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Indian Army Organizes Seminar on UCC in Kashmir, Then Cancels Event

Indian Army Organizes, then Cancels, Seminar on UCC in Kashmir
Photo: The Wire

A day after sending out an invite for a seminar in Kashmir on the Uniform Civil Code, the Indian Army on Saturday said it had been “cancelled due to implementation of the Model Code of Conduct”.

Titled ‘Navigating Legal Frontiers: Understanding Indian Penal Code 2023 and the Quest for Uniform Civil Code’, the “legal awareness seminar” was scheduled to be held at the Kashmir University on March 26. Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court, Justice Kotishwar Singh, was the chief guest, while the invite had gone out on behalf of Major General PBS Lamba, General Officer Commanding (GoC) HQ 31 Sub Area. J&K law secretary Achal Sethi was among the speakers at the event.

According to the event schedule, topics that were supposed to be discussed included “challenges and benefits of moving from a system of diverse personal laws to a uniform legal code”, “how a uniform civil code aligns with the principles of secularism and its potential impact on fostering social harmony in a diverse society”, “how uniform civil code may contribute to upholding individual rights and freedom”, and “specific reforms needed for family law and inheritance laws, highlighting the potential benefits and concerns associated with UCC”.

The proposed seminar drew criticism from former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

Omar Abdullah, vice president of the Jammu Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), tweeted on X regarding the army conducting an seminar on UC at Kashmir University, “Is it appropriate for the Indian Army to get involved in the divisive issue of the uniform civil code, and that too in a sensitive area like Kashmir? There is a reason why the Indian Army has remained apolitical and religious. This ill-advised UCC seminar is a threat to both of these basic tenets. Going ahead with this risks opening up the army to charges of getting involved in the murky world of politics coupled with interfering in religious matters.”

The Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP) also criticised the Army for conducting the seminar. “What we are seeing is the continuation of the trend of ‘Naya Kashmir’, in which the Army as an institution was seen as playing a partisan role and directly interfering in the political affairs of J-K,” PDP spokesperson Najmus Saqib said.

Later, the defence spokesman told PTI that the Army has nothing to do with the topic of the seminar. “We are only providing administrative help to Kashmir Jurists, who were organisers of this event,” Lt Col Sahu said. He said the invitations were sent out by the Army in “good faith” to facilitate an academic discussion.

The invite for the seminar to the media persons was sent by Srinagar-based PRO Defence on behalf of the General Officer Commanding, HQ 31 Sub Area, Major General PBS Lamba.

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