Professor Purushottama Bilimoria of the Center for Dharma Studies at the Graduate Theological Union delivered the Dharma Endowment Lectures on January 17-18, 2017, at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, the Pontifical Athenaeum of Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law in Bengaluru, India. His topic was “The Ethics of Personal Law in India: Religion, Minority Rights, Legal Pluralism, and Uniform Civil Code.”
Since the 1980s, personal law—the right of religious and ethnic minorities to determine their local practices and policies—has been at the center of a debate in India’s pluralistic democracy. India’s predominantly Hindu, North Indian, middle class favors a secular Uniform Civil Code for all India, arguing that it is a mandate of the Indian Constitution. Yet many minority communities contend that such code would eliminate more than a century of autonomous, local, legal practices. Professor Bilimoria’s lectures discussed a wide range of issues concerning the Constitution and the Uniform Civil Code, including the British colonial underpinnings of the present legal situation, the practical mapping of legal issues raised by personal law and the Hindu Code Bill, and the impact of religious and social policies on women.
During his time in India, Professor Bilimoria also appeared as a featured guest on an episode of SynTalk, a podcast produced in Mumbai. You can listen to the episode, which focused on ethical and philosophical issues surrounding suicide in the context of the emerging debate on euthanasia and India’s growing “graying population.”
The Dharma Endowment Lectures were established at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram in 1996 for the purpose of integrating religion and philosophy in contemporary times. Past speakers include Ninian Smart (1997), William Sweet (2001), Kenneth Tanaka (2003), Rajan Gurukul (2008), and Aruna Roy (2015).
Purushottama Bilimoria is a Senior Lecturer and Core Doctoral Faculty Member at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. His research includes classical Indian philosophy and comparative ethics, continental thought, cross-cultural philosophy of religion, diaspora studies, bioethics, and personal law in India.