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This refers to your cover story on the Uniform Civil Code (1 Code Fits All?, September 9). My perception is that the majority of citizens believe India’s efforts since Partition to integrate Muslims and other minorities have not been very successful mainly due to the absence of a Uniform Civil Code. There have been many amendments to Hindu laws, but not in the case of laws applicable to religious minorities. Having separate personal laws for people of different religions and communities is a relic left over from the colonial times, which would only sharpen the schisms in society. A Uniform Civil Code will serve the cause of a new India in many ways.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
The Uniform Civil Code is a bitter pill that can only be swallowed with the concerted efforts of lawmakers and the concerned communities for the greater good of Indian citizens. The failure of previous governments to enact such a code doesn’t mean it can’t be done now. Modi’s clear intention to treat everyone as equals is evident, but any undertones related to Hindu Rashtra needs be addressed so that Muslims and other minorities feel comfortable about the Uniform Civil Code.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
The best way to approach this contentious issue is to do it in two or three stages. Stage one should deal with monogamy/polygamy and divorce. Both issues are directly related to gender equality, which is a constitutional right. Christians will have nothing to complain. Our Muslim brethren should show a large heart and respect for their women. Of course, detailed discussion should precede any enactment of a law in Parliament. Other issues such as privileges due to Hindu Undivided Family, Muslim inheritance law and minor procedural ceremonies that take place inside places of worship can be discussed at a slow pace so as not to ruffle the feathers of religious leaders.
C.A. Varghese, Thrissur
I thank Meenakshi Lekhi for bringing up a timely issue. As a country of many religions and cultures too, India has been very difficult to rule centrally, and certain segments of administration is looked after by the respective state governments responding to their localised conditions. What is needed is a rightly formulated common code that fits all type of demographic variants.
Ranjit Sinha, New Delhi
It is overlooked that the country already has a uniform revenue law that is applicable to all landowners and tenants irrespective of their religion. Revenue law, akin to civil law, deals with matters of succession, inheritance, gifts, transfer of property etc. A uniform revenue law has been in existence for more than a century, and no Muslim organisation has so far questioned it. The Uniform Civil Code is misunderstood to be an extension of Hindu personal law to followers of other religion. It is, in reality, an amalgam of the best features of various personal laws and secular laws, and presents a model legal system based on fair play, gender equality, level playing field and parity. Opposition to the Uniform Civil Code by Muslims is unwarranted. But, again, it is too much to expect that the community suffering from fear would show magnanimity and support it.
Nitin Majmudar, Lucknow
There are often a few tasks in our to-do list that somehow perpetually remain there, unticked. Same goes for nations. India has toyed with the idea of a Uniform Civil Code for more than seven decades now, but never got close to implementing it. The reason is simple—laws that are kosher to one set of people are blasphemy to another. Each time we talk of it, we develop cold feet. In the Constituent Assembly debates, B.R. Ambedkar said one code for all was desirable, but as India stood at the cusp of a huge change, the time was not really opportune. The time is still not opportune. Arguing on merit, one code for all, if put in place, will identify with the nation as a whole, rather than with religions, giving inclusivity to all. Plus it will bring much needed uniformity in personal laws. An egalitarian law, free from the trappings of religion, a gender-just law, looks like a very fine, sensible thing. And the right way to reinvent and reboot ourselves.
Probably one reason for its being such a complex issue is that the idea of India as one country encompassing a wealth of cultures, religions, traditions has become a central pillar of our national identity. The notion of ‘unity in diversity’ is a trope by which India understands itself and projects itself to the world. This gives rise to the immense challenge of balancing the diverse needs of all religious entities. The challenge is to be magnanimous and not cavil about small details, and to try and harmonise our plural democracy with our unique religious identities, for being able to agree on a Uniform Civil Code that is syncretic, yet celebrates our uniqueness, distinct and acceptable to all. In fact, the code could be a palimpsest of our best religious traditions, fine-tuned for today’s reality. A tough call but for a nation nurtured on Ram and Rahim, Allah and Christ, Nanak and Kabir, Radha and Sita and many more, we can’t squabble and let them down!
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Not just Mizos, all tribal communities in the Northeast are wary of inter-group marriages.
R. Sinha, Delhi
This refers to Everyone’s Favourite BJP Man (September 9) by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. In Arun Jaitley, India has lost a gentle political giant who had admirers across the spectrum and was respected even by rivals for his calm temperament and consensus-building approach. Despite all his contempt for “Lutyens’ Delhi”, PM Narendra Modi’s love for Jaitley, one of its elite, was well known. When the “outsider” Modi was gearing to rule the country in 2014, he picked Jaitley as the only “insider” he could bank on to negotiate the capital’s labyrinthine power circuit. He was someone who could articulate Modi’s line in both English and Hindi. He regularly wrote interesting articles and blogs explaining the rationale of Modi government’s decisions, and was pivotal to the party’s intellectual outreach.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
This refers to A King’s Ransom from the Iron Bank (September 9). The merger of public sector banks is the need of the hour and the government is indeed doing a good job in national/public interest. It is spending a huge amount of taxpayers/public money as capital infusion in public sector banks, which don’t generate jobs, nor support development. The merger will cut down public spending on such behemoths. What is the use of 2-4 branches of such banks within a short distance? The government can use the money to fund cash-strapped sectors such as health care, education, agriculture, infrastructure, and provide basic amenities to the poor.
Jagdip H. Vaishnav, Mumbai
The banks merger can save big money. For instance, we all have seen how some branches are overcrowded and some record only a few footfalls. The branches with a low turnout can be done away with. The rent and other costs of operating such branches—which is quite expensive— will come down automatically and the government will thereby save a lot of money. Besides, the bank staff can work in two-three shifts (to accommodate all employees after merger).
P.S. Nivritee Sreelekha, Secunderabad
This is not the first windfall that the BJP government has reaped in its tenure. In its first term, it gained a lot in taxes due to benign oil prices. Now, the transfer of Rs 1.76 lakh crore from the RBI to the Union government should be seen as a bonanza. Or is it robbing the RBI reserves? Out of the total amount, Rs 1.23 lakh crore is the RBI’s regular dividend payment to the government, which is a high figure going by the previous transfers. It is quite unlikely the government will again get this kind of bonanza next year. But surviving on the fiscal front via RBI bonanzas, and faltering when they don’t materialise, has been an integral part of India’s fiscal policy in the past few years. This can’t be sustained forever and should be avoided.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
This refers to Bloodless: The Great MSD Coup (September 2). The general perception in the Indian public’s mind is that the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A has led to a situation where the Kashmir issue is done and dusted. While assorted champions of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, from its former chief ministers to separatist leaders, stone-pelting youth and liberal intellectuals, lament the murder of democracy, the overwhelming support the BJP-led government garnered in Parliament and outside reflects the mood of the country, borne out of what has happened in J&K over the past seven decades. For many outside the state, it was a theatre of violence and bloodshed where our soldiers faced local militants and stone-pelting mobs, besides the jihadi brigades from across the border and the Pakistan army. The responsibility for safeguarding the state against infiltration and threats from across the borders would continue to be with the Union government. If the Union government can tread the path of integration through an open, inclusive development agenda with the same alacrity with which it changed the constitutional map of J&K, the Modi-Shah combine could script a new, welcome chapter in the state’s chequered history.
J. Akshobhya, Mysore
We did not mention the provenance of the images used in William Dalrymple’s essay (Seths Underwrote the Company Raj, Sep 16). The painting used on pg 61 (Fort William) is by George Lambert and Samuel Scott (British Library Board/Bridgeman Images); the painting on pages 62-63 (The grant of the Diwani) is by Benjamin West (British Library Board/Bridgeman Images) and the one used on pg 64 (Daulat Rao) is from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.