The proposed Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code, scheduled for introduction in the state assembly next week, is set to fully exempt the tribal population of the state from its provisions.
The bill is expected to exclude the state's notified Scheduled Tribes, who make up about 2.9 per cent of the population.
Prominent tribes in Uttarakhand include the Jaunsari, Bhotiyas, Tharu, Raji, and Buksa.
In these tribal communities, practices such as polyandry and polygamy are still observed, albeit less commonly now.
The Uttarakhand UCC committee had engaged in discussions with these tribal groups regarding the uniform code.
Initially, there seemed to be substantial support among the tribal communities for the proposed changes, Economic Times reported citing sources.
The younger generation within these tribes had indicated that while traditional practices like polyandry and polygamy were common in the past, they are now rarely practiced, leading to a general acceptance of the proposed reforms.
However, tribal and ethnic groups in various states, particularly in the northeast, have been vocal in their opposition to any civil code that might interfere with their traditional customs and lifestyles.
Last year, Union ministers sought to reassure tribal communities that the UCC would not affect them.
Sushil Modi, the Chairperson of the parliamentary panel on law and justice, also supported the idea of excluding tribals from the UCC.
This exemption in the Uttarakhand UCC is politically significant, especially with the Lok Sabha elections approaching, as tribal populations form a crucial voting bloc in several states.
This is particularly relevant as the Uttarakhand UCC is expected to be a model for similar legislation in Assam and Gujarat, both of which have significant tribal populations.
The Assam Chief Minister recently stated that while its UCC will be based on Uttarakhand's model, it will not apply to tribal groups. However, no such exemptions are planned for other communities or segments.
Under the new Uttarakhand UCC, Muslim practices such as Halala, Iddat, and Khula in divorce and remarriage will be deemed illegal, with the code stipulating that divorce and remarriage should only occur through legal proceedings in courts.
The code in Uttarakhand will also require the compulsory registration of live-in relationships and grant full succession rights to children born from such unions.
A five-member panel led by retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjana Desai is set to submit its report and the draft Bill/Code to the state government on 2 February, with the government expected to present it to the Assembly on 5 February.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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