An international conference on BR Ambedkar today said “regressive” social and political forces were “systematically dismantling institutions” which are the nation’s foundations and urged people to dedicate themselves to protecting and enhancing the Constitutional path. The ‘Bengaluru Declaration’, unveiled at the conclusion of the three-day conference, also made about 40 recommendations including reservations in private sector employment, promotions, private higher educational institutions for SCs, STs and OBCs. The declaration, unveiled by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, noted that the country’s founding fathers sought to ensure that every person enjoyed equal rights and that no one gets left out 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, said the declaration passed at the conference, inaugurated by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on July 21.
It said these forces also seek to homogenise India and restore the principles of “hierarchy”, “patriarchy” and “fundamentalism” rejected by founders 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 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,” it added.
Stating that these concerns needed to be addressed “urgently”, and these attacks resisted “boldly”, the deceleration said “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.” The conference, organised by the state government to commemorate Ambedkar’s 126th birth anniversary and inaugurated in the presence of social reformers Martin Luther King-III, and Noble laureate Kailash Satyarthi, among others, saw participation from national and international academics, activists and policy-makers as speakers.
According to the organisers, the 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. Some of the recommendations made in the declaration include – freeing police service from political control, and reform it by fully implementing police reforms, so that they become a service provider to citizens rather than a force to impose control, a special Act for the prevention of caste, religious and gender discrimination in educational institutions.
It also suggested that the Election Commission should be conferred with extensive regulatory powers to ensure that political parties mandatorily uphold fundamental rights and adhere to constitutional values and comply with internal democratic procedures. It should also ensure that religious beliefs and practices cannot be mobilised in any form in electoral or governance practices. Protecting media freedom and judicial reforms are also among the recommendations.
Pointing out at the ‘under-representation’ of SC, ST, OBC, women and minorities in employment, the declaration suggests that state should establish an Equal Opportunities Commission which should adopt creative strategies and policies to achieve equity in the public and private sectors. The state shall put in place an appropriate institutional mechanism to ensure all the sub-castes among SCs and STs enjoy equal access to benefits of reservations, it further said adding that landless Dalits should be provided with agricultural land as a legal entitlement.