Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit on Monday claimed that Manusmriti has categorised women as Shudras, which is “extraordinarily regressive”, The Indian Express reported.

The Manusmriti is a Hindu scripture authored by an ascetic named Manu. The text has been widely criticised for its gender and caste-based codes. Among the sections on social classes in the text, the one on Shudras is the shortest. Artisans and labourers are associated with the class.

“No woman can claim she is a Brahmin or anything else,” Pandit said. “I believe it is only by marriage you get the husband’s or the father’s caste on to you.”

She made the remarks during her keynote address at the BR Ambedkar Lecture Series organised by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in New Delhi.

Pandit was speaking on the topic “Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s Thought on Gender Justice: Decoding the Uniform Civil Code”.

In her address, the vice chancellor also claimed that Hindu gods do not belong to the upper caste, the Business Standard reported.

“Anthropologically, scientifically… please look at the origins of our gods,” she said. “No god is a Brahmin. The highest is a Kshatriya. Lord Shiva must be a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe. Because he sits in a cemetery with a snake… They have given him very little clothes also to wear. I do not think Brahmins can sit in a cemetery.”

In her speech, Pandit also referred to the death of a nine-year-old Dalit boy in Rajasthan, after allegedly being beaten up by his teacher for drinking water from his pot on July 20. The boy succumbed to his injuries at a hospital in Ahmedabad on August 13.

“Please understand, this is a question of human rights,” the vice chancellor said. “How can we treat a fellow human being in such a way?”

On uniform civil code

In her address, Pandit also said that the implementation of a uniform civil code in the country would be the greatest tribute to gender justice, PTI reported.

A uniform civil code involves a common set of laws governing marriage, divorce, succession and adoption for all Indians, instead of allowing different personal laws for people of different faiths.

“It is pertinent you cannot have a minority having all the rights when the majority does not, sometime you will have a backlash that you will not be able to handle,” she said, according to PTI.

She also said that unless we have social democracy, India’s political democracy will remain a mirage.

“Goa has a uniform civil code which was imposed by the Portuguese so there are also Hindus, Christians and Buddhists and everybody has accepted it so why is it that it is not being done,” she remarked. “Uniformity of laws, their accomplishment as per the constitution, meant making people progressive and broad-minded to accept the laws put for the society.”