Supreme Court Justice, Justice DY Chandrachud delivered the inaugural address of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at IIT Delhi on Tuesday. He spoke of “Realizing Diversity – Making Differences in Higher EducationInterestingly, one of the questions posed to Judge Chandrachud was about “eliminating caste” as a viable solution to preventing caste discrimination.
However, Judge Chandrachud did not consider the elimination of castes as a solution to caste discrimination. He stated that–
“With no disrespect to the question, this whole theme that the caste must be eliminated is very often seen as a theme that the upper caste propagates.“
While developing the same, Judge Chandrachud said that while people belonging to the upper caste often perceive caste as a problem, which can be eliminated, it defines the identity of those who are at the other end of the spectrum, being discriminated. for their caste. He remarked that–
“Because, it is the upper caste who believe that caste is one of the most pernicious features of our Indian society. But for people who have been discriminated against, stigmatized, assaulted – for caste reasons, for them, caste defines their identity. And every day of their lives they are reminded of their caste by the perpetrators of those who discriminate against them because of their caste.“
Continuing his line of thought, he said that the solution to the problem was not to get rid of caste but to get rid of casteism. He said that-
“So I think the real answer is not to create a casteless society, but to allow those who have been subjected to centuries of discrimination, and that discrimination continues, as we have just heard several examples from life The answer to this must lie in our awareness of the extent of caste-based discrimination that is still perpetrated in our society. We must confront this discrimination that still permeates and permeates our society and bring justice to those who are discriminated against on the grounds of caste. This is far more important than anything else.”
Diversity enriches knowledge
In his address, Justice Chandrachud said his experience of interacting with court clerks from diverse backgrounds made him see life and society differently. He said interactions with his various jurist groups, including Dalits, students with disabilities and LGBT gave him new perspectives on life and society. He said that-
“Difference and diversity were to be understood for their uniqueness, which was a resource rather than a liability…The way we understand merit should not be limited to agency or individual ability, which either way is not our only or own action, but it must be considered a social good that advances equality because it is the value that our Constitution upholds. The content of merit cannot be devoid of what we value in our society. Excellence, like life itself, is enriched by diversity.”
He further stated that diversity should exist at three levels –
“First, diversity can exist in terms of structural diversity, in terms of the composition of people in an institution. Second, diversity in classrooms and teaching resources in higher education And third, interactional diversity in terms of how inclusive the higher education institution is to facilitate interactions between diverse groups.”
While further explaining how diversity and excellence complement each other and what role merit plays in the same, he said–
“In other words, we need to recalibrate our old vocabularies and realize that diversity and excellence complement and reinforce each other. The way we understand merit should not be limited to individual agency or ability, which anyway is not our sole or own action, but should be viewed as a social good that advances the equality because that is the value that our Constitution espouses. The content of merit cannot be devoid of what we value in our society. Excellence, like life itself, is enriched by diversity… By marking “excellence” as an individual merit, we ignore the privileges, social and cultural capital accumulated by social groups over the years .”
In concluding his address, Judge Chandrachud quoted Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator- “The oppressor is only in solidarity with the oppressed when he stops seeing the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as people unjustly treated, deprived of their voice, deceived in the sale of their work – when he stops doing pious, sentimental and individualistic gestures and risks an act of love. True solidarity is found only in the fullness of this act of love, in its existentiality, in its praxis. To assert that men and women are persons and that as persons must be free, and yet do nothing tangible to make this assertion a reality, is a farce.“
The video of the conference can be viewed here.