Law and Justice from the Bottom: The Public Interest Litigation Movement in Contemporary India

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Maya SUZUKI, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan
In this paper, I attempt to examine the current socio-political dynamics of caste through protest movements of the marginalized Dalit community (formerly known as Untouchables) in contemporary India from a case study of Balmiki (a sweeper caste). In particular, I explore the political aspects of caste by focusing on the caste-based quota system, known as “reservation,” which is a part of India’s affirmative actions and the related movements.

Since the late 1980s, an important factor of Indian politics is the shift to a multiparty system and the rise of identity politics. With an increase in equality and social justice, marginalized castes have risen to challenge existing policies and demand an equal share in state resources.

I found that the success rate for the implementation of the reservation policy for the benefit of the lowest castes was significantly low. The distribution has been uneven among the targeted groups. Moreover, the results of my fieldwork revealed that most people tried to hide their caste. However, a number of them also affirmed their caste in order to obtain the benefits of welfare schemes and protect their rights by approaching to the judicial system through Public Interest Litigations (PIL). Who are the supporters and why do they launch the movements? These questions also explain why caste identity has become more positive and assertive, which has led to the politics of difference in contemporary India.