Legislate secular civil laws applicable to all communities, demands Irfan Habib Eminent historian Professor Irfan Habib seems to be batting for a Uniform Civil Code. During an event marking 25 years of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), he demanded that the governments â€” both at the Centre and in the States â€” legislate secular civil laws applicable to all communities. While speaking on â€˜Secularism: In Theory and Practiceâ€™, Prof. Habib said: â€œThe present position that personal law is sacrosanct must be opposed.â€ At present, matters related to marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and property rights of religious communities are guided by respective personal laws. Prof. Habib said there should be a clear cut distinction between prescriptive and permitted elements of personal laws. Giving an instance, he said just because Muslim personal law permits four wives, does not mean it prescribes or, worse, recommends that. Arguing for primacy of civil laws over personal laws, he said the government should strike down the permitted provisions of personal laws which go against the idea of equality between men and women. Making a significant point that personal laws governing different communities in India have a common feature â€”they are all gender-biased â€” he said the purpose of uniform civil laws should be gender equality. For instance, the law pertaining to succession among Hindus is unequal in the way it treats men and women, he added. The perception that uniform civil code will necessitate changes only in the Muslim personal law is quite incorrect as Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other personal laws too will have to change, he added. Prof. Habib also batted for mainstream public education for Muslims. Pointing out that minority institutions are not religious institutions, he said: â€œThey must remain secular as the principle applies to every citizen and all institutions.â€ On what Muslims need, he said: â€œMuslims are normal people. Give them normal, mainstream education and not madrassa education. In a secular State, there is no doubt every citizen should study in a secular school.â€ Former Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Prabhat Patnaik, who was moderating the session on historical perspective on secularism, said the struggle for secularism cannot be compartmentalised. The movement against the corporate financial elite is a part of the struggle for secularism, he added. Speaking on â€˜Secularism in Contemporary Timesâ€™, civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad explained how the Right-wing propaganda replaces terms denoting important democratic processes in the popular media. She questioned the role of the media in not questioning and deconstructing â€˜pseudo-secularismâ€™, a term coined by BJP leader L.K. Advani. Arguing that one needs to discuss all aspects of democracy and not just electoral democracy, she sounded a note of caution about the country heading towards â€˜mobocracyâ€™. Ms. Setalvad said the Indian state prefers not to engage with the democratic tendencies within the minority groups as it would endanger its hegemony. Dealing with parochial groups, like clergy, serves its larger purpose of perpetuation of stereotypes.