Saturday, October 25, 2014

A UNIFORM CIVIL CODE?

This was first published on Jan-2007.  How much has the situation changed?
What is this Uniform civil Code? Is it possible? Reasonable? Soon after Independence, Hindu inheritance laws were codified to give weightage to the females of the family. Later others ‘favoring’ women have been added.
Despite this codification, dowry continues. Daughters’ inheritance remains as dicey as when the Christian community battled for those rights in the Courts.
 Meanwhile daughters have already been made as responsible for upkeep of aged parents as their brothers.
Would the promulgation of a Uniform civil Code push the conservative elements off center stage and allow women their rights? Much of the focus has been on the "plight" of Muslim divorcees, especially victims of talaq, talaq, talaq.
In that community, the order of male relatives who must support the woman has been laid down. Whether they do so or not, is another matter altogether. 
But what of our Hindu women, rejected by in laws and parents alike, consigned to the flames, dead or alive? How many Muslim dowry deaths have been recorded to-date?
Will the Uniform Civil Code lay down an equitable formula for permissible quantum of dowry, whether presents, streedhan or plain and simple greed? Despite the Dowry act, and numerous fiery dowry deaths, giving and taking of dowry flourishes under official aegis, Prime Ministers and their Deputies attend lavish weddings and the TV routinely advertises goodies for the marriage of your laadli and insurance policies to pay for that. The dowry cancer has spread into the Muslims and Christians; now even into the North East where matriarchy was the norm. 
Under the Uniform civil code, where will dowry go? Which customs will be adopted and promulgated as the All India Dowry Code; what then will happen to those auctions of civil services grooms, irrespective of caste and creed?
Another grey area is Marriage. Will a uniform civil code imply:
' equal rights for all the citizens of the country ?
' Hindu rights for all the men
OR, judging by the noise being made,  'Muslim rights for all men and the freeing of Hindu men from the onerous yoke of the Hindu Marriage Act that banned polygamy?’
Not that Hindu men have turned monogamous. Statistics reveal quite the contrary. A 1975 Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India, indicated that during 1931-41, 1941-45, 1951-61, the percentages of polygamous marriages among Hindus stood at 6.79, 7.15 and 17.98 per cent.
Another 1961 census survey revealed that the incidence of polygamous marriages was found to be highest among the tribal communities ( 15.25%), Buddhists (7.97%), Jains 6.72%, Hindus 5.8% and Muslims 5.7%. Clearly Hindu men were giving their Muslim brethren a run for their money at the matrimonial stakes, irrespective of legislation and so-called social stigmas.
Social stigmas are an eye-wash, what with second marriages with the permission of the first wife, contract marriages in the form of Gujarat's innovative Maitri Karars and living-in,  etc.    It still remains to be seen how many marriages doomed by low fertility or male impotence will be saved by infertility cures and surrogacy.
Then  Divorce:   “What will be the All India Divorce passport?”
Now, the clincher:
If Indian men demand uniform rights in the number of legal wives, why shouldn't the ladies also claim similar rights, given the quality of manhood that survives?
To be truly uniform, the Civil Code must offer equal rights to all the citizens of India, irrespective of caste, creed or sex. That could also mean that women, like the men of India, will be entitled to four legal marriages. That is just one short of the Mahabharatian five of the legendary Draupadi, who is more of a role model for contemporary Indian women than the sanctimonious Sita and her copious tears.  After all, like Sita, Draupadi also followed her husbands into the obscurity of the forests for 14 years, a favorite number of our epic writers apparently.
Draupadi was smart enough not to fall into enemy hands, need to be rescued at great expense to health, life and limb;  yet the pre-historic equivalent of a World War is attributed to her, instead of the vain egoes of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas; this renders her non-too-popular with the Maryada Purshottam lobby.
When the Indian republic was founded on the premise of bringing under one umbrella all the myriad cultures and sub-cultures in the Indian peninsula, the slogan was "unity in diversity".
Why now this assiduous search for Legal Strait Jackets in Marital Matters? 


Hindu Muslim Sisterhood

This morning I shared an expose on Hindu monogamy and then got thinking.
On paper Hindu women have as many, if not more rights than Muslim ladies. The key words are: ON PAPER.
As a matter of fact, how many women actually claim their inheritance?  How many ask for khulla (Islamic divorce asked for  by the lady)? How many get it or divorce if married under the Special marriages Act?
A man doing reluctant ‘justice’ to an unwanted wife would be perhaps more distasteful than total neglect. Dealing with  a ‘saut; is never a pleasant(Sic) exercise. Social and family pressures are as onerous on both sides.
Instead of pointing fingers at each other, it may make more sense to come together as a sisterhood aiming at enlightening society to the incremental benefits of a more level playing field between men and women.
In this, it is women across all social and other divisions who can play a decisive role as mothers and grandmothers in instilling in tender minds respect for all, especially the female of the species; teaching our boys that their sisters are their equals,  that bhabhis, cousins and later wives are not for bullying and beating etc.  Cut out all that bull  about stepmothers, about saas bahu and bhabhi nanad, about aurat hi aurat ki dushman etc. etc. 
That new outlook could perhaps even rebound onto the older men … at least some, if not many?

New Year mean new beginnings, doesn’t it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Restoration after Andhra and Kashmir floods

Cyclone Hudhud’s fury left behind much more damage than Kashmir, on account of much higher levels of infrastructure in Andhra.   In Kashmir, the scariest issue was border security.
Thankfully, Andhra and its tech minded CM Naidu are  gung ho about planned rebuilding to stave off future havoc from the annual cyclones, taking essential services and communications underground and minus that massive glass fronts that only smash or heat up in crises.
India’s long experience in disaster management recently evolved into a ‘science’. When a warning translates into  people in low lying areas evacuated into temporary quarters in municipal schools on higher ground.  These are poor sections with few possessions, bundles as precious as their little ones. Food packet preparation is galvanized; ditto vaccination shots etc.  Its all part of the drill.   The almost annual uprooting means that every one, but everyone’s aspiration is to somehow own a pucca house.
Exceptions are the fisherfolk whose assets are their boats and nets which are worth a small fortune to them – hence many refuse to leave them for fear of theft.  Yes, disasters do tend to bring out the worst of humanity too. Perhaps that is why so many Kashmiris refused rescue.

Why then were the papers and media so full of the floods in Kashmir for weeks?  Many still are!                           Why?                               Guess what?
In the Kashmir Valley, the poor affected were outnumbered by the middle class and rich who make more noise.  Do we see any pictures of tumble down kaccha houses collapsed? Or of the damage to the houseboats and the shikaras which played their role in rescue too?
Media was dominated by muck filled bungalows of elite areas of Srinagar, damages quoted in double digits of lakhs and crores at each. These people can not be rehabilitated with a government dole, food packets, vaccinations and some materials to rebuilt their homes!  They need a whole lot more – hence the noise. 
Unfortunately most post reek of offense over rescue or help from neighbors, rather than some government official.          My dear country people, we have to help each other. Long before any govt. fellow comes along, it is the next door neighbor who extends a helping hand.  A Gujarati saying: “Pahelo sago to Padosi”…the neighbor is the first relative.

Meanwhile while waiting for government funds to kick in, let’s start our own Operation Clean Up.  It could just generate more jobs for the poor to put all those beautiful houses and gardens back in order.  But the Valley will definitely regain its glory; after all, every other part of India does it too, in fairly quick order. Leh was flooded in 2010; it sprang back.

It is very sad that the Valley had to suffer from the inability to get over the craze of concrete constructions to showcase ‘development’.  That shut off all run offs and the pressure meant the embankments gave way, flooding the city, including the elite pride of Srinagar.

Disaster offers improved cities as will happen in Andhra… essentials and communications to be taken underground and new buildings minus those explosive glass fronts. Incisive restoration planning is needed. Witness: bombed Berlin, restored to pre World War exquisite architecture.
That will only happen when the community joins hands with the government, meaning Kashmir with Ladakh and Jammu which comprise the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Some quick advance planning to create recycle old assets into brand new ones would work wonders in setting the state on its feet again.   
May be, just maybe, that new religious tourism circuit, with Islamic shrines, Buddhist ones which would get Japanese support and Hindu ones, such as Vaishno Devi and the Nanda temples all receiving  tourists to fill the state coffers, if plans are drawn up quickly before the status quo-ists win the day and the relief monies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BRAVO SALMAN RUSHDIE


He’s at it again, tilting against the windmills that kept him underground with a death threat fatwa.     In a recent speech, Rushdie drew on his ‘language making ‘ skills to throw up the term ‘mangled’ language of ‘jihadi cool’.

He blamed ‘mangled language of religion’ for creating extremism amongst British Muslims, supposedly refugees from the terror in their own home countries.   Acknowledging that the mangling of language by religion was primarly Islamic—specifically the Salafist movement backed globally by Saudi Arabia, he also threw arrows at the Christian extremists in America and the Hindu extremists for their respective contributions.
However what , he says, made matters worse was the addition of ‘jihadi cool’, described as deformed hate-filled medievalist language of fanaticism, backed by modern weaponry, that  has made angry young men the most dangerous new weapon of today’s world.

I liked his conclusion best:
“If I don’t like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don’t like mine. Ideas cannot be ringfenced just because they claim to have this or that Fictional Sky God on their side”

There speaks Rationality.


JUSTICE DELAYED


We often talk of how the public suffers when justice is delayed horrendously.
Here is a classic:  justice delayed by almost a quarter of a century for a former chief minister!!   Yes, believe that folks!
He is a former chief minister of Gujarat, a distinguished well informed person whose team planned all the development which has now born fruit as the so called “Gujarat model”.
The gentleman,  Mr. Madhavsinh Solanki had the misfortune of being kicked upstairs to Union Foreign Minister and sent to a Davos summit, which got him involved in the huge furor over Bofors kickbacks.
What exactly happened in those halycon days of the Bofors scandal has never came to light to date. Mr Solanki had handed his political baton to his son and battled severe health issues.  Now, finally, after the Bofors case was nixed in Delhi’s courts, he managed to secure a hearing for his petition challenging the accusations against him and
HOLD YOUR BREATH
The fact that the delay of 22 years has been a violation of his fundamental right to have a speedy trial.
All would be litigants, please note the additional ammunition being offered to you!!
Let’s see how long or how short this case will carry on.