Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar once argued that “a nation is not a people synthesised by a common culture derived from common language, common religion or common race…Nationality is a feeling of oneness which makes those who are charged with it feel they are kith and kin…It is a feeling of “consciousness of kind”…it is longing to belonging to one’s own group. This is the essence of what is called a nationality and national feeling”.
Giving shape to that vision, and stemming from their experiences of the freedom struggle, our founders consistently strived to forge a “consciousness of kind”. They ensured that each one of us was accorded equal opportunities to live with dignity and security, to have equitable access to a better life, and is an equal partner in this nation’s growth. This has been the foundation of India’s rapid growth in the last 70 years.
If India is to continue to rise to ever greater heights in the next 70 years, we must further the promise of the nation to all Indians through creative policies and constructive politics. We can only do that by:
To actualise the above mentioned goals, it was decided to seek recommendations to deepen and further the promise of India. Leveraging the platform provided by the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar International Conference, held from the 21-23 of July, 2017, the Bengaluru Declaration is a compilation of recommendations received from consultations held with academics, activists and policymakers, from discussions held at the Conference and from ordinary citizens across India. This Peoples’ Declaration hopes to be a dynamic blueprint that addresses the needs and aspirations of all Indians, and a starting point for an “alliance of equity” of all progressive forces committed to safeguarding the idea of India.
Irrespective of religious identities or institutional affiliations, the State needs to strictly reassert political and legal accountability for any violence. This is the only way to prevent lynchings and uphold the rule of law.
- The police services must be freed from political control, and reformed by fully implementing police reforms, so that they become a service provider to citizens rather than a force to impose control.
- Just like the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, a special Act for the prevention of caste, religious and gender discrimination in educational institutions must be passed. This will prevent discrimination in admission, enhance access to quality education, and ensure equality as an integral part of the education process.
- The State must uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit. Any attempt at reviewing the Constitution shall be opposed forthwith.
- State funding of elections.
- The Election Commission of India should be conferred with extensive regulatory powers to ensure that political parties mandatorily uphold fundamental rights and adhere to constitutional values, as well as comply with internal democratic procedures.
- The ECI must also ensure that religious beliefs and practices cannot be mobilised in any form in electoral or governance practices.
- To promote enhanced diversity and representation, a constitutional amendment institutionalising reservations for OBCs to assembly and parliament should be passed.
- To promote gender parity in assembly and parliament, a constitutional amendment for reservations for women with an appropriate provision for representation of SC, ST, and OBC women, should be passed.
- Reforms of the electoral system to ensure SC and ST representation better reflects the will, and are accountable to these sections.
- The Press Council of India (PCI) should be conferred with extensive regulatory powers to take suo-moto action against attacks on individual journalists and censorship.
- The PCI will also be empowered to regulate corporate monopoly and cross ownership of media.
- The PCI should also strive to ensure greater diversity in media houses by promoting representation of SC, ST, OBC, Minority and women at all levels.
- As mandated under Section 4 of the RTI Act, there must be a transparent and participatory pre-legislative process for soliciting citizen feedback before laws are passed.
- Social audits wherein citizens and beneficiaries evaluate the impact and performance of public programmes must be extended to all areas of governance.
- A legal framework for ensuring time bound grievance redress through a comprehensive architecture that is independent and decentralised, and incorporates provisions of social audit, public disclosures, codified citizen charter and job charts and citizen facilitation should be passed. This will ensure that the Right to Information organically becomes into the government’s Requirement To Inform.
India’s founders consciously chose to create a society where each individual - irrespective of caste, gender, ethnicity, region, religion, income capacities or ideological inclination – was to be recognised, by both the State and by every other citizen, as possessor of equal value and inalienable dignity. They sought to ensure that every person had equal access to the promise of this nation. In the last 70 years the leaders of modern India have strived to ensure that every citizen - especially SCs, STs, OBCs, Women and Minorities - enjoyed equal rights and that no one gets left, or held behind.
Regressive social and political forces have consistently resisted and tried to undermine both the constitutional idea of India and the efforts of the State in the last 70 years. These forces also seek to homogenise India and restore the principles of hierarchy, patriarchy and fundamentalism that Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jagjivan Ram, Vallabhai Patel, Maulana Azad and other founders rejected at the birth of the nation. Now that they enjoy State power, they are systematically dismantling the institutions that are the foundations of our society, by undermining India’s holistic welfare and affirmative action architecture and by destroying the pluralistic fabric of our nation. This poses a grave threat to the idea of India espoused by the freedom movement and spelt out in the Constitution.
We need to address these concerns urgently, and resist these attacks boldly. India needs to return to its noblest ideals, the spirit of its Constitution. It is time for the Indian people to recognise the constitutional path we chose 70 years ago and dedicate ourselves to protect and enhance this legacy. In this quest, the Bengaluru Declaration hopes that all progressive forces, collectively and across party lines, will adopt and implement these recommendations to fulfil Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dream of an equitable, just and egalitarian society.