The path towards a pluralist civil society


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pathalgadi movement of tribals in Jharkhand

Mains level : an inclusive and plural civil society that recognizes the equal standing of all communities

Op-ed: India – A vibrant democracy and a pluralistic society | SunOnline  International

Central Idea:

The article explores the importance of the phrase “We the People” in the Indian Constitution’s Preamble, emphasizing the need to understand popular sovereignty as a dynamic force rather than a static concept. It delves into the role of different spheres within civil society, highlighting the contrast between the elite public sphere and the non-elite counter-sphere. The article draws on the perspectives of constitutional scholar Sarbani Sen, B.R. Ambedkar, and Mahatma Gandhi to underscore the significance of inclusive dialogue, empathy, and a pluralist civil society for the true realization of constitutional principles.

Key Highlights:

  • Controversy over the omission of ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ in copies of the Indian Constitution during Parliament’s inaugural session.
  • Emphasis on the revolutionary potential of the Constitution rooted in the spirit of “We the People.”
  • The distinction between the elite public sphere and the non-elite counter-sphere in civil society.
  • Recognition of the powerful democratic assertions from movements and groups outside the traditional elite sphere.
  • B.R. Ambedkar’s framing of the Preamble and his emphasis on morality as a governing principle.
  • Gandhi’s concept of ‘Swaraj’ as a creative process of self-realization and the importance of dialogue and empathy.

Key Challenges:

  • Inertia of the elite public sphere in addressing challenges to constitutional governance.
  • The tendency to marginalize non-elite counter-sphere movements as “sectional” or emotional.
  • Potential loss of liberatory potential if the counter-sphere is not given equal standing in civil society.
  • The need to move beyond chauvinistic pride and engage in honest, introspective dialogue.

Key Terms:

  • Popular Sovereignty
  • Elite Public Sphere
  • Non-elite Counter-sphere
  • Swaraj
  • Satyagraha
  • Deliberative Democracy

Key Phrases:

  • “We the People”
  • “Counterbalancing the state”
  • “Radically democratic forms of popular assertions”
  • “Sovereignty of the political community”
  • “Liberty, equality, and fraternity”
  • “Empathetic engagement with the concerns of others”
  • “Inclusive dialogue”
  • “Plural civil society”

Key Quotes:

  • “Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many.” – B.R. Ambedkar
  • “Swaraj… a creative process of self-realization through which one might reach out towards a more secure and substantive plane of freedom and equality.” – Ajay Skaria
  • “Every self is deeply fissured, and sovereignty is ubiquitous, always exercised everyday by the self.” – Ajay Skaria

Key Statements:

  • The Constitution’s revolutionary potential lies in the spirit of popular sovereignty.
  • Inclusivity and equal standing of all communities are crucial for a plural civil society.
  • The liberal public sphere has been inert in the face of challenges to constitutional governance.

Key Examples and References:

  • Una agitation by Dalits
  • Pathalgadi movement of tribals in Jharkhand
  • Farmers’ movements in Punjab and Haryana
  • Nationwide protests by Muslims against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act

Key Facts and Data:

  • Controversy during the inaugural session of the new Parliament over the omission of ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ in the Constitution copies.
  • Reference to the book “The Constitution of India: Popular Sovereignty and Democratic Transformations” by Sarbani Sen.

Critical Analysis:

  • The article critiques the inertia of the elite public sphere in addressing constitutional challenges.
  • It highlights the potential danger of marginalizing non-elite counter-sphere movements as emotional or sectional.
  • Emphasis on the need for honest and introspective dialogue for a pluralist civil society.

Way Forward:

  • Advocate for an inclusive and plural civil society that recognizes the equal standing of all communities.
  • Promote empathetic engagement and dialogue to foster mutual understanding.
  • Encourage active participation in civil society, especially from non-elite counter-sphere movements.
  • Stress the importance of moral principles in governance and societal interactions.

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