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Promotion of Ethnic, Racial Equality in India

Promotion of Ethnic, Racial Equality in India
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Dar Shahid Hussain
Social exclusion refers to ways in which individuals may become cut off from full involvement in the wider society. It focuses attention on a broad range of factors that prevent individuals or groups from having opportunities open to the majority of the population.
In order to live a full and active life, individuals must not only be able to feed, clothe and house themselves, but should also have access to essential goods and services such as education, health, transportation, insurance, social security, banking and even access to the police or judiciary without any discrimination.
India like most societies has been marked by acute practices of social discrimination and exclusion. At different periods of history protest movements arose against caste, gender and religious discrimination. Yet prejudices remain and often new ones emerge.
You might be aware about the impact of colonialism on Indian society. What discrimination and exclusion mean was brought home to even the most privileged Indians at the hands of the British colonial state.
Such experiences were, of course, common to the various socially discriminated groups such as women, dalits and other oppressed castes and tribes. Faced with the humiliation of colonial rule and simultaneously exposed to ideas of democracy and justice, many Indians initiated and participated in a large number of social reform movements.
In the late twentieth century, Indian political activities went off in many new and variant directions. One of these was the politics of ethnicity and race. The political stage became filled with groups and associations, defined by reference to common features of caste or religion or vernacular culture, each battling for political rights and/ or social status in relation to one another.
Sometimes indeed most often, such movements claimed to be responding to perceived oppressions which they sought to escape by promoting equity with in a continuing ethnically ‘plural’ social order or by pursuing autonomy through territorial separation.
Occasionally, however, aims were rather different and centered on the attempt by one group to legitimate claims to political dominance or superior social status over others. Movements of this type have come to establish a permanent place in the politics of India.
The Constitution abolished untouchability (Article) and introduced the reservation provisions. The Prevention of Atrocities Act revised and strengthened the legal provisions punishing acts of violence or humiliation against Dalits and Adivasis. The most important state initiative attempting to compensate for past and present caste discrimination is the one popularly known as ‘reservations’.
In addition to reservations, there have been a number of laws passed to end, prohibit and punish caste discrimination, especially untouchability. One of the earliest such laws was the Caste Disabilities Removal Act of , which disallowed the curtailment of rights of citizens due solely to change of religion or caste. The most recent such law was the Constitution Amendment (Ninety Third Amendment) Act of, which became law on rd January.
Various other efforts in this regard have been made in recent past like Shashi Tharoor introducing a private member’s bill (drafted by Tarunabh Khaitan) in , while the Centre for Law & Policy Research drafted and released an Equality Bill last year.
Thus legislation alone is unable to transform society or produce lasting social change. A constant social campaign to change awareness and sensitivity is required to break them State action alone cannot ensure social change.
Human beings are always capable of organising and acting on their own – often against very heavy odds – to struggle for justice and dignity. Various such efforts, increasingly active on the political, social and cultural fronts needs to be pace up and try to find the solutions on the modern lines so that we will somehow magically transform ourselves into the kind of nation that B.R. Ambedkar envisioned.

 

 


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