British-era Muslim marriage act declared invalid in Assam

The state cabinet of Assam, India, approved the Assam Repealing Ordinance, 2024, for the annulment of the British-era Marriage and Divorce Act specific to Muslims.

Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday asserted that he will not allow child marriages in the state and will repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935 as long as he is alive. He also pledged to eliminate child marriage in the state before 2026.

“Hear me carefully, as long as I am alive, I will not let child marriage take place in Assam. I will not let this happen as long as Himanta Biswa Sarma is alive…I would like to challenge you politically, I will shut down this shop before 2026…We will not rest in peace until we completely close the shop that you people (Congress) have opened to ruin the daughters of the Muslim community,” the Assam CM said in a fiery speech in the House as reported by Hindustan Times.

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

The decision aligns with Assam’s broader objective of instituting uniform civil laws for marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance as described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which aims to establish a Uniform Civil Code — a stance met with opposition from Muslims and other minorities in India.

Assam’s chief minister, when inquired 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.
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”.

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