NEW DELHI -- The Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, organized its annual Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere Fourth Memorial Lecture on “Defending India’s Democracy; Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” 

Mr. Harsh Mander, Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India as well as a social activist and writer delivered the lecture on the theme. The Institute was honored to have Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at 

Jawaharlal Nehru University, as the Chair of the programme. Apart from many other dignitaries, about 200 people from all walks of life participated in this programme.

In his lecture on the four pillars of the Indian Constitution, Justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, Mr. Mander called upon the audience to evaluate the threats that these four pillars face in the India of today. He said that India continues to be a land where millions are not able to escape the fatal accident of their births. India continues to be a land where what you are born, man or woman and where you are born, into which family, which caste, which religion and so on, determines the rest of your life for most of the populations.

Social inequalities of caste and gender continue to dominate our socio-economic life. The economic models that we have chosen, of neoliberalism, is ultimately helping to expand private business at the cost of the rights of workers, farmers and tribal people’s land. There is an environment of tribal dispossession. He said that justice cannot be ensured to the majority by institutionalizing and legitimizing injustice of a smaller number. 

He said that one of the greatest strengths of a democracy to preserve or protect the right to dissent is also under attack in the India of today. Anyone who is unhappy or has dissent with the economic model on the ground of women’s rights, on the grounds of justice and equity is now described as against economic sovereignty and therefore he or she is an anti-national. He called upon the gathering to recognize the injustices embedded in various laws like the AFSPA. Inequality is considered as appropriate in the world that we live in. We have so much normalized inequality among us that there is the dramatic transformation in our notion of a good State. The normalization and legitimization of inequality has also led to a changing idea of a good State. More significantly,

 the consequences of being at the bottom of the inequality in India is more painful, because the majority at the bottom do not have access even to minimal health care, decent schooling etc. Even the total percentage of young people who can complete college in India today is not more than 7%.

The last but an important pillar of the Constitution, Fraternity, gets mostly forgotten. Referring to its various meanings, Harsh Mander said that it is an idea of friendship, mutual respect, caring for each other and of accepting each other in all our diversities. It is not about tolerating but it is about celebrating and understanding. It is first and foremost the idea of solidarity and mutual belonging in order that the injustice and pain that the other suffers should concern me. 

It is also the idea of empathy which is first an act of imagination and then an act of feeling. However, we create such separate worlds from each other in the India of today that it is hard for us even to begin imagine. He said that “to me the idea of being Indian is that you should not have to conform in any way in order to belong. You should be free to be yourself in every way, in your worship, in your language, in your dress, in your sexuality and in all your choices and yet belong equally.” 

The four pillars of our Constitution, which are closely inter-related, are under assault. And he said that the pillar that is most under assault is fraternity and therefore we need to claim it more vigorously. Harsh Mander called upon the gathering to recognize how inter-related these four pillars of our Constitution are. With all these assaults, India still remains a robust, vibrant and colorful democracy and there is still hope.

Indian Social Institute, New Delhi founded in 1951, is engaged in research, training, action and advocacy in socio economic development and the promotion and protection of human rights of particularly the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the most Backward Castes, the Minorities, the unorganized and landless laborers and women. Fr. Paul G. worked in Indian Social Institute for more than 25 years. Therefore, Indian Social Institute has instituted this memorial lecture in his memory.

Post a Comment Blogger Disqus