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Indian state passes uniform marriage legislation opposed by Muslims as a Hindu code applied to all

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — An Indian state has approved an unprecedented uniform code for marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance for Hindus, Muslims and other religious communities under new legislation that also requires couples that live together to register with the government or face punishment.

Northern Uttarakhand state lawmakers passed the legislation on Wednesday and its approval by the state governor and the Indian president is seen as a formality before it becomes law in the state. Muslim leaders and others oppose the Uniform Civil Code initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu Nationalist party saying it interferes with their own laws and customs on such issues.

India, the world’s most populous nation with more than 1.4 billion people, is comprised of around 80% Hindus and about 14% Muslims. Muslims accuse Modi’s right-wing nationalist party of pursuing a Hindu agenda that discriminates against them and directly imposes laws interfering with their faith.

“This is a nefarious political design to drive a wedge in the society on religious lines,” said Yashpal Arya, an opposition Congress party lawmaker.

Pushkar Singh Dhami, the top elected official in Uttarakhand state, said: “The new legislation is not against any religion or community, but will bring uniformity in the society.”

Other states ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party are expected to introduce similar legislation. If the BJP wins national elections expected in April or May, it may bring such legislation at the federal level.

The new law bans polygamy and sets a uniform age for marriage for men and women — 21 and 18, respectively — across all religions and also includes a uniform process for divorce.

Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other minority