Nagaland: United voices against UCC continue

Dimapur, July 4 (MExN): Violations of the Indian Constitution, including fundamental rights, threat to diversity as well as the special constitutional provisions for the state of Nagaland were some of the commons issues cited as more social and religious organisations today joined others in declaring their stiff opposition to any proposal to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country.

Utopian dream with ulterior motive: CBCC 
The Chakhesang Baptist Church Council (CBCC) wondered why and how, the idea binding over 1.4 billion people together under one code was even conceived in the first place at the expense of India’s diverse unique cultures and multi-religious faith.

It is only a utopian dream with ulterior motive to disrupt the unity of the people by infringing the rights of the minority communities, the Council asserted in a statement.

Besides, it highlighted India's religious diversity, encompassing multiple religions with distinct customs, traditions, and personal laws, with further heterogeneity even within a single faith.

The UCC poses a threat to this diversity as it seeks to replace individual religious laws with a uniform code applicable to all, the CBCC stated.

The council further underlined that forcing people, regardless of caste and creed, to come under one civil code will only divide people than unite and added: “Uniformity neither brings unity nor ushers in peace but resistance because no community would like to be coerced or imposed upon it with something that is irrelevant."

“Ruling people by force will only force people to oppose the government.”

Further applauding States, political parties, NGOs, and others who are stiffly opposing the UCC, the CBCC stated that it firmly endorses the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) on the issue. 

If at all a UCC bill is to be passed, Nagaland must be excluded under its purview as Nagas are ‘distinct race by blood and birth’ with different cultures and traditions from mainland India, it added. 

Constitutional safeguards for Nagas will vanish under UCC: NCD   
In a representation to the Member Secretary of 22nd Law Commission of India (LCI), the Naga Council Dimapur (NCD) opined that the right of the Nagas guaranteed under the Constitutions of India will vanish “as and when UCC come into force.” 

Besides, the legislation and implementation of UCC in a multi-cultural and multi-religious country like India will violate the freedom of religion of minority communities, stated the NCD’s representation signed by its President Etsungmomo Kikon and General Secretary LK Peter Anal.

The UCC interferes with personal matters governed by religious, customs and lead to homogenisation that does not account for diverse cultural fabric of a nation, it maintained. 

It further highlighted that the NCD, the apex civil society organisation in Dimapur, was established in 1949 with the primary objective safeguarding the common interest of the Nagas.

As the commercial city of Nagaland, Dimapur is also inhabited by different sections of the people from every parts of India without any history of conflicts based on ethnicity, it said.

Accordingly, it also expressed apprehension that the implementation of the UCC could alter the diverse population and cultural landscape of the city. 

The ‘unity in diversity’ of diverse cultures, religion, languages and traditions is a remarkable phenomenon celebrated in India since ancient times and NCD pledges to carry forward this flame of love and respect for another irrespective of tribe, origin, colour, race, caste or religion, it said.

Hence, to preserve the phenomenon, the NCD urged the 22nd LCI India to exempt Nagaland from the UCC in the event of its implementation in India.

Further elaborating on Article 371 (A), it asserted that ‘Political Agreement’ in 1963 specifically mentioned that “No Act of Parliament shall apply to Naga religious or social practices, customary law and process, administration of civil and criminal justice.”

It is imperative that the UCC implementation should not infringe upon these constitutional rights and protections and existence of the Nagas as a distinct and indigenous people must be duly acknowledged by the Commission, it asserted. 

Further reminding that the first official written Memorandum submitted by the Nagas to the Simon Commission in 1929 was also on this line, the NCD asserted that it would “without any reservation and hesitation stands by the words and spirit of our forefathers” and reiterated to take guard for the generations to come.

UCC unconstitutional, disrupt social fabric: Rengma Hoho
The enactment of the UC would have significant negative implications on diverse society, personal laws, constitutional rights, and the unique identity of various religious communities, the Rengma Hoho (RH) stated in its submission to the 22nd LCI. 

In the submission to the UCC by its President Er Tesinlo Semy and General Secretary Shatilo Kent, the RH  stated that the UCC would infringe upon the personal laws and traditions being followed by various religious communities under the Indian Constitution, especially the Article 25, guaranteeing freedom of religion.

The one-size-fits-all approach would not align with the religious beliefs and customs of diverse communities and violate the constitutional provision, it said. 

The implementation of a UCC would disrupt the social fabric of India by disregarding the distinct customs and traditions of different communities, which coexist harmoniously, it added. 

Besides, the RH pointed out that a UCC would have adverse consequences on the other fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution such as  the right to cultural and educational rights of minorities (Art 29 and 30), and the right to equality (Art 14).

It is crucial to uphold and safeguard these fundamental rights of every citizen, including their right to follow their personal laws and customs, it said. 

More specifically to Nagaland, the RH pointed underscored the provision under Article 371(A) and stated that the implementation of the UCC without taking these into account would undermine the constitutional safeguards.

It is crucial to respect and honour these provisions while considering any legal reforms at the national level, it added. 

Accordingly, the RH noted that while the intention to promote equality and gender justice is commendable, it is imperative to find alternative solutions that respect the diversity, traditions, and personal laws of different religious communities as well as protect the multicultural fabric and rights of all citizens.

Be prepared to protect Nagaland: KTC to NLA
The Khiamniungan Tribal Council (KTC) also declared its strong opposition to the proposal to implement the UCC by affirming the principle of ‘unity in diversity’ while further urging Nagaland legislators to be thoroughly prepared in the event that the UCC becomes a law. 

The strength of India as a nation lies on the principles of secularism as laid down in its constitution, and it is crucial for the country to uphold and accept the diversity that exists amongst its citizens, stated a press release by KTC President M Thangou and General Secretary NMS Pakhiu

The UCC will extremely undermine the principles of freedom of religion enshrined in the Constitution of India and it will destroy the core of Indian spirit, it added. 

Further, in the event that the UCC is passed in the Indian Parliament and becomes law, the special provision with respect to the State of Nagaland given under Art 371(A) should be “fully operated, besides other provisions,” KTC stated. 

It is of utmost importance for all the 60 members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly to take the UCC matter very seriously and be thoroughly prepared to protect the State from such a law that could “completely destroy our identity, culture and tradition,” it added.