[WSMDiscuss] Inclusion and the Right to Dignity

Umakant uk4in at yahoo.co.in
Mon Apr 9 19:18:18 CEST 2018

Dear Friends

Greetings! On thelink given below and also pasted below you could read an opinion piece by Prof.Neera Chandhoke on the need for inclusion and the right to dignity. 


Do circulate it inyour circle/network



With Regards and InSolidarity 

Umakant, Ph. D 

New Delhi




Inclusionand the right to dignity 

Neera Chandhoke,Opinion>>Lead, The Hindu, April 09, 2018 



Theonus of battling discrimination must not fall on the shoulders of Dalits alone 


On the morning of April 3, the front pages of newspaperstold us of violent protests by Dalits innorthern India the day before. They had opposed the dilution by the SupremeCourt, in its order of March 20, 2018, of the Scheduled Castes and ScheduledTribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Blazing headlines and accounts thatfollowed told us how many people had been killed and injured, about innumerableacts of arson, of the blocking of trains, closure of shops and the calling inof Central forces in some States. Sadly, the tone of most reports wasdispassionate, soulless and bare. They might have been recounting a tale of aprivileged group inflicting violence on geographical and human landscapes forthe noble purpose of lowering taxes.


But we need to go beyond headlines and ask why a vulnerablecommunity took to the streets. Think of its desperation, how it has lostconfidence in the ability of Indian democracy and now the judiciary to give itjustice, how the promises of the Constitution have been blatantly and vulgarlybetrayed, and how it has been subjected to repeated indignities, reiteratedinsults and bodily harm by citizens of this great Republic. Worse, its ownleaders have let it down.


If the leadership had faithfully discharged its mandate ofrepresenting the needs of Dalits, the represented would not be living livesthat are best described as subhuman. In January 2016 the death of RohithVemula, in July 2016 the public attacks on Dalits in Una, and earlier this yearattacks on celebrations of the historic Bhima-Koregaon battle in Maharashtrashowed up in great detail the flaws of our body politic. How many moreindignities does the community have to suffer? How long will non-Dalits beindifferent to this suffering? It is time to reflect. What has gone wrong withthe project of justice that independent India initiated with a flourish? Whathas gone wrong with our own sensibilities? It is time to agonise and to feelshame.


Uneven results

Affirmative action policies centring on the politics ofpresence have certainly contributed to the repair of historical wrongs. Theadvantages of these policies are, however, unevenly spread out. Theconstituency of affirmative action has benefited in bits and pieces. Forinstance, we see the making of an educated and professionally qualified Dalitmiddle class. A Dalit movement has succeeded in prising open worlds that forlong had been closed to the community. Activists have seized the right to voicethrough collective action, and now influence and even shape, public debates.


Today, Dalits write their own histories and biographies. Avibrant literary movement denounces the ostracism of an entire community frommainstream society, and chronicles the nerve-racking experience of beingtreated as an outcaste. Challenging prevailing literary conventions, rewritingthe script of literary and poetic production, inserting the community intocritical narratives of the Indian nation, and intent on representing their owncommunity, writers have profoundly dented the way we think of others and ofourselves.


This genre of literature has gained considerable acclaim.English translations of Dalit literary works, for example Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan(2003), Narendra Jadhav’s Untouchables (2005), and Baby Kamble’s ThePrisons We Broke (2009), have expanded the canon of post-colonialliterature and aesthetics in Indian and western universities. And, above all,electoral politics, affirmative action and the space afforded by civil societyfor mobilisation have enabled a suppressed community to recover agency andspeak back to codified power. Yet caste-based discrimination persists insignificant areas of social interaction. In short, the one vital good that thejustice project tries to secure — respect/self-respect — continues to eludeattempts at repair of historical injustice.


Unrealised justice project

The impact of disrespect upon the Dalit community cannot beunderestimated. Disrespect reinforces other injustices confronted by thecommunity in everyday life. And it disrupts social relationships based on thereciprocal obligation to see each other as equal and as worthy of dignity.Disrespect demoralises and diminishes human beings and erodes their confidenceto participate in the multiple transactions of society with a degree ofassurance. Despite historical struggles against rank discrimination in words,verse, and collective action, despite acceptance of historical wrongs by theleaders of the freedom struggle, despite the mobilisation of the Dalitcommunity, and despite affirmative action, caste-based discrimination continuesto relentlessly stalk the political biography of independent India. Till todaywhat caste we belong to continues to profile social relations, codifyinequalities, govern access to opportunities and propel multiple atrocities.The project of justice remains unrealised.


Indians have failed to secure justice for their own fellowcitizens. It is time to express solidarity. Constitutional and legislativeprovisions and Supreme Court judgments are important, but they are simply notenough. If the right to justice is violated, citizens should be exercised andagitated about this violation. For this to occur, for society to feel deeplyabout violations of basic rights, the right to justice has to be underpinned bya political consensus. A consensus on what constitutes, or should constitute,the basic rules of society is central to our collective lives. A socialmovement geared to attack caste-based discrimination can remind us that denialof respect is a problem for non-Dalits as well.


Shrugging off indifference

To put the issue starkly, if respect is compromised, theproject of redistributive justice has borne inadequate results. One of the mostessential goods human beings are entitled to, the right to dignity, has notbeen realised. For this right to be recognised, social movements that speak thelanguage of equality for their own particular constituencies have to cometogether and support the idea of building a political consensus on what is dueto all human beings, what should be done for them and what should not be doneto them.


We read of such movements in pre-Independence India. Inindependent India, the onus of battling discrimination has fallen onto theshoulders of Dalits. The rest of society wends its way without regard for theinfirmities of its fellow citizens. We have to shrug off indifference andshoulder responsibility. It is only when we concentrate on the construction ofa political consensus in society, that the uncomfortable distinction between‘us’ and ‘them’ that bedevils much of the case for remedial justice willdissolve. We have to do this because disadvantaged communities are not onlylikely to be economically deprived but also socially marginalised, politicallyinsignificant in terms of the politics of participation as distinct from the‘vote’, humiliated, dismissed and subjected to intense disrespect throughpractices of everyday life. Anyone who suffers from these multiple disadvantageswill find it impossible to participate in social, economic and culturaltransactions as an equal.


Certainly, efforts have been made to repair historicalinjustice. But the ideology of discrimination continues to dominate despite amultitude of constitutional provisions, laws, affirmative action policies andpolitical mobilisation. We can no longer assume that some redistribution ofresources will lead to respect and self-respect. The politics of voice canachieve a great deal in the public sphere, but if the ideology ofdiscrimination continues to shape social relations, much of the gains are lost.One of the most essential goods human beings are entitled to, the right torespect, has not been realised.




(Neera Chandhoke is a former Professor of Political Science at DelhiUniversity). 


My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality. 
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