(Continued from Aug 28 issue: https://highlandpost.com/ucc-for-meghalaya-and-north-east-india-2/)
As a religious group the Khasis are animists; they believe that natural things like plants, animals, rocks, water bodies, etc have spirits and can influence human events, in short they believe in the spirit world. Every superstitious custom has originated from some natural coincidence, and it is this event that is behind the traditions they have based their moral customs upon. To cause the people to release themselves from these customs is dangerous, even more injurious for the community than for the individual.
Every tradition and custom has grown to be more and more vulnerable even before any outside religion was introduced to the people. No one asks why a particular custom is adopted any longer, it is forgotten but they still treat it with reverence. No religious group, except Hinduism, with its Brahmanical taboo of beef has tried to draw the Khasis away from their traditional systems and this must be prevented. Even the Muslim Khasi have no aversion to pork. Mutual respect and acceptance has been the guiding principle.
The UCC shall establish as a code the way of life of the societies in the North East.
- The UCC shall once and for all codify the Land Tenure Systems of Meghalaya and the Land Transfer Act of Meghalaya in particular and the rest of North East India in general wherever such laws exist.
- The social customs of the Khasis shall be encoded. And the custom of the Khasis is well known by now. They are Matrilineal – children adopt mother’s title, Matrilocal – son in law goes to live in wife’s house, Junior-most daughter is the inheritor of hearth and home and these form the basic structure of the Khasi community – they cannot be altered. It is therefore imperative that regardless of who marries a Khasi woman the child from such a marriage must necessarily adopt the mother’s title. The husband must join his wife in living with her parents. And the UCC must extend the application of our customs so that any child born from the union of a Khasi man and a non Khasi woman can take the father’s title and thereby become a Khasi. Sexual discrimination in marriage and family names must be settled once and for all.
- The religion of the Khasis must not be violated by Christianity, Islam or Hinduism and the people, regardless of their religion, are one in this regard. One does not become a Muslim, a Hindu or a Christian by what one eats…that is a subject of faith and the objective of the UCC is not to interfere with one’s faith – it should stay that way. The UCC must set this way of life into a statutory law; anything else will only divide the people.
- There are a few hard truths and it will be our endeavour to tell them plainly. The number of single mothers has become a sore spot in the society in North East India and this must be tackled in a uniform manner. The UCC shall ensure that every marriage is registered, that every child born of wedlock or out of wedlock has both parents. No child shall ever have to face the embarrassment of living without either parent ever again.
- The tribal status of the citizens of North East India has become an argument, because a tribal in State “A” is not necessarily a tribal in State “B” and there is every likelihood that there will arise a time when the tribes shall come into conflict with one another if their tribal status is not clearly codified by law. Therefore the UCC shall codify into a law that tribals of the North East shall be regarded as tribals and enjoy the benefits of their tribal status only so long as they reside in the State of their respective tribe.
- In the case of Inter-tribe marriages the couple shall be given the opportunity to opt for the tribe of their choice during the marriage, and that shall be binding for life upon the couple.
- All judgements passed on the matters mentioned herein by any Court shall be honoured as if they were pre-existent in the UCC.
- The UCC must take note of the special nature of the North Eastern Region and try to assimilate the area and not disintegrate it. Just as the demand for a UCC to establish the Khasi way of life into a statutory law on the lines stated above, the UCC must approach in a similar manner the characteristic feature of the Nagas, the Mizos the Manipuris the Arunachalis and all the other communities in the North East, according to their way of life. The Commission is reminded of the fact that these States signed an Instrument of Accession with the Union of India in 1948…they never merged with the Union.
- With regard to Meghalaya, just when Statehood was attained with tremendous fortitude and overcoming, the State introduced a Reservation in the employment Policy among the citizens. The UCC shall codify the removal of any and all reservations among the communities within the State. The UCC shall establish a merit based system for employment among local candidates though weightage may be provided for knowledge of the local customs and language. This shall be similarly adopted throughout all the States in North East India
- Schools, hospitals and vocational institutes established by religious groups shall do away with any quota in admission based on religious background.
- An unambiguous distinction between religion and the State must be spelt out in the UCC and a definite separation of the two provided so that there will be no further religious intolerance in India. The UCC must spell out and encourage multiculturalism.
We have taken the first step and boldly placed our demands on what we think the UCC should concentrate and codify into a law for North East India. We have stated our case and justified the same without holding back the truth. Our consciousness for the need of a UCC has grown and we believe we have kindled a light for the Commission to see that which has all along been hidden from view. Now it is for the Commission to follow the way of the light to bring prosperity, peace and progress.