Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine
Individual vs group
(The Indian Express Editorial)
The Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention,
Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2016), which received presidential assent last
week, is an acknowledgement of a basic principle of citizenship and justice: The
social contract in a modern democracy is between the state and the citizen, and
crime and punishment must be defined between these two parties.
Like in many other parts of India, caste panchayats in Maharashtra have
wielded extra-judicial authority and Indian citizens have been ostracised, even
killed by “community” actors despite breaking no laws. That the BJP-led Devendra
Fadnavisgovernment has criminalised such actions is a welcome first step. Moving
forward, it needs to politically address the climate of prejudice and
intolerance that forms the backdrop of a community justice that encourages
vigilantism and exclusion.
The Social Boycott Act was brought in in response to sustained movements
provoked by atrocities against individuals by gaviks or caste panchayats in
Maharashtra. A large number of these incidents were in response to inter-caste
marriages. Four years ago, the “honour killing” of Pramila Khumbharkar sparked
outrage and murdered rationalist Narendra Dhabolkar was among those who led the
movement demanding legislation that specifically tackles feudal forms of mob and
The new law addresses loopholes in existing laws that were used to thwart
justice. For example, it ensures that trials are completed within six months
from the date a report is first filed. The Act also penalises individuals or
groups who try to prevent others from accessing places of worship, certain
professions or even certain forms of dress and public behaviour. In essence, the
law asserts the freedom of the individual over the social group they belong to.
The legislation does, however, fall short when it comes to addressing
inter-community social ostracism — for example, the denial of housing to
minorities, or attacks on them for their diet and dress.
While the Indian Constitution has given a pride of place to individual rights,
the unit of public discourse and political practice has often been the social
group. In debates on caste injustice, secularism, women’s rights and even access
to public spaces, it is the ascriptive identity rather than the notion of the
individual liberty that is often at the forefront.
The Fadnavis government, in addition to legislation, must now take the lead
in changing the tenor of public discourse. It cannot be seen to, for example,
legitimise, even tacitly, vigilantism and violence in the name of cow
protection, or impose dietary restrictions in the name of “community
sentiments”. That, as much as the law itself, will display a political will to
safeguard the rights of every citizen.
(Source- The Indian Express)
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