The Gloating At Others Discomfiture- New India
Last week there were two significant judgments delivered by the supreme court of India. The first was on the constitutional validity of the right to privacy where the judgment affirmed that right to privacy is a fundamental right. And in the very same week the judges pronounced that personal laws are no longer valid by striking down the triple talaq law under Muslim personal law. Now the two may not seem related at first glance but lets dig a little deeper to see what this means at ground level. In fact to digress a bit there are those who are celebrating both the judgments without realizing that they are both contradictory. The first one is an instance of executive over reach being corrected by judicial over sight and the second one is an example of judicial overreach (with the full connivance of a double-speaking executive) which has used the judiciary as a stalking horse to achieve a backhanded assault on personal laws and right to privacy.
Now disregarding the feminazis who will celebrate anything which makes life harder for men (like easier divorces) and disregarding the usual Muslim baiter’s who will celebrate anything which will annoy or inconvenience the average Muslim citizen of India, the real reason people should be afraid of this judicial over reach is that based on this judgment any and every personal or religious belief/freedom/personal law is open to censure by the courts and government. I was so forcefully reminded of this by the Jallikattu movement a few months back when a few offended animal rights activists invaded the personal law space of Tamil pride and got jallikattu banned through the supreme court. Now jallikattu might be a regressive practice in the eyes of a few volunteers working with animals but does it give them the right to impose their will on a million others under the garb of the court’s orders? Invading personal laws of various religions is pretty similar when you come to think of it- tomorrow any person can state that they are offended by this or that particular practice – say tying a mangalsutra on a woman’s neck (just for an example) as a regressive practice under Hindu personal law and have the supreme court ban it. Will it end there? There will be more and more invasion into the personal laws of people based on the whims and fancies of whoever rules us or based on lobbyists influence with the powers that be.
I remember reading somewhere that Sardar Vallabhai Patel warned Nehru against meddling with Hindu personal laws as opening up a can of worms and it’s taken us all these years to find out that the Sardar was bang-on right and Nehru was wrong, as usual. That single instance of unwanted meddling with hindu personal practices was the catalyst which fanned the flames of hindutva renaissance all through these years and has atlast brought the current party to power capitalizing on the hindu community’s feeling of being selectively targeted by politicians which might or might not be true but you cant play with people’s emotions with intellectual arguments based on the view from the lofty heights of Lutyen’s Delhi or western mores.
If only Nehru had listened to the Sardar’s words and just declared all personal laws as invalid from (or sacrosanct as the case may be) instead of selectively targeting Hindu personal laws for reform we would not have seen such communal polarizations and religious riots today in our country. The root cause of all this evil lies solely there in the mists of forgotten history when our first prime minister tried to reform Hindus from without instead of waiting for them to reform from within. This left, in my opinion, a feeling of being sinned against in the Hindus who instead of blaming the politicians (the Congress collection of St.Stephens crowd) who had tried to pit one community against another for their own narrow political needs instead took to venting their ire on fellow sufferers like Muslims and Christians under the erroneous belief that they enjoyed more religious freedoms that the Hindu’s were denied using the law as a tool to bludgeon the Hindu community.
And the politicians succeed in driving a wedge between hitherto peaceful communities for political gains and the same successful formula has been used ever since by every mainstream political party to reap electoral rewards while us citizens of India despite our religions and differences end up being made fools of. Fools enough to not protest against executive or judicial over reach even into the sanctity of our personal relationships leave alone personal laws. And future generations will probably say the same thing about us that we accuse them of- that we were mute spectators and applauded inwardly (envy/hate – are two sides of the same coin), the judicial invasion of another communities personal laws. Now nothing is personal anymore in our new India. And we are all in danger of being legislated or judged out of our beliefs and ways of existence which has stood the sanctity of time.