“Those who think and reflect and those who dream of building a better society …” – thus begins Pramod Ranjan’s Editorial Essay that leads this Social Justice special issue. All too often the focus, certainly in the headlines and breaking news, is on the activists, whether they be a Hardik Patel of the Patel-Patidars in Gujarat or RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s controversial comments on “reviewing” reservations in the midst of the recent Bihar assembly elections. However, if we are to grasp the multidimensional concept and practice of social justice in India we need to dig deeper; we need to think and reflect, even to dream new dreams.
This special issue of FORWARD Press has much to offer by way of going behind and beyond the news headlines on social justice issues. It spans the length of India – from Jammu & Kashmir’s OBCs (A.K. Basotra) to a survey of social justice movements in south India (T. Thamaraikannan), stopping along the way to look at Gujarat’s Patidar agitation and the Marathas’ unresolved demands for reservations. One fact that emerges across the board is that the current social justice issues revolve mainly around OBCs and those groups who wish to be categorized as such.
A fresh dimension to the discourse is highlighted by Anoop Patel and by Yuvraj Sakhare in their articles on the Patel-Patidars and the Marathas respectively. The former concludes that “For the last decade or so, the non-Dwij castes have been demanding reservations. … They no longer want to remain tied to the apron strings of the Dwij Savarnas. The unsuccessful attempts by the Marathas (in Maharashtra) and Jats (in Haryana and at an all-India level) to secure reservations should be seen in this context.” The latter quotes Shrawan Deore, secretary of Save OBC Reservation Committee, who says the only solution is for the Maharashtra government to pass a resolution in the assembly to remove the 50 per cent ceiling.
Still, most of the current discourse remains within the rut of reservations, seeking ways of carving up more and bigger slices from the shrinking pie of public sector education and employment. There is a need to deepen and widen the discourse on social justice. Digging deeper will find us rubbing up against the inconvenient truth that the Indian worldview – especially Brahmanic – does not set high value on equality and social justice. If we within the Bahujan family cannot agree among ourselves on the root of this social disease, we cannot hope to find a cure for this cancer. The Indian human-creation myth, together with the commonly believed idea of human reincarnation (based on karma), feeds into the popular imagination and sustains an unequal and unjust society.
Some of the fundamental work of social reconstruction begins with thinking, even dreaming, differently. Until India embraces a new human-creation narrative, that all men and women are created equal, we shall not be able to dream like Martin Luther King, Jr, who in his famous 1963 speech said, “I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. … I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal’.”
In our generation will there be a (Martin Luther) King to all the non-Dwij Bahujans? Until then let us all dream and think and work towards social justice.
Published in the January 2016 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine