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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Assam annuls law allowing underage Muslim marriages, sparking controversy

"It's a first step toward bringing a Uniform Civil Code, but this is how the BJP government will come to an end in Assam," said a Muslim lawmaker from Assam

By Web Desk
February 26, 2024
A representational image shows the hennaed hands of a bride. — AFP
A representational image shows the hennaed hands of a bride. — AFP

In a dramatic move, Assam, India, has overturned an 89-year-old law permitting underage Muslim marriages, sparking intense controversy and accusations of religious polarisation from minority community leaders in the run-up to elections, AFP reported.

Assam, boasting the highest Muslim population among Indian states at 34%, has abolished the archaic Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, of 1935.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma declared the annulment on X, emphasising the elimination of provisions facilitating marriage registration below the legal ages of 18 and 21.

This decision aligns with Assam's broader objective of instituting uniform civil laws for marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance, echoing Uttarakhand's recent implementation of such laws.

Despite a nationwide patchwork of laws and customs based on religious or secular codes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vows to establish a Uniform Civil Code — a stance met with opposition from Muslims and other minorities in India.

Assam's chief minister, when queried about the potential implementation of a Uniform Civil Code before the impending general elections, stated, "Not immediately," maintaining a cautious stance.

Many of Assam's Muslims trace their roots to Bangladesh, sparking occasional tensions with the predominantly Hindu ethnic Assamese population.

The BJP, governing Assam and Uttarakhand, champions itself as a defender of ethnic communities.

Muslim leaders opposing the law's repeal deem it discriminatory, accusing the BJP of attempting to polarise voters and warning that this move could signal the beginning of the end for the BJP government in Assam.

Badruddin Ajmal, a prominent lawmaker from Assam, remarked, "It's a first step toward bringing a Uniform Civil Code, but this is how the BJP government will come to an end in Assam".