Unrealised justice project –

The impact of disrespect upon the Dalit community cannot be underestimated. Disrespect reinforces other injustices confronted by the community in everyday life. And it disrupts social relationships based on the reciprocal obligation to see each other as equal and as worthy of dignity. Disrespect demoralises and diminishes human beings and erodes their confidence to participate in the multiple transactions of society with a degree of assurance. Despite historical struggles against rank discrimination in words, verse, and collective action, despite acceptance of historical wrongs by the leaders of the freedom struggle, despite the mobilisation of the Dalit community, and despite affirmative action, caste-based discrimination continues to relentlessly stalk the political biography of independent India. Till today what caste we belong to continues to profile social relations, codify inequalities, govern access to opportunities and propel multiple atrocities. The project of justice remains unrealised. Indians have failed to secure justice for their own fellow citizens. It is time to express solidarity. Constitutional and legislative provisions and Supreme Court judgments are important, but they are simply not enough. If the right to justice is violated, citizens should be exercised and agitated about this violation. For this to occur, for society to feel deeply about violations of basic rights, the right to justice has to be underpinned by a political consensus. A consensus on what constitutes, or should constitute, the basic rules of society is central to our collective lives. A social movement geared to attack caste-based discrimination can remind us that denial of respect is a problem for non-Dalits as well.

Shrugging off indifference –

To put the issue starkly, if respect is compromised, the project of redistributive justice has borne inadequate results. One of the most essential goods human beings are entitled to, the right to dignity, has not been realised. For this right to be recognised, social movements that speak the language of equality for their own particular constituencies have to come together and support the idea of building a political consensus on what is due to all human beings, what should be done for them and what should not be done to them. We read of such movements in pre-Independence India. In independent India, the onus of battling discrimination has fallen onto the shoulders of Dalits. The rest of society wends its way without regard for the infirmities of its fellow citizens. We have to shrug off indifference and shoulder responsibility. It is only when we concentrate on the construction of a political consensus in society, that the uncomfortable distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that bedevils much of the case for remedial justice will dissolve. We have to do this because disadvantaged communities are not only likely to be economically deprived but also socially marginalised, politically insignificant in terms of the politics of participation as distinct from the ‘vote’, humiliated, dismissed and subjected to intense disrespect through practices of everyday life. Anyone who suffers from these multiple disadvantages will find it impossible to participate in social, economic and cultural transactions as an equal. Certainly, efforts have been made to repair historical injustice. But the ideology of discrimination continues to dominate despite a multitude of constitutional provisions, laws, affirmative action policies and political mobilisation. We can no longer assume that some redistribution of resources will lead to respect and self-respect. The politics of voice can achieve a great deal in the public sphere, but if the ideology of discrimination continues to shape social relations, much of the gains are lost. One of the most essential goods human beings are entitled to, the right to respect, has not been realised.





Meaning: Estimate (something) to be smaller or less important than it really is.

Example: “the government has grossly underestimated the extent of the problem”

Synonyms: Underrate, Miscalculate

Antonyms: Overestimate, Exaggerate


Meaning: Make or become less.

Example: “the new law is expected to diminish the government’s chances”

Synonyms: Decrease, Decline

Antonyms: Increase


Meaning: In an unceasingly intense or harsh way.

Example: “Joseph worked relentlessly”


Meaning: Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

Example: “factory workers voiced solidarity with the striking students”

Synonyms: Unanimity, Unity


Meaning: Support, justify, or form the basis for.

Example: “the theme of honour underpinning the two books”


Meaning: Used to describe an action that is intended to share money more fairly between rich and poor people.

Example: A redistributive budget.


Meaning: A general agreement.

Example: “there is a growing consensus that the current regime has failed”

Synonyms: Agreement, Concord

Antonyms: Disagreement

The onus

Meaning: The responsibility or duty to do something.

Example: The onus is on the landlord to ensure that the property is habitable.

Synonyms: Duty, Obligation


Meaning: Close down or dismiss (an assembly or official body).

Example: “the National Assembly was dissolved after a coup”

Synonyms: Disband, Dismiss

Antonyms: Establish


Meaning: Treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral.

Example: “by removing religion from the public space, we marginalize it”


Meaning: Make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and pride.

Example: “you’ll humiliate me in front of the whole school!”

Synonyms: Embarrass, Humble

Antonyms: Aggrandize, Glorious


Meaning: A large number of people or things.

Example: “a multitude of medical conditions are due to being overweight”

Synonyms: Host, Swarm