ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Discrimination and Justice: Beyond Affirmative Action

The theme of this essay is that affirmative action is necessary but cannot be sufficient to resolve problems of discrimination and injustice in society. It begins with the origins of discrimination in historical perspective, and explains how discrimination leads to exclusion, to show that embedded injustice is an outcome of the process. The conception of justice evolved over a long period of time that spanned centuries if not millennia. Yet, it is clear that the quest for social justice, driven by political democracy mostly through affirmative action, essentially surfaced during the second half of the 20th century. This leads into a discussion on the logic, the necessity and the limitations of affirmative action to highlight what else is needed. And a dose of reality is imparted to the story with a tale of three countries, even if the focus is on India. In conclusion, the paper draws some lessons from experience to contemplate the future.

This paper is based on the third Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Lecture at Ambedkar University in New Delhi on 14 April 2011. The text of my lecture is being published by Ambedkar University, Delhi. I am indebted to Romila Thapar for helpful discussion and constructive suggestions. I would also like to thank Andre Beteille for valuable comments and conversations. Jonas Shaende provided useful assistance in my search for information on the United States and South Africa.

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