Mahatma Gandhi and other nationalist leaders while carrying on the freedom struggle simultaneously aimed at removing all sorts of social discrimination from Indian society. Whether they would have paid due attention to this phenomenon or not cannot be said at this point of time. The British Colonial administrators officially attempted to divide Indian society on the basis of religion and ethnicity. They created separate electorates for Muslims and tribal communities.
They also wanted to create separate electorates for Dalits which objective they could not realise, thanks to Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. He was a great patriot. The nationalist leaders who were front-line fighters for Indian independence movement were alive to the phenomenon of social inequality in Indian society. They were conscious of the fact that India as a nation would remain weak structurally if the prevailing inequalities are not wiped out. Therefore, all of them were unanimous about the shape and form of Indian society after independence. In the constituent Assembly, under the able leadership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Ballavbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Ajad, Shri Govind Ballav Pant, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and a host of other eminent freedom fighters thoroughly debated about the hature of Indian Constitution to be framed which would be the most powerful instrument in promoting national unity in the country.
The responsibility of drafting the constitution was assigned to Dr. Ambedkar, the all time great constitutional expert. The Draft constitution was discussed and analysed in the Constituent Assembly. The political leaders thoroughly realised that India neither geographically nor politically a unified country. But having wrested freedom from the British rule, they wanted to create a new India based on justice, liberty, equality and fraternity which is evident from the Preamble of the Constitution of India. They thoroughly debated about economic,
political, educational and social inequalities which persisted in Indian society. But they promised that the sovereign democratic Indian republic would be a secular one. After the lapse of a decade or so they adopted the resolution that Indian republic should also be a socialistic one. In order to eliminate regional inequalities and to ensure equal progress and development, they chose a federal system of government for India. There would be strong central government. It would handle defence, foreign relations, nation” level communication and fiscal management. Certain subjects wee earmarked for central government and certain subjects were left to provincial governments and some subject were kept in the concurrent list for both State governments and central government.
Inequalities were rampant and conspicuous among all segments of Indian population. The caste society is a symbol of discrimination of all sorts. Apart from inter – caste inequalities, there were gender inequalities in each caste. The gender discrimination is so strong in Indian society, even among the Brahmans, women were greatly discriminated as they were not allowed to take up certain professions, such as the priestly craft and propitiate in public places gods, goddesses and deities.
This accounts for complete male dominance even among the Brahmans. What is true of Brahmans is equally true of all other castes in Indian society. The level of literacy and education before independence was abysmally low even among Brahman women. There were a lot of taboos to which Brahman women were subjected particularly to widows. Child marriage and the practice of Sati which are still in vogue in some parts of the country are abominable and highly discriminatory social practice. Therefore, women were considered by national government a segment of weaker sections of society. Apart from women two other major categories of Indian society who have been termed as weak include the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
There are more than one thousand Scheduled castes and 283 Scheduled Tribes Communities and there are some more, aspiring for inclusion in the lists of scheduled castes and scheduled Tribes. In addition to the above categories of weaker sections in Indian society, there are a large number of other Backward Classes in the country. The above facts present a very dismal picture of Indian society. If a society is not equal and healthy and if all sections of national society do not progress at equal pace, then that country can never be strong enough in any context.
The fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India in the part-II of First schedule are very important decrees as regards equality of all citizens. In part – III of Schedule-I the fundamental rights of citizens ensure all sorts of equality and prohibition
of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of public employment and it also emphatically abolishes practice of untouchability from Indian society. It guarantees freedom of speech to all, protection in respect of conviction of offences, for the protection of interests of scheduled tribes and scheduled castes. It ensures protection of life and personal liberty. It provides protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. It also prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labour.
It also further prohibits employment of children in hazardous occupations. It provides freedom of rights to practice of religions and also freedom to manage religious affairs. The cultural and educational rights ensure protection of interests of minorities. Rights of minorities include establishment and administration of educational institutions. The constitution also guarantees within the scope of fundamental rights for practice and preservation of arts and crafts.
The Directive Principles of States Policy in Part-IV of Schedule-I contains provisions for the State to secure a social order for equitable promotion of welfare of the people and in order to achieve this goal the State has to follow certain principles of policy. For instance, men and women should be provided with equal opportunity and right to earn adequate means of livelihood; that the ownership and control of material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good; that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of ways and means of production to common detriments; that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women; that the health and strength of the workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength, and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and mental abandonment.
The Directive Principles of States Policy also calls for attention to the right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases. It also provides scope for introduction of compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years.
The Directive Principles also enshrine provisions for promotion of educational and economic interests of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other weaker sections of Indian society. Further it delineates that the States to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. The State has to provide protection and security to all.
From the above discussion it is clear that the founding fathers of Indian constitution were conscious of social inequalities in Indian society and therefore they had adopted this powerful document in the Constituent Assembly on January 26, 1950 and had given it to the people of India not only for smooth governance but to wipe out all sorts of discrimination and inequalities and simultaneously aiming to build up a national society based on socialism, equality, liberty and fraternity Now the diverse elements in Indian nationhood are more integrated and are more coherent amongst themselves, thereby forging a strong united and emotional national society. Nearly half-a-century is over. It would take some more time for the disparate elements to loose their disintegrating facts and thereby become healthy elements of pluri-lndian social system and multi-cultural nationhood. The constitution of
India has become a powerful medium of national integration through the democratic process. The whole of socio-cultural integration is being achieved in a hierarchical or pyramidal form. The independent judicial system of the country strengthens and reinforces national integration through its landmark judgements. Wherever the executive goes wrong, judiciary puts its on appropriate rail. It also provides guidance to State legislatures and Parliament on the matter of national integration. There are instances of Supreme Court intervention in administrative affairs with the sole objective of forging socio-cultural integration in the country. In independent India the judiciary has played very important role in the matter of national integration.
Structure and function of Indian civilisation indicate that parochialism is replaced by cementing, universalism. Factors are subsided to strengthen societal unity and local and regional imbalances are paid due attention immediately and necessary steps are taken to ensure balanced regional development. Whether it is economic development, infrastructural development, health care services, educational facilities, occurence of crime, problems of law and order, inter-community strikes, supression of social crimes the State representative governments are quick to action, so as to strengthen and reinforce national integration. State governments and central government very quickly tackle any untoward problem so as to wipe out social pathological symptoms from body politic.
Indian civilisation is probably one of the oldest in the world. It is contemporaneous, more or less, to Chinese, Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Egyptian and Mayan Civilisations. These civilisations blossomed and declined. Modern Western Civilisation rests on Greeko- Roman Civilisation. Some elements of the aforesaid world civilisations might be found here and there, but it is difficult to find out spatio-temporal continuity of these civilisations
with modern civilisation anywhere, except in China and India. Modern Indian Civilisation when analysed diachronically, it appears that some of the elements did occur in Indus Valley Civilisation. The seals are pictographic designs which comprise facts of Indus Civilisation are today found in modern Indian culture. The city planning, civic amenities, communication. The city planning, civic amenities, communication system, ritual symbols, utilitarian items, like Great Bath continue to be important elements of modern Indian civilisation. Apart from these, farming main cereal crops and agricultural implements found in Harappan Civilisation account for their survival in. modified form in the present day civilization.
The indigenous civilisation of India is resilient with successes from time to time and engulfs cultures of different communities and different regions which account for the surviving facts of Indus civilisation. The primary or indigenous civilisation has an inner strength which contributes to the perpetuity of the ancient civilisation through continuous modifications. Regional variations are there which are natural phenomena because their physical environment and climatic conditions are not uniform all over the country. However, there is an underlying unity among various regional cultures which emerges as the sole spirit of Indian society and culture at the national level. The great and little traditions, tribes, castes, village communities and various centres of Indian civilisation including cities and towns are all indomitable factors which re-integrate and unify the national culture of India.
This cultural continuity is a product and cause of common cultural consciousness shared by most Indians irrespective of ethnicity, caste, creed, status and gender. Indians express certain essential similarities in their culture, mental outlook and others.
This common cultural conscousness has been formed in India with the help of certain processes and factors, i.e. sacred books, sacred objects, sacred geography, special class of performers, various agents of cultural transmission and the essence of long cultural system. Indian writers, poets and literatures are respected, no matter to whichever community they belong. They are held in high esteem as creative geniuses who enrich Indian civilisation. T
heir products are not sectarian but lofty and stand for the unity of Indian civilisation and society. Through their precious writings they continuously re-integrate and make the Indian society cohesive. They also influence the non-literate masses through their writings. Those who cannot read and write, do receive their message inherently in their writings, through dramas, street songs and street performances. Some folk artists discharge this important role for the non-literate masses.
In a primary civilisation, like the Indian one, cultural continuity with the past is so great and powerful that even the acceptance of modernising and progressive ideology does not result in a linear form of social and cultural change, but also results in traditionalising certain modern innovations. This trend is interpreted by social scientists as inverted form of sanskritisation. Modernizing forces are accepted and absorbed by the traditional way of life.
The structure of Indian society and culture is, in deed, very complex. As Indian society and culture are compounds of different social types and cultural elements, the forces of re-integration occur and re-occur and give shape to Indian society and culture as a bonqet of flowers.