How fraternity in India is different from the idea enshrined in the Constitution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Fraternity and other key concepts

What’s the news?

  • In his thought-provoking book Political Fraternity: Democracy Beyond Freedom and Democracy, philosopher Angel Puyol emphasizes the significance of fraternity in the realm of politics.

Central idea

  • Despite its historical roots dating back to Plato and its coexistence with liberty and equality in liberal political philosophy, fraternity often remains a neglected concept. However, India’s struggle for independence and the subsequent establishment of constitutional democracy underscored the importance of fraternity in a society marked by hierarchical social inequalities.

Origins of the Concept

  • Ancient Greece:
  • Plato: The concept of fraternity can be traced back to ancient Greece. In Plato’s Lysis, the philosopher introduces the term philia (love) in the context of a strong desire to pursue wisdom. It is suggested that love and friendship among individuals became more meaningful when they shared knowledge. This emphasis on the act of sharing provides an early glimpse into the discourse of fraternity in ancient Greece.
  • Aristotle: The emergence of the polis in Aristotle’s philosophy is noted, where the polis (city-state) was seen as the logical location for individuals who were primarily political beings. Within the polis, justice and friendship among citizens became enduring features, laying the foundation for the idea of political fraternity.
  • Medieval Christian Society: During the Middle Ages, the article suggests that fraternity found fertile ground within the context of Christian society in Europe. Fraternal bonds often developed within religious institutions and orders, reflecting the communal and moral values of the time.
  • The French Revolution:
  • The concept of fraternity found its entry into politics with the French Revolution of 1789.
  • It was during this revolutionary period that the triptych of liberté, égalité, and fraternité (liberty, equality, and fraternity) became a foundational slogan.
  • Fraternity took on a revolutionary dimension, emphasizing the solidarity of citizens in their pursuit of common goals.

How is fraternity in India different from the idea enshrined in the Constitution?

  • Caste-Based Divisions: The Constitution envisions fraternity as a means to bridge social divides and create unity among India’s diverse population. However, the deeply rooted caste system in India continues to influence social interactions, politics, and access to opportunities, making it challenging to achieve a fraternity that transcends these divisions.
  • Community vs. Individual: The Indian Constitution prioritizes individual rights and liberties, which can sometimes conflict with the communitarian approach underlying fraternity.
  • Social Inequalities: The constitutional concept of fraternity presupposes social and economic equality among citizens. However, India continues to grapple with significant economic disparities and enduring discrimination based on caste, gender, and other factors, hindering the development of genuine fraternity.
  • Communal Tensions: Religious and communal tensions in India have, at times, hindered the pursuit of fraternity. The constitutional vision of fraternity should extend across religious and communal boundaries to foster inclusivity. However, divisive politics occasionally exploits religious differences, undermining the spirit of fraternity.

The limits of fraternity in India

  • Caste-Based Divisions: The deeply ingrained caste system in India continues to influence social interactions and opportunities, posing a significant challenge to achieving fraternity that transcends these divisions.
  • Shared History and Ideological Differences: In India, historical and ideological differences rooted in social inequalities can hinder the development of fraternity. Ideological motivations can also hamper political fraternity between individuals, particularly when rooted in social inequalities among different communities.
  • Secular Conception of Fraternity: Given the communal nature of India’s traditional civic life and the predominance of communal ties, the article suggests that a secular conception of fraternity is necessary. To overcome the challenges posed by ideological and communal differences, fraternity in India needs to be rooted in politics, where caste privileges can be challenged.
  • Affirmative Actions and Equality: The introduction of affirmative action, including the reservation system, aimed to address inequality and promote fraternity. However, these policies have sometimes resulted in fraternity primarily within specific caste communities rather than fostering unity across caste lines.
  • Religious and Communal Tensions: Religious and communal tensions have, at times, overshadowed the pursuit of fraternity in India. Fraternity should ideally extend across religious and communal boundaries, but divisive politics can exploit religious differences and hinder the spirit of fraternity.

The role of equality as a prerequisite

  • Both Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and philosopher John Rawls stressed the importance of equality as a prerequisite for fraternity.
  • While affirmative actions, such as the reservation system, were introduced to address historical inequalities, they have often resulted in fraternity primarily within specific caste or community groups rather than fostering unity across these boundaries.


  • In India, the coexistence of caste and political fraternity is a challenging endeavor due to the country’s unique social landscape. Achieving political fraternity that transcends caste boundaries requires addressing these complex issues. The future of Indian politics will determine whether fraternity or caste prevails, and this choice will shape the country’s destiny.


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