On the fifth episode of The Leaflet’s podcast series, our host Gursimran Kaur Bakshi interacts with legal researcher and author, Saumya Saxena on her newly launched book, titled ‘Divorce and Democracy: A History of Personal Law in Post-Independence India’ published by the Cambridge University Press.
Saumya is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge and a Postdoctoral Associate at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is a legal historian interested in family law, religion, and gender politics in India. She writes on women’s movements, secularism, and law in late-20th and 21st century South Asia.
In the podcast, Saumya explains how she was able to deal with the idea of divorce in a non-judgmental manner by bringing different actors of the state and institutions to the forefront. The author by mapping the trajectories of marriage and divorce laws of Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities in postcolonial India, explores the dynamic interplay between law, religion, family, minority rights and gender in Indian politics.
Saumya recognises that personal laws were premised on the ostentatious divide between the public and private spheres. She answers why the state has a political desire to regulate the intimate sphere of the family. She also goes on to explore the relationship between divorce and secularism, which according to her is pertinent to understand the role of electoral politics in shaping the different interpretations of personal law and the debate around the Uniform Civil Code in postcolonial India.