In Independent India, hopes were raised to modernize our economy and implement social reforms that were previously not possible under the British Raj.
It was important for a civilization that had endured centuries of humiliation with Mughal invasions and British rule to break free from the shackles of colonialism and forced slavery. To everyone’s surprise, one of the priorities of the Indian National Congress (INC) government was to codify Hindu practices, perhaps in their local language, in an effort to civilize the Hindu population.
It would probably be a bit harsh on our part to make a somewhat compulsive criticism of the then-Nehru administration. Why? Perhaps because India was still healing its fresh wounds during the painful partition of the country.
Secularism became a necessity, as it reflected the pluralistic vision that our freedom fighters had for the nascent republic. But, resistance came from unexpected quarters, when Rajendra Prasad led a public mockery against Nehru in protest of his attempt to codify Hindu practices. Nehru’s core belief was that progress must be achieved, but not at the cost of compromising on the customs and traditions of a community.
It is a pity that it took us so long, but these beliefs must be held accountable. Nehru’s beliefs were unfounded in the sense that he believed that the way to secure the interests and welfare of minorities lay in the introduction of codified Hindu laws that protected Muslims and Christians from protracted majoritarianism. For those few who are not aware, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) finds its way into Article 44 in Part IV of the Constitution, which mentions that it is the responsibility of the State to ensure the implementation of the UCC.
A notable exception is Goa which continues the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 even after its integration with India and the law binds all domiciles of Goa under a single set of civil laws. Goa, a state with perhaps a higher dividend of minority population than the national average, is comfortably administered under the provisions of the Uniform Civil Code. It has its drawbacks, but it has set an example for the rest of the country.