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‘India needs to overcome the feelings of the past to face the challenges of the present’ – Justice Khehar

“Invasions, destructions and huge massacres are part of a history which is painful. But India needs a change of heart to ‘overcome those feelings and deal with the challenges of the present’,” said Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, former Chief Justice of India.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of a three-day international conference titled “Towards Equality, Justice and Fraternity in Contemporary India: Creating a Better Tomorrow” here at Speaker Hall, Constitution Club of India on Friday, 16 February 2018. The conference commemorated the 30th Anniversary Celebrations programme of the Institute of Objective Studies.

Justice Khehar emphasized the need for distributive justice stating that the issue of equality cannot be addressed without promoting distributive justice. He said that one per cent of the Indian wealthy citizens had cornered 70 per cent of its annual income. The term fraternity was added to the preamble (of the Constitution) on account of India’s diversity, he said, adding that it cannot work unless everyone’s rights are preserved. Therefore the concept of brotherhood should be preserved and promoted but, it has to be done with freedom because “equality and brotherhood without freedom is meaningless” and even the meaning of equality has changed and now it also includes equal distribution of resources.Birth does not give one equality and therefore one needs to struggle for it, he said. It is unfortunate that we have not been able to give backward sections their right. If we really want to fulfill the dream of a welfare state, we need to ensure equality.

Former Chief Justice of India, AM Ahmadi, who presided over the inaugural session, lauded India’s diversity stating that the diversity that India is able to project is not found anywhere. He, however, said that diversity itself brings about unequals with the equals and ‘it is the duty of the equals to bring the unequals with the equals and treat them as such’.

The Constitution is an umbrella under which followers of all religions reside, Ahmadi said. He said that equality was one of the main features of the Constitution which in Article 14 talks of ‘economic equality’. He drew attention of the judiciary to remedy any flaws or violations in the Article 14 with provisions of Article 32. Failing in doing so would amount to failing in of the responsibilities that the judiciary has been made responsible for. He regretted that over the years that has been the case describing it as ‘shirking responsibility’.

Former Union Minister K Rahman Khan said that equality actually meant equality with equal opportunity and ensuring it should to be the responsibility of the government through ‘affirmative action’ as enshrined in Article 16. He said that India was fortunate to have an independent judiciary which is a tool for justice for the common man. Article 14, 15, 16 are the spirit of the Constitution.

Prof Omar Hasan Kasule, Secretary General of International Institute of Islamic Thought, KSA termed justice as an important international subject. Discussions are held on this topic in the entire world with the fact that people of India live in all the states of the world. Kasule said that biological and gender differences should not be used to violate equal rights of human beings which is also emphasized in Islam before which one life is worth the life of all humanity as Quran says that if one kills a person unless for a person as if he killed the whole humanity.

Ms. Aroub A.Y.A.H. Alrifai, Member of the National Assembly of International Islamic Charitable Organisation, Kuwait commended India’s diversity and quoted Caliph Ali that Allah’s creations were either brothers in faith or partners in humanity.

Some books were also released on this occasion. Rise and Role of Marginalised Communities in Indian Freedom Struggle (Vidya Bhushan Rawat), Exclusion of Muslims in India: Participation, Tolerance and Legitimacy of the State (Arshi Khan, edited), Islamic Finance & Venture Capital: Options for the Indian Economy (Javed Ahmad Khan and Kaleem Alam, edited), Psyche in Islam (Shamim Ahmed Ansari, edited), besides a special book on 30 Years of Journey of the IOS.

Swami Agnivesh, Acharya Dr Lokesh Muni, Dr Rahul Das, Dr M. D. Thomas, Baba Baljit Singh Ji Daduwal, Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, Dr Yaseen Ali Usmani, Dr Abdullah Lheedan, Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani participated in a special session on “Role of Religion in Contemporary India”. In this session, chaired by renowned Muslim scholar and Secretary of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahamani, religious leaders of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism and other religious denominations vowed to reject violence in the name of religion and announced a joint struggle against extremism. Swami Agnivesh criticised the sectarian and racial discords among Muslims. Apart from the inaugural, special and valedictory sessions 16 Parallel Business Sessions were held on 18 and 19 February on a range of political, economic, social and religious issues touching different aspects of justice, equality, fraternity, etc.

The three-day programme coincided with an Exhibition on the history of IOS through three decades. It should be noted that IOS, established in 1986, has been conducting dialogues and organising seminars and conferences on important issues confronting the country. It has been involved in socio-economic, political and intellectual uplift of Muslims and other sections of society across the country. It has brought on dais some of the best brains from across India and even abroad to share views and exchange ideas of peaceful co-existence. However, intra-religious and sectarian divisions among Muslims and inter-religious discords among different religious groups refuse to die. Maybe the whole issue needs a different approach or, as pointed by Justice Khehar, India needs to overcome the feelings of the past.

Dr M Manzoor Alam, Prof ZM Khan, Prof Ishtiyaque Danish, Chairman, Secretary General and Finance Secretary respectively, of IOS, were present and spoke on this occasion.

(Manzar Imam is a PhD student at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia and is also doing an online program “Contending Modernities” of the University of Notre Dame, USA.)

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