Those who dominate the society, their ideology dominates the society. The saying is old, and timeless.
The Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud recently reminded of this precious fact in a lecture on ‘Law and Ethics’.
According to him, the weak and marginalized people are forced to follow the rules of ‘morality’ created by the powerful upper class in order to survive in the society, they cannot establish any competing morals or principles of their own in the social sphere, if they want to do so, they are severely suppressed.
In presenting the moral supremacy of the upper class, he points to the country’s long-standing practice of suppressing homosexuality, the ban on dance bars, the social attitude of criminalizing extra-marital relations, the practice of taxing ‘low-caste’ girls in some parts of South India if their breasts are not exposed, etc mentioned many examples.
In each case, The powerful in society define what is moral and what is immoral, the rules that must be punished if disobeyed.
An extreme and widespread example of this punishment is ‘honour killing’. The Chief Justice reminded that hundreds of young people in India were killed for the crime of falling in love with someone of a different caste, going against the will of the family.
This extreme definition of dignity still dominates today, because it is defined by the powerful.
Significantly, this abuse of power does not only oppress the weak or the marginalized, but also if an individual from the upper class chooses to violate its social norms—if someone in a powerful upper class family or group is known to have homosexual tendencies, or someone of a different caste.
If he loves, he often suffers extreme punishment; In fact, honor-killing is mostly a high-caste honor.
This is where the role of the state becomes particularly relevant.
In a country like India, society today often does not recognize the individual’s right to live his own life—let alone honor.
A clear recognition of this social reality is behind the establishment of the concept of citizen’s rights in the Indian Constitution based on the fundamental ideals of free and capable living of the individual.
At that time those who wanted to give importance to the rights of groups or tribes, Politicians like Ambedkar or Nehru took the opposite position.
Their main argument was that in a society dominated by discrimination, clan system will maintain the hegemony of power, breaking that hegemony and establishing the rights of citizens is the goal of a liberal democratic state.
It is a matter of deep sadness and concern that even after seven decades of the promulgation of the Constitution, the Indian state has largely failed to achieve that goal.
The Chief Justice also said that the government also cornered the weak and marginalized people who were oppressed by the high class.
True democracy is still far away. Perhaps it will gradually become more distant, the influence of the original discipline of honor-killing will continue to increase.
Seven decades after the promulgation of the Constitution, the Indian state has largely failed to achieve that goal.