Regressive political and social forces which are in positions of power are undermining the foundations of Indian society and pose “a grave threat to the idea of India espoused by the freedom movement and spelt out in the Constitution”, said a resolution called the Bengaluru Declaration that was passed at the end of a three-day international conference on Dr B R Ambedkar.
Regressive forces with state power “are systematically dismantling the institutions that are the foundations of our society, by undermining India’s holistic welfare and affirmative action architecture and by destroying the pluralistic fabric of our nation”, read the declaration, put together by academics and participants at the conference organised by the Congress government in Karnataka. The conference ended on Sunday.
While assiduously avoiding direct references to BJP, RSS, PM Narendra Modi or recent incidents of violence over food habits, the Bengaluru Declaration has called for all governments in the country to uphold constitutional values and the rule of law. “The State must be unequivocal in its protection of fundamental rights and constitutional values. Irrespective of religious identities or institutional affiliations, the State needs to strictly reassert political and legal accountability for any violence. This is the only way to prevent lynchings and uphold the rule of law,’’ it said.
Academics from National Law School of India, Azim Premji University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, and policymakers were among those involved in drafting the declaration after broad consultations during the conference.
“Regressive social and political forces have consistently resisted and tried to undermine both the constitutional idea of India and the efforts of the State in the last 70 years. These forces also seek to homogenise India and restore the principles of hierarchy, patriarchy and fundamentalism that Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jagjivan Ram, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and other founders rejected,” it stated. “We need to address these concerns urgently, and resist these attacks boldly,’’ it added.
The declaration calls for a special law to prevent caste, religious and gender discrimination in educational institutions; reform or removal of laws that constrain freedom of speech, expression and individual rights, including laws on defamation, sedition, art/film censorship and social media; promotion of gender parity in Parliament and state Assemblies; and land for landless Dalits.
Many policies implemented by the Karnataka government are part of the recommendations in the declaration. “The declaration includes a significant part of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s AHINDA policy of social welfare schemes for minorities, Dalits and backward classes, and views of academics on the improving the condition of Dalits,” an academic involved with drafting the declaration said.
Despite political undertones of the Congress’s attempt to garner Dalits’ support through the event, the conference was a revelation for the community as well as the academics. “General public attended the event with academics. It is something I have not seen before,’’ said S K Thorat, professor emeritus from JNU.