Justice D.Y. Chandrachud today highlighted the need for ending caste discrimination and said that we must use the ideas of Dr. B.R Ambedkar to transform society. "The process of othering and exclusion must be put an end to," he said, adding that privileged members of society must "break free from the shackles of the past" and confer recognition and respect to members of marginalised communities.
Highlighting the stigma attached to a marginalised caste identity, he said that while the professional achievements of upper caste individuals are enough to wash away their caste identity, it will never be true for a lower caste individual.
Justice Chandrachud made these remarks while delivering the 13th B.R. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture on "Conceptualising Marginalisation: Agency, Assertion, and Personhood". The event was organised by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi & Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung South Asia.
Castelessness is a privilege that only the upper caste can afford, he said about not letting caste define one's identity. "Members of the lower caste have to hold on to their caste identity to avail the protection of laws such as reservation," he said.
The Supreme Court judge placed caste-based marginalisation in relation to other marginalised sections of the society - women, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities - and said that humiliation becomes a part of the society where there is oppression; it need not be direct and physical, it can be indirect and institutionalised.
"Marginalisation does not only occur to members of the lower caste but for anyone who deviates from the 'norm' of the mainstream through their gender, sexuality, etc," he said.
He spoke about the "humiliations perpetrated by the institution and society".
"72 years ago we gave ourselves a constitution premised on justice, liberty, and equality for all. However, it was only in 2005 that women were regarded as equal co-partners, and only in 2018 that homosexuality was decriminalised. By repealing a discriminatory law, the discriminatory behavior is not automatically overturned. This is the institutional perpetuation of humiliation," he said.
He added that while judgements like allowing permanent commission for women and decriminalisation of homosexuality exist but the societal transformation they can affect will only be seen in the future.