Tamil Nadu

“Politics of social justice at deep impasse”

M and E A Trust Chairman C.T. Kurien, handing over the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for distinguished contribution to Development Studies to President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta, at a function in Chennai on Monday. M and E A Trust Executive Trustee H.B.N. Shetty (left), and MIDS Director Maria Saleth, are in the picture. Photo: R . Ravindran

M and E A Trust Chairman C.T. Kurien, handing over the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for distinguished contribution to Development Studies to President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta, at a function in Chennai on Monday. M and E A Trust Executive Trustee H.B.N. Shetty (left), and MIDS Director Maria Saleth, are in the picture. Photo: R . Ravindran  

The politics of social justice is at a deep impasse, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president and Chief Executive of the Centre for Policy Research, said on Monday.

The fear that constitutional anonymity must not draw a veil over inequality had led to the constitutionalisation of caste. While caste had provided a ready locus and measure of equality, its price had been a move away from the ideals of Indian constitutionalism and the essence of democracy in two respects – reinforcing the tyranny of compulsory identities and reducing justice to crude and limited measures of power sharing. But, caste became the locus of politics of equality in part because there was deep structural pessimism about addressing other forms of inequality. The gains in growth and poverty reduction, achieved through the ongoing profound changes, were very real and widespread. But, the changes did not, by themselves, address the politics of social justice.

Prof. Mehta was delivering a lecture here on the politics of social justice after receiving the Malcolm Adiseshiah award. Stating that the institutionalisation of caste as the basis of equality had interesting consequences, he said it was a form of legitimising class difference. Since there were limited instruments to achieve deep equality, class was now seen almost as a legitimate form of inequality. There was no serious discourse on the relationship between justice and discrimination, which was partly due to the fact that the category of discrimination was specific to the Dalit experience. But, the appropriation of the Dalit narrative by other communities had meant that power sharing rather than discrimination had become the central normative category in the thinking on justice.

C.T. Kurien, chairman of the Malcolm and Elizabeth Adiseshiah Trust, presented the award to Prof. Mehta.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 2:08:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ldquoPolitics-of-social-justice-at-deep-impasserdquo/article15712461.ece

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