ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dharma and Adharma

A Persisting Contradiction within Indian Democracy

The point of departure of this article is B R Ambedkar’s observation, when presenting the draft Constitution, that India was entering a “life of contradictions.” One such contradiction, between the noble pronouncements of the Supreme Court, especially in the last four years, and the lived reality of vulnerable groups, as illustrated by the four cases discussed, is considered. The coexistence of these two worlds of light and darkness is questioned.

An earlier version of this article was presented as the Second Sri Ramakrishna Hegde Memorial Lecture, on 31 August 2018, at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru. The author would like to thank Jos Chatukulam for his invitation to deliver the lecture. The author is also grateful to his colleague Rakesh Pandey for adopting his usual role as an intrepid interlocutor.

In his last speech to the Constituent Assembly, when presenting the Draft Constitution on 25 November 1949, B R Ambedkar (2016) pronounced that India was “entering a life of contradictions.”1 In the speech he pronounced three warnings. This article is a reflection both on the “first warning” and the “life of contradictions.”

The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal
of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us. (Ambedkar 2016)

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Updated On : 5th Apr, 2019
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