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Stop Entertaining Superiority Complex of the Majority, Says Cardinal Cleemis

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

After the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) decided to boycott the Law Commission questionnaire on Uniform Civil Code (UCC), one of the most prominent leaders of the Christian community has now said that by raking up this issue, often left untouched by the previous governments, the present government has misplaced priorities “when there are other aggravating issues such as poverty and rural-urban divide staring at us”.

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Debayan Roy

New Delhi: After the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) decided to boycott the Law Commission questionnaire on Uniform Civil Code (UCC), one of the most prominent leaders of the Christian community has now said that by raking up this issue, often left untouched by the previous governments, the present government has misplaced priorities “when there are other aggravating issues such as poverty and rural-urban divide staring at us”.

Speaking exclusively to News18, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, says, “The timing of bringing up the issue of UCC has been wrong. We have other higher priorities like poverty eradication, rural development, education of the poor, and upliftment of the backward communities. This issue of a uniform code certainly calls for a dialogue, but maybe, in the long run, the priorities are clearly different.”

ALSO READ: Implementation of Uniform Civil Code Impossible, Says Congress

Amid brewing uncertainties among various communities since the government declared its idea of discussing and implementing a Uniform Civil Code, Cardinal Cleemis says instead of a uniform code, the priority of the government should be to implement a ‘Uniform Civil Programme’, which would entail development work in various sectors so that the country could “become the superpower it is aiming to be”.

“The UCC certainly does not come first while discussing ways to develop the present population. Then why resort to this controversial concern now?”

“We should aim at a uniform programme to eradicate poverty, accelerate urban development and work towards reducing rural backwardness,” he says.

Recently, there have been deliberations within the legal community about the repercussions of such a code and if it would affect the personal laws of various communities. Cardinal Cleemis sought to allay such fears within the Christian community, but pointed out, “We are open to suggestions of reforms and a dialogue on this uniform code, but we will not tolerate any deviation from the Constitution. The Constitution must be followed in its entirety.”

His statement comes closely on the heels of a heated debate on whether such uniform code would be in conflict with Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom to practice and propagate one’s religion.

In March 2016, Fox News World reported that anti-Christian violence in India was at an all-time high with nearly 30 incidents of religiously motivated violence against the community in just over two months. Cardinal Cleemis says that until a healthy relationship exists between the religious and the political community, such incidents would be hard to tackle.

“If a Hindu is attacked, we need to feel his pain beyond being a Christian or a Muslim. We should stop entertaining the superiority complex of the majority. Government must work towards making people believe that India has space for everyone without adjustments or compromise,” he says.

Cardinal Cleemis says that while the Catholic Bishop Conference of India would look into the Law Commission questionnaire and was open to a “dialogue”, he says the discussion would also take into account the “fear prevalent among the other minority communities”. AIMPLB member Maulana Wali Rahmani has said the questionnaire is biased against Muslims.

“If other communities feel that the UCC would prove to be a danger to them, then we are sympathetic to their fears. All of us have the right to practice and propagate our religion, and there should be no system which would create a fear in our minds with regard to our existence.”

Cardinal Cleemis says that if the freedom to believe in any faith fails to exist, it would be detrimental to the political parties as well. “If reform is the objective of the UCC, then that reform has to come from within the community first. But the freedom to believe in any faith must not die, because in that case even some political parties would not exist.”

When asked about the government’s “noble intention” to bring equality through the UCC, Cardinal Cleemis says, “Before you come and clean my house, let me clean it first. Let me put it in order. Then, you are welcome.”


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