Updated: Jul 31, 2020
'This year we are celebrating 129th Birth Anniversary of Dr. BR. Ambedkar the following article will give insight into his life and thoughts about social justice.’
“Justice has always evoked ideas of equality, of proportion of compensation. Equity signifies equality. Rules and regulations, right and righteousness are concerned with equality in value. If all men are equal, then all men are of the same essence, and the common essence entitles them of the same fundamental rights and equal liberty...” In short, justice is another name of liberty, equality and fraternity.
– Dr. BR. Ambedkar
The above quote of Dr. Ambedkar clearly illustrated his vision of social justice which emanated from his longing for a just society which was established on the idea of a casteless society. The life of our father of Constitution is saga of his ascent from dust to glory and from the lowest hierarchical structure to the role of architect of Indian Constitution.
The Indian society has invariably been caste-ridden even after seventy years of our Constitution coming into force caste factor is dominant in every realm of life. Before Ambedkar era there were untouchable Hindus who were socially backward, economically underprivileged, politically repressed, religiously ostracised and indefinitely forbidden from educational and cultural opportunity. Ambedkar's strenuous but tenacious battle for the casteless society had two fold motives which were giving them dignity as well as respectful life and emancipation of dalits from the degraded work they were compelled to do. Social Justice and equality has always been the vision of our Indian Constitution, which says that the state should strive to secure a social order within the legal system of the country which nourishes equality of opportunity and particularly securing justice which is not denied to anyone owing to the economic or other social disability. In the ancient Indian society this notion was only concerned with the rendition of duties and not with the rights. There were two techniques Dandaniti and Dharma pertaining to Justice. Dandaniti was close to the modern notion of justice and law while the latter was concerned with duties which was nothing but ethical conduct within Dharma. The modern approaches for Justice can be evaluated as Liberal and Marxist. The Liberals assert that Individual's rights and freedom is indispensable for an egalitarian society. Whereas the Marxists believed that unless and until imbalances of the society are removed, society cannot become just.
The term Social Justice has two words 'social' and 'justice' Social means all the human beings who live in a society and spend their life in a coherent and interdependent way while Justice is related with Liberty Equality ( economic and political) and rights. Social Justice is thus concerned with assuring liberty, providing equality and maintaining individual rights for every human being of society or in other words providing them with equal opportunities for development. The main aim of Social Justice should be to eradicate all kinds of inequality based upon caste, race, sex, power, position and wealth. Social Justice promotes just social order which governs the attitude of people towards each other so that everyone discover satisfaction living in a society where no one is distinguished or unimportant but equal and are valued according to their accomplishment, skills and talent they possess. The principle of social Justice also talks about positive discrimination or preferential treatment to enable those sections of the society who have been deprived of social justice since ages and to bring them on equal ground with other citizens so that they could also lead a life full of dignity and better living conditions.
The ancient Hindu society: the Vedic era saw the emergence of four Varna's which found it's validation in the purushukta of Rigveda. This ancient literature classified humans into Four major Varna's depending upon their occupation which were - The Brahmana, The Kshatriyas, The Vaishyas, The Shudras which were believed to have been originated from the different organs of lord Bramha, the creator of universe. The belief of superiority and inferiority came in the later Vedic period which paved the way for harassment and social exclusion of lower Varna from society. They were deprived of various social rights and education was a far cry. The Hindu society has for long oppressed the people belonging to the lower strata but the privileges of the upper Varna's increased day by day. With the Brahmins becoming dominant they started considering others inferior this practice just evolved into casteism and untouchability which had to be stopped by someone.
Justice is a simple concept but the facts and circumstances makes it complicated. It has been examined and applied by various people from time to time with different perspectives relevant to their situations; one of them was Dr. Ambedkar. Who was born in a family which belonged to Mahar caste and was considered a lower caste from whom the upper caste Hindus kept themselves away as this was the belief that even the shadow of a person belonging to a lower caste could pollute them. In such a society to bring about a vital change Ambedkar had the power of his reasoning and thought with which he started questioning the injustice done by the privileged upper-caste Hindus. Slowly but firmly he emerged as a revolutionist against all odds like exploitation, suppression, imbalance, untouchability prevalent in the society. He worked for rights of Dalit, Women, Backward castes, minority and working class and suggested for minimum status and respect for all individuals irrespective of caste and class. Ambedkar was very much influenced with French revolutionary Rousseau and his three golden words” Equality, Liberty and Fraternity". Later he dreamt of such a society in which people had equality and liberty as well as people regarded each other like their own family members.
Dr. Ambedkar is thus regarded as modern day Manu who unlike the old Manu favored human equality and social justice. Ambedkar stood for such a society and social system which was based on equal relations between every individual in all domains of life. He never approved of mistreatment and injustice done by man to man in the name of religious belief. He favored the religion of morality and believed that caste system was the greatest evil of the mankind. According to him the centuries old Varna system was the root cause of all the exploitation.
Ambedkar sought for a social system which was based upon an individual's accomplishments and aptitudes and not upon his privileged birth conditions. Therefore he included lot of provisions while drafting our Constitution which guarantees preferential treatment for the down trodden for the socially oppressed and economically exploited fraction of the society. Article 17 of our Indian Constitution abolished untouchability, it also compels our states and the government to lay down legislative and constitutional provisions to help socially, economic and politically backward people to get justice and be included in the mainstream.
Unusual from his time and the popular and conventional perspectives, Dr. Ambedkar's reflections about social justice were very evolved and progressive which was apparently evident from his publications like Mook Nayaka, Janata and Samata Magazines’ where he expressed his concerns about the society and wrote about it's pathetic, inhuman behavior against socially, economically and politically impaired people.
In the contemporary period if there prevails any prohibitions on several social evils against women, laboring class or low caste people the credit goes to Ambedkar. It is one of his tremendous accomplishments that he made the lower caste people realize their own significance ,feel worthy and socially included. It is because of his arduous endeavors that SCs/STs have special reservation in the areas of education and public employment. The doctrine of reservation was only formulated to improve the advancement of centuries old downtrodden section of community. Several legal provisions and government policies have been made for the all-round development of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe people.
We should never disregard the struggles of various people who tried to fight back this social injustice and tried to aware other people on this vital issue of social justice. Today, Dr. Ambedkar is not with us but we should strive to achieve his vision of a society without social injustice. Even after 70 years of our independence we are still not independent from poverty, inequality, delay in justice redressal and violence against them. It is a bitter truth of big metropolitan cities that one can notice sky touching buildings and on the other hand thousands of people residing at the outskirts full of filthy drains and are compelled to survive as animals do.
In such a condition we can certainly interpret that India nonetheless has to go a long way. Ambedkar was moreover concerned about the full development of vulnerable sections of the society and chose to annihilate the caste system and its prejudiced pursuits through enacting the laws and the Constitution. Therefore his ideas of Social Justice remains valuable even in this contemporary scenario which is continuously functioning to uphold the rights, liberties and dignity of vulnerable people through constitutional and legal methods.