National Seminar on Towards Social Justice:
Impact of Positive Discrimination on Marginalized Communities with Special Reference to Scheduled Caste Groups in India

Organised by the ICSSR North Eastern Regional Centre, Shillong, NEHU Campus, Shillong on 21st and 22nd September 2017

Concept Note

    The term, 'positive discrimination' has become popular both in developed and underdeveloped countries. In countries like Canada, Finland, Brazil, the USA, the term is used to refer to different discriminatory policies that the governments have introduced for the benefit of the marginalized communities the indigenous peoples, the Blacks or the ethnic minorities. The policy of positive discrimination in India has its roots in anti-caste movements during the Freedom Movement, when the national leaders highlighted the history of oppression and social discrimination experienced by the marginalized communities and started pressurizing the colonial government for legal reforms to ensure social justice. After independence, keeping in line with the spirit of the Constitution of India, Indian government made provision for Reservations for socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes(SC), Scheduled Tribes(ST) and other socially and educationally backward communities, now recognized as Other Backward Classes (OBC). Although the policy was initially conceived for only ten years, the quota based Reservations in the fields of education, employment and politics, has now become a permanent feature of the Indian political system. Apart from the policy of Reservations, the Government of India has established different institutions, introduced different laws and implemented different schemes for the development of the marginalized communities to ensure social justice. The theory and practice of positive discrimination has evoked passionate debates and movements in India. While the advocates of positive discrimination support the government policies as indispensable for the development of the marginalized communities, the critics have raised the issues of equality, merit, justice and national progress.

    The policies of positive discrimination are aimed at targeting unequal and undemocratic nature of the caste system and empower the marginalized communities in India. Six decades of democratic politics, planned development and the policies and programs of positive discrimination have indeed brought about some changes in nature of the caste system and in the status of Dalits. What exactly are the changes that have taken place in India because of the pursuit of the policy of positive discrimination? How far the practice of Reservations has been successful in ensuring social, economic and political development of the marginalized communities? What do the empirical studies say about the status of the Dalit and tribal communities in India today? Have these policies and programmes meant for the development of the SCs been implemented effectively in all regions and in all scheduled caste communities? Have the atrocities and discrimination against the SCs reduced over the decades? Has the policy weakened the caste system and helped in empowering the Dalits? How committed and responsible are the leaders and parties in addressing the issues of social discrimination and economic inequalities in the society? Does the philosophy of social justice, or the policy of positive discrimination continue to be relevant or adequate in the contemporary phase of liberalization and globalization, where market plays the determining roles? Should the policy of positive discrimination be reviewed in the light of new developments taking place in the country? What more needs to be done further for ensuring justice to the marginalized communities?

    These are some of the questions that need to be discussed dispassionately in the light of the experience of last six decades. In pursuit of the answers for these questions, ICSSR-NERC, is organizing a two-day National Seminar Discrimination on Marginalized Communities with Special Reference to Scheduled Caste Groups in India at the ICSSR North Eastern Regional Centre, NEHU Campus, Shillong, on 21st and 22nd September 2017 to bring together policy makers, academicians and activists to discuss various aspects related to social justice and empowerment of the Dalits in India. The seminar focuses on the following themes:

  1. Interrogating the ideas of Social Justice and Positive Discrimination?
  2. Fighting for social justice: Experiences and lessons from other countries.
  3. Social justice, democracy and socialism: Understanding Ambedkar
  4. Positive Discrimination: Socio-economic development of the SCs in India.
  5. Continuity and change in caste system: Place of the Dalits.
  6. Caste, class, region and religion: Dalits in context.
  7. Political parties and electoral politics: Dalit as vote banks.
  8. Dalit movements after Ambedkar: Parties, organizations and emerging leadership
  9. Identity and movements for social justice: Achievements and limitations.
  10. Dalit empowerment: Problems and challenges.

    Interested scholars/researchers/academicians/policy makers are invited to submit a copy of the abstract outline (200 words) by 11th August 2017. On acceptance, the invited authors have to submit the full length paper (4000-5000 words) by 4th September 2017. All submissions and correspondence may be made at:
Dr. C. J. Thomas
Deputy Director

Associate Convenor
Dr. Padmakshi Kakoti
Research Associate