Multiculturalism (1)



Multiculturalism means  the co-existence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviours, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles.

The idea of multiculturalism in contemporary political discourse and in political philosophy is about how to understand and respond to the challenges associated with cultural and religious diversity. The term “multicultural” is often used as a descriptive term to characterize the fact of diversity in a society, but in what follows, the focus is on its prescriptive use in the context of Western liberal democratic societies. While the term has come to encompass a variety of prescriptive claims, it is fair to say that proponents of multiculturalism reject the ideal of the “melting pot” in which members of minority groups are expected to assimilate into the dominant culture in favor of an ideal in which members of minority groups can maintain their distinctive collective identities and practices. In the case of immigrants, proponents emphasize that multiculturalism is compatible with, not opposed to, the integration of immigrants into society; multiculturalism policies provide fairer terms of integration for immigrants.

Scholars and people who support multiculturalism give following justifications in favour of it:

  • One justification for multiculturalism arises out of the communitarian critique of liberalism. Liberals tend to be ethical individualists; they insist that individuals should be free to choose and pursue their own conceptions of the good life. They give primacy to individual rights and liberties over community life and collective goods. Some liberals are also individualists when it comes to social ontology. Methodological individualists believe that you can and should account for social actions and social goods in terms of the properties of the constituent individuals and individual goods. The target of the communitarian critique of liberalism is not so much liberal ethics as liberal social ontology. Communitarians reject the idea that the individual is prior to the community and that the value of social goods can be reduced to their contribution to individual well-being. They instead embrace ontological holism, which acknowledges collective goods as, in Charles Taylor’s words, “irreducibly social”and intrinsically valuable.
  • Another justification for multiculturalism comes from within liberalism but a liberalism that has been revised through critical engagement with the communitarian critique of liberalism. Will Kymlicka has developed the most influential liberal theory of multiculturalism by marrying the liberal values of autonomy and equality with an argument about the value of cultural membership.
  • Other theorists sympathetic to multiculturalism look beyond liberalism and republicanism, emphasizing instead the importance of grappling with historical injustice and listening to minority groups themselves. This is especially true of theorists writing from a postcolonial perspective. For example, in contemporary discussions of aboriginal sovereignty, rather than making claims based on premises about the value of Native cultures and their connection to individual members’ sense of self-worth as liberal multiculturalists have, the focus is on reckoning with history.


Critics of multiculturalism

Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw multiculturalism the embrace of an inclusive, diverse society as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today, a growing number consider it to be a cause of them. That perception has led some mainstream politicians, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to publicly denounce multiculturalism and speak out against its dangers. It has fueled the success of far-right parties and populist politicians across Europe, from the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands to the National Front in France. And in the most extreme cases, it has inspired obscene acts of violence, such as new zealand mosque attack in march 2019.

According to multiculturalism’s critics, Europe has allowed excessive immigration without demanding enough integration—a mismatch that has eroded social cohesion, undermined national identities, and degraded public trust. Multiculturalism’s proponents, on the other hand, counter that the problem is not too much diversity but too much racism.

Some theorists have worried that multiculturalism can lead to a competition between cultural groups all vying for recognition and that this will further reinforce the dominance of the dominant culture. Further, the focus on cultural group identity may reduce the capacity for coalitionnal political movements that might develop across differences. Some Marxist and feminist theorists have expressed worry about the dilution of other important differences shared by members of a society that do not necessarily entail a shared culture, such as class and sex.

Rural – Urban continuum

There are many different views regarding the rural-urban continuum. Some scholars say that there are no sharp breaking points to be found in the degree or quantity of rural urban differences. Robert Redfield has given the concept of rural -urban continuum on the basis of his study of Mexican peasants of Tepoztlain.The rapid process of urbanization through the establishment of industries, urban traits and facilities have decreased the differences between villages and cities.

some sociologists whose treat rural-urban as dichotomous categories have differentiated the two at various levels including occupational differences, environmental differences, differences in the sizes of communities, differences in the density of population, differences in social mobility and direction of migration, differences in social stratification and in the systems of social interaction.

The rural-urban continuum may be defined as a dynamic equilibrium wherein the development process involves the people in both rural and urban areas and the returns of development are also distributed to the people whose settlement pattern is distributed spatially.

Rurban mission: Rural-urban continuum mission

As per Census of India statistics, the rural population in India, stands at 833 million, constituting almost 68% of the total population. Further, the rural population has shown a growth of 12% during the 2001-2011 period and there has been an increase in the absolute number of villages by 2279 units, during the same period.  Large parts of rural areas in the country are not stand-alone settlements but part of a cluster of settlements, which are relatively proximate to each other. These clusters typically illustrate potential for growth, have economic drivers and derive locational and competitive advantages. Hence, making a case for concerted policy directives for such clusters. These clusters once developed can then be classified as ‘Rurban’. Hence taking cognizance of this, the Government of India, has proposed the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM), aimed at developing such rural areas by provisioning of economic, social and physical infrastructure facilities.  Taking also into view, the advantages of clusters, both from an economic view point as well as to optimize benefits of infrastructure provision, the Mission aims at development of 300 Rurban clusters, in the next five years. These clusters would be strengthened with the required amenities, for which it is proposed that resources be mobilized through convergence of various schemes of the Government, over and above which a Critical Gap Funding (CGF) would be provided under this Mission, for focused development of these clusters.

The National Rurban Mission (NRuM) follows the vision of “Development of a cluster of villages that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life with focus on equity and inclusiveness without compromising with the facilities perceived to be essentially urban in nature, thus creating a cluster of “Rurban Villages”.

The objective of the National Rurban Mission (NRuM) is to stimulate local economic development, enhance basic services, and create well planned Rurban clusters.

Expanding horizons of Fundamental Rights

The constitution of India is the most significant document which is fundamental to the governance of the state. Fundamental Rights constitute a salient feature of Indian constitution. These are the basic rights of the individual which are contained in Part III of the constitution and these rights ensure an effective guarantee against any antidemocratic action of the state.

Originally the Indian constitution described seven fundamental rights. But after the 44th Constitutional Amendment of 1979, their number has come down to six. Right to property under Article 31 has been deleted from the list of fundamental rights.

Some of the fundamental rights are added later through amendments and court’s decisions.

The ambit of Article 21 have expanded over the years through judicial precedents. According to article 21, a person can be deprived of his life and personal liberty according to a procedure established by law. To have a proper understanding of article 21, we are required to travel a journey from A K Gopalan (1950 SC) case to Maneka Gandhi (1978 SC) case, which reflect two opposite dimensions and scope of this article.

The court in Gopalan case said Article 19 should be invoked only when a law is directly attempted to control a right mentioned in Article 19. Therefore, the judicial approach taken is that the preventive detention laws should be valid and within the requirements of article 21, so long as it confirms with article 22, it would be sufficient and is not required to meet requirement of article 19.

In Maneka Gandhi case, Personal liberty has been given an expansive meaning. It was held that articles 21, 14 & 19 are not mutually exclusive.  In the words of justice VR Krishna Iyer, “no article in the constitution relating to fundamental rights is an island in itself. They are group of Islands connected with each other, i.e. not separate Islands”. On personal liberty, Justice Iyer said, “the spirit of the man is at root of article 21. Personal liberty makes the worth of human person and travel makes Liberty worthwhile.”


Right to education

The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the fundamental rights in 2002 under the Eighty-Sixth Amendment of 2002. However this right was brought in to implementation after eight years in 2010. Article 21A – On 2 April 2010, India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6–14 age group, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present. This act provides for appointment of teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.

Right to Live with Dignity

Supreme Court has given a broad and liberal interpretation to the term life as used in Article 21.

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs. Union of India (1984 SC), Justice Bhagwati reiterated his view and held that it is the fundamental right of every person in this country to live with human dignity which is free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity is enshrined under article 21 drives its life breath from the DPSP.

Right to Die

Right to life includes right to lead dignified life. The question arises hair that does it also confer I write not to live if a person chooses to end his life?

In Common Cause Regd. Society Vs. Union of India (2018), a five-judge Constitution Bench, judgment delivered by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, gave legal sanction to passive euthanasia, permitting ‘living will’ by patients on withdrawing medical support if they slip into irreversible state of coma. The SC held that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right.

Right To Privacy

The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgement, pronounced Right To Privacy as an absolute right under Article 21. Fundamental rights are granted to all the citizens of India, regardless of sex, age, caste, creed etc.




Enforceability of fundamental rights against state and others

Under Indian Consititution, All the Fundamental Rights are available against the ‘State’ but only 4 fundamental Rights are available against both State as well as against Private Individual.

These Fundamental Rights are :

  • Article 15(2) – Provides that No citizen shall be subject to any kind of discrimination on the basis of his race, religion, place of birth or caste etc. It is available against every individual it means, if anyone does any kind of discrimination on the basis on any of the above mentioned ground, then he shall be liable for punishment.
  • Article 17 – Talks about abolition of Untouchability. It devises that anyone practicing Untouchability shall be punished.
  • Article 23 – Prohibits trafficking of humans and forced labour.
  • Article 24 – Prohibits employment of children in factories amd hazardous place.



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