Gearing up for UCC, Assam decides to repeal Muslim Marriages Act ahead of LS polls

News Network
February 24, 2024

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Ahead of introducing an Uttarakhand-like bill on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), the Assam government has decided to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act of 1935.

The State Cabinet, which met late on Friday night, approved the Assam Repealing Ordinance, 2024, for repealing the British-era marriage and divorce Act specific to Muslims.

Tourism Minister and government spokesperson, Jayanta Malla Baruah told journalists after the meeting that the decision to repeal the Act was made as the State is heading towards the UCC.

“The Chief Minister (Himanta Biswa Sarma) has been clear about the UCC. So, we took the very important decision to repeal Muslim Marriage and Divorce Registration Act, 1935,” he said.

“Muslim marriages and divorces will no longer be registered under this Act. We want all marriages to be registered under the Special Marriage Act,” Mr. Baruah said, adding the Act was being misused for marriages of minors.

“We felt it was an obsolete pre-Independence Act that has lost its relevance today and we believe its repeal will be a big step against child marriage,” he said.

The minister said district commissioners and district registrars will be authorised to take custody of registration records currently in the custody of 94 Muslim marriage registrars on the repeal of the legislation under the overall supervision, guidance, and control of the State’s Inspector General of Registration.

“A one-time compensation of ₹2 lakh will be provided to each Muslim marriage registrar for their rehabilitation after the Act is repealed,” Mr. Baruah said.

Posting the Cabinet decisions on X, the Chief Minister said the provisions of the Muslim Marriages Act offer “scope for registering marriages of intended persons below 21 years (for males) and 18 years (for females) and there is hardly any monitoring for implementation of the Act”.

Among the other decisions made by the Cabinet was on protecting the land rights of the indigenous communities.

“For the protection of land rights of the indigenous communities, Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshi, and Gurkha communities are to be included in the list of protected classes of persons in the Balipara (north-central Assam) Tribal Belt who have been occupying the land prior to 2011,” the minutes of the meeting said.

“This will protect land rights of the indigenous communities who are bona fide Indian citizens,” it said.

The opposition Congress and the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) criticised the State’s BJP-led government for targeting Muslims through the “unconstitutional step” of repealing the Act.

Congress MLA Abdur Rashid Mandal said the Cabinet nod for repealing the Act dealing with marriages and divorces of Muslims was a deliberate attempt to cater to Hindu sentiments at the expense of the Muslim community.

“The Assam government could not bring in any Bill on polygamy or the UCC. So, they have targeted this Act although the Cabinet does not have the right to repeal or amend a constitutional right,” AIUDF legislator Rafiqul Islam said.

“This is a policy to target Muslims ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,” he added.

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News Network
April 11,2024

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The number of Palestinians arrested by Israeli military forces in the occupied West Bank has surged to 8,165 since October 7, when Israel launched its relentless offensive against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society and the Commission of Detainees and ex-Detainees in a joint statement on Tuesday said that over the past 24 hours, Israeli forces had arrested 20 Palestinians across the West bank.

The statement said that most of the arrests took place in Tulkarm, with additional arrests scattered across other cities, towns and refugee camps in the West Bank such as Beit Lahm, al-Khalil, Ramallah, Nablus, Tubas, and al-Quds.

The arrests were made amidst reports of widespread abuse, severe beatings, threats against detainees and their families, and extensive vandalism in citizens' homes and prisoners' residences in the Israeli prisons.

In the aftermath of the al-Aqsa Storm, over 8,165 arrests were made in the West Bank, with individuals including children being detained from their homes, at military checkpoints, coerced into surrendering, and even taken hostage, the statement revealed.

These figures do not include the thousands of adults and children the Israeli army has detained, tortured and interrogated in makeshift prisons across Gaza, outside any legal or civilian oversight.

Conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have allegedly worsened considerably, with detainees experiencing extreme overcrowding and limited access to essential rights, including food, water, electricity, medical care, family visits, and legal assistance.

Palestinian prisoner groups have repeatedly reported that Palestinians in Israeli prisons are being denied medical care, which pushes those jailed to the brink of death.

At least 10 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since Israel’s war on Gaza began, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA. But an investigation by Israeli daily Haaretz revealed that the number was actually at least 27. Rights groups put the number even higher.

Israel has intensified its attacks against Palestinians throughout the West Bank since October 7, when it launched a devastating war on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Since then, the Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 459 Palestinians from the West Bank, with over 4,750 others sustaining injuries.

In the span of the past six months, at least 33,482 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza. The relentless violence has also resulted in the mass displacement of the 2.3 million people inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.

Concerns have been raised regarding the fate of those who have gone missing, as they may be trapped beneath the rubble or confined within makeshift Israeli prisons.

The significant number of Palestinian detainees remaining in Israeli prisons is a crucial role in truce negotiations between Palestinian resistance group Hamas and Israel.

About 130 of the 250 Israeli captives taken during Operation Al-Aqsa Storm are still in Gaza after a provisional truce deal in December saw the exchange of a number of prisoners between the two sides.

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News Network
April 13,2024

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New Delhi: Seventeen Indians are on board an Israeli-linked container ship that has been seized by the Iranian military amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel.

Official sources said India is in touch with Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure the welfare and early release of the Indian nationals.

The Iranian action came amid increasing fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israeli soil in retaliation to a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 12 days ago.

"We are aware that a cargo ship 'MSC Aries' has been taken control by Iran. We have learnt that there are 17 Indian nationals onboard," said a source.

"We are in touch with the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure security, welfare and early release of Indian nationals," it said.

Reports said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards seized MSC Aries on Saturday morning when it was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

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News Network
April 5,2024

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New Delhi: The Congress has released its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, with jobs creation, development of infrastructure, and a national caste census among the major highlights.

The manifesto was released in Delhi by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, who was flanked by senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram - who led the committee that drafted the document - was also present.

"This manifesto will be 'nyay ka dastavez' (a document for justice) in the political history of the country. From the five pillars of the 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' - yuva (youth), kisan (farmers), naari (women), shramik (workers), and hissedari (equity), 25 guarantees will emerge... ," Mr Kharge said.

The overall theme of the manifesto is based on 'work', 'wealth', and 'welfare', the party said.

"'Work' means you must provide jobs. 'Wealth' must be created before it is distributed. 'Welfare' means taking care of the poorer sections," the Congress said.

Silent on CAA

While the manifesto is silent on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and restoration of Article 370, the party promises immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

Caste Census

One of the biggest talking points is the caste census - a political hot topic that has been in the headlines since the Bihar government's statewide survey was released in November.

The 48-page document promises to amend the Constitution to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, with Caste Census providing the latest data to go ahead with the affirmative action. Addressing land issues, the party also pledges to establish an authority to monitor the distribution of government land and surplus land under the land ceiling Acts to the poor.

MSP for Farmers

The party has also promised to implement MSP, or minimum support price, for farmer growing cash crops. The MSP issue has been at the heart of protests by farmers since 2020, when lakhs from across the country went on a months-long agitation against the centre's (now-scrapped) three farm laws.

The Congress has said it will give a permanent legal guarantee for MSP - a core demand for protesting farmers - based on the formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

"Congress has been the only party that has lent its ear to the distress of the farmers and farm labourers, and we are determined to do everything possible to alleviate their pain and make agriculture a desirable livelihood," the party said, attacking the BJP's response to the farmers protest as "callous and brutal".

Poverty

The party also vowed to eliminate poverty by improving the fortunes of 23 crore people over the next decade. Mr Chidambaram attacked the BJP as a "government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich", and said it is "driven by the interests of the top 1 per cent".

"... but we will look at the bottom 50 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent is as important. It has been estimated 23 crore people are still poor in this country. The UPA lifted 24 crore people out of poverty and we promise, if the Congress-led government comes to power in 2024, we will lift 23 crore in 10 years."

As part of this promise - and to empower women - the Congress said it would launch a 'Mahalakshmi' scheme to provide an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the oldest female member of every poor family.  Beneficiaries will be identified as those from the bottom level of the income pyramid.

Inequality of income and opportunity remain India's ugliest truth. It is the moral and political responsibility of any government to ensure that every family is assured of a basic income every month, the party said.

National Security, China

The Congress said it "recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims, but by quiet attention to borders and resolute defence preparedness".

The party said it would work to restore status quo on the country's borders with China and "ensure areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers".

This has been seen as a direct jab at the BJP over the military stand-off with China in parts of eastern Ladakh following violence in June 2020 that, the opposition has repeatedly claimed, led to New Delhi surrendering territory to Beijing.

On diplomatic tension with Maldives, the Congress said it work to "repair relations".

Healthcare

Universal free healthcare, including cost of diagnosis, surgery, and medication, will be made available, the party said. This will come with cashless insurance up to ₹ 25 lakh, like the model implemented in Rajasthan, when the Congress was in power.

"We promise that healthcare will be universal and free in public health centres, such as hospitals, clinics, PHCs, MHCs, and dispensaries, as well as health camps. Free healthcare will include examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation, and palliative care."

The Congress said it would also establish Assisted Living and Care Centres for disabled people and provide representation for them in local bodies.

Other Major Points

In a move likely to resonate strongly among unemployed youth struggling with massive loan debts, the party said it would "as a one-time measure of relief" write off all student educational loans, including unpaid interest. This amount will be calculated as on March 15.

Banks will be compensated by the government, the Congress said.

The party said it would also introduce a law to "recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community".

The Congress said it would amend laws to "combine the efficiency of EVM and transparency of ballot papers". "Voting will be through the EVM but the voter will be able to hold and deposit the machine-generated voting slip into the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit," the party said.

2024 Lok Sabha Election

The election will be spread over seven phases beginning April 19. Votes will be declared June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP - which is yet to release its manifesto - are bidding for a third consecutive term.  They face a combined challenge from the opposition, which has united (for the most part) under the INDIA banner led by the Congress. 

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