14.