UCC debate: Namboothiripad’s 1985 article puts CPM in fix

In a 1985 article, Namboodiripad advocated for Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

MALAPPURAM | Updated: 17 July, 2023 12:14 pm IST
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury speaking at a gathering in Kozhikode on Saturday.

MALAPPURAM: It was a paradoxical moment for Left parties and their ideological apparatus on June 15 at Kozhikode when Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitharam Yechury opposed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) which was once endorsed by communist doyen EMS e.

During the anti-UCC seminar, supported by Muslim groups like Jamiyyathul Ulama, Yechury affirmed the party’s position by endorsing the 21st Law Commission report, which stated that the law was “unnecessary and undesirable” in a diverse country like India. He accused the government of fueling Hindu-Muslim polarization and attempting to transform the secular democratic republic into an intolerant Hindutva regime.

As CPI (M) continues opposing UCC tooth and nail, a statement attributed to Namboodiripad, the first chief minister of Kerala, in an article published in a weekly magazine in September 1985 has surfaced online. Published in CPI (M)’s mouthpiece ‘Chintha’, Namboodiripad echoed his views on the need to reform personal laws in India.

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His clarification had come in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shah Bano case, which addressed maintenance for divorced Muslim women.

In his column, he attempted to reconcile the party’s position with that of T Devi, general secretary of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association, an affiliate of CPI (M). Devi advocated for the implementation of the UCC. Namboothiripad emphasized that both the party and its women’s organization shared the goal of social change.

“We both agree that the country’s social life should be reformed by abolishing uncivilized practices pertaining to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession. The women, in particular, are very interested in this. The CPI (M) fully supports the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code as projected in Article 44, which benefits all groups, including Muslims subject to primitive traditions and customs,” he wrote.

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Ironically, the CPI (M), currently in power in the state, is now conducting seminars and rallies against the UCC with the support of various Muslim organizations. They perceive the BJP government’s proposed UCC as a political tool ahead of the 2024 elections.

Meanwhile, the Congress state leadership has also planned separate rallies and seminars to address the proposed UCC legislation by the central government.

With less than a year until the national polls, debates and discussions surrounding the UCC law will dominate politics in North Kerala, where the majority of Muslim organizations have taken critical positions on the matter. The CPI (M)’s conflicting stance may present challenges for the party as it navigates through the UCC debate.

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