Orthodox Hindus label reformists as apostates
The Law Commission’s move to amend the colonial-era Hindu Law by including the elimination of gender discrimination with regard to the inheritance of property, has created divisions among reformist and orthodox Hindus in the country.
The commission has also suggested jail terms and fines for failing to register marriages within 15 days.
Aiming at eliminating discrimination with regard to gender, caste and marital status, the reform proposals include provisions allowing men and women to divorce and remarry, citing reasons mentioned in the law.
The division among the Hindu community has stalled the process of amending the law, according to Law Minister Anisul Haque. He has asked leaders of both groups to settle the matter among them.
Terming the traditional Hindu laws “discriminatory and unjust”, liberal Hindus have welcomed the proposals and urged the government to implement them at the earliest.
The newly formed Bangladesh Hindu Law Reform Council (BHLRC) has been arranging various programs to drum up support in favor of the amendment by citing the drawbacks of the existing law.
On the other hand, orthodox Hindus – led by Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote – are of the view that the traditional Hindu Law should be maintained.
Hindu Mohajote President Bidhan Bihari Goshwami told Dhaka Tribune: “The Hindu community will not accept any reform to the old and traditional Hindu Law.”
At a press conference on August 22, Secretary General Gobinda Chandra Pramanik asked the government to drop its plans to amend the law.
BHLRC General Secretary Pulak Ghatak thinks some Hindu leaders are opposing the recommendations to protect their vested interests. “But a majority of Hindus, the women, the marginalized Hindus and the Buddhists want reforms,” he added.
The BHLRC was launched on September 1, with a 101-member executive council.
At a press conference on September 3, its leaders asked the government to reform the traditional Hindu Law without delay and enforce the provisions of the law.
They mention that India had amended its Hindu Law multiple times to make it time befitting, but Bangladesh had been lagging behind.
The reformists say there were clear provisions in Hinduism on women being able to divorce and remarry, but women cannot do so under the existing Hindu Law of the country, which allows only husbands to marry as many times as they want. On the other hand, women cannot ask for divorce or remarry.
BHLRC President Dr Moyna Talukdar says the traditional Hindu Law is discriminatory towards women, children, people with disabilities and the transgender community.
“The Hindu Inheritance Act denies a daughter the right to her parents’ property, while the right to adopt also belongs to men; and they can only adopt male children,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
Labelling the reformists as apostates, another newly founded small group, styled “Hindu Paribarik Ain Shongshodhon Protirodh Ainjibi Shomonnoy Parishad”, is opposing the amendment.
It insists that the move by the Law Commission will destroy harmony among the Hindus and also lead to chaos in many families.