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Invoking Fundamental Rights

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Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, women, and other marginalized groups claim that just because they are citizens of democratic democracy, they have equal rights that must be recognized. Many of them seek solutions to their problems in the Constitution. To safeguard these populations from further exploitation, rights are translated into laws. Policies are developed to help these people gain access to development. 

What are fundamental Rights?

Fundamental rights are the fundamental human rights given to all people by the Indian Constitution. They are applied without regards for race, religion, gender, or other factors. Fundamental rights, for example, are enforceable by the courts under particular situations. 

Different forms of Marginalization

Because of one or more characteristics of exclusion, marginalization places people in powerless positions:

  1. Economic marginalization: Refers to differences in wealth accumulation or employment opportunities. Many sorts of employment, for example, marginalize ethnic minorities due to damaging perceptions about who makes effective managers or workers.
  2. Political marginalization: Communities that are politically marginalized find it difficult to participate in civic activities such as voting or having access to their elected officials. Political marginalization occurred during the Jim Crow era, when laws prohibited Black Americans from voting. 
  3. Social marginalization: Occurs when someone is unable to participate in everyday leisure activities. Social marginalization might include being denied access to clubs and organizations. 

Invoking Fundamental Rights

The Constitution establishes the foundations that make our society and politics democratic, as described in and via the Constitution’s list of Fundamental Rights, which are available to all Indians equally.
These rights have been used by marginalized people in two ways:

  •  They have forced the government to acknowledge the injustice done to them by insisting on their Fundamental Rights.
  •  They have demanded that these laws be enforced by the government.

The administration was influenced by the struggles of the marginalized to draught new laws in accordance with the spirit of the Fundamental Rights. 

Untouchability has been abolished under Article 17 of the Constitution, which means that no one can prevent Dalits from educating themselves, entering temples, using public facilities, and so on. It is wrong to practice untouchability, and a democratic government will not tolerate it. Untouchability is now a punishable crime.

Article 15 of the Constitution, which declares that “no citizen of India should be discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth,” has been utilized by Dalits to demand equality where it has been denied to them. 

  1. Dalits can ‘invoke’ or ‘draw on’ a Fundamental Right (or Rights) when they believe they have been wrongfully treated by an individual, a group, or even the government.
  2. Bring the Indian government’s attention to the Constitution and demand that it be followed and that they be treated fairly. Other minority groups have invoked our Constitution’s Fundamental Rights provision, claiming the right to freedom of religion, as well as cultural and educational rights. 
  3. In the case of cultural and educational rights, unique cultural and religious groups, such as Muslims and Parsis, have the right to be guardians of their culture’s content and to make judgments about how that content should be preserved.
  4. The Constitution attempts to provide cultural equity for such communities by granting various sorts of cultural rights.
  5. This is done by the Constitution to ensure that these groups’ cultures are neither dominated nor wiped out by the culture of the majority population. 

Laws for the Marginalized

There are unique rules and regulations for the marginalized in our country. 

Social Justice Promotion

State and federal governments provide free or subsidized hostels for Dalit and Adivasis students in order to ensure that they have access to educational opportunities that may not be available in their communities. Laws are also used by the government to ensure that actual efforts are done to eliminate injustice in the system. One such law/policy is the reserve policy, which is both significant and divisive.

The rules that give Dalits and Adivasis priority in education and government jobs are founded on a basic argument:  that in a society like ours, where sections of the population have been denied opportunities to learn and work in order to develop new skills or vocations for centuries, a democratic government must step in and help these groups. 

Advocating for Dalits and Adivasis Rights

In addition to policy, our country has particular laws that protect marginalized people from discrimination and exploitation.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was enacted in response to Dalit and other tribal groups’ requests that the government take seriously the ill-treatment and humiliation they endured, which had taken on a violent tone in the late 1970s and 1980s. During this time, a number of assertive Dalit groups arose in parts of southern India, asserting their rights – they refused to perform their so-called caste duties and insisted on being treated equally – resulting in the more powerful castes unleashing violence against them. Dalit groups demanded new laws that would list the various forms of violence against Dalits and prescribe stringent punishment for those who engage in them. 

Meanwhile, the ACT establishes a hierarchy of criminal offences.

  1. Modes of humiliation that are both physically and morally repulsive, and seeks to punish those who  force a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance;  forcibly remove clothes from a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe’s person or parades him or her naked or with painted face or body, or commits any similar act.
  2. Activities that deprive Dalits and Adivasis of their few resources or force them to engage in slave labor’s a result, the Act seeks to punish anyone who illegally occupies or cultivates land owned by or granted to a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, or has his land transferred to him; On a more general level, the Act recognizes that crimes against Dalit and tribal women are of a unique nature. As a result, anyone who assaults or uses force against a lady from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe with the goal to shame her is punished.

The Adivasis Demands Act of 1989

Another reason the 1989 Act is significant is that it aided Adivasis in defending their right to occupy property that was traditionally theirs. Adivasis are often resistant to relocate and have been evicted from their homes. Activists suggest that those who have violently encroached on tribal territory be prosecuted under this rule.

They’ve also pointed out that this Act just reinforces what the Constitution already says: that tribal territory cannot be sold or purchased by non-tribal persons. The right of tribal people to reclaim their land is guaranteed under the Constitution in such instances. Meanwhile, tribal who have already been evicted and are unable to return to their ancestral lands must be compensated. That is, the government must devise plans and laws that will allow them to live and work in other places. 

Sample Questions

Question 1: What are some examples of the term “marginalization”?


Professional chances are being denied due to components of someone’s identity (racism, sexism, ableism). Because of someone’s identity, they are denied equal access to resources. 

Question 2: What exactly is ‘Adivasis’?


Adivasis is the collective word for the Indian subcontinent’s Tribes, who are considered India’s indigenous people. 

Question 3: List two Constitutional Fundamental Rights that Dalits might invoke to demand that they be treated with dignity and on an equal footing.


Dalits have two essential rights that they can use to demand that they be treated with dignity and on an equal footing:

  1. Right to Equality: In the eyes of the law, everyone is equal. No citizen can be discriminated against because of their social status, caste, religion, or other factors. Everyone has the same right to access all public spaces.
  2. The right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to move freely, the right to organize associations, the right to reside in any region of the country, and the right to practice any profession, occupation, or business are all included in this category. 

Question 4: Why do Adivasis activists, such as C.K. Janu, believe that Adivasis may use the 1989 Act to resist dispossession as well? Is there anything in the Act’s provisions that permits her to believe this?


C.K. Janu, an Adivasis activist, believes that Adivasis can use the 1989 Act to fight against dispossession because it assures that tribal would not be forcibly ejected from their land resources. They clearly said that this Act only reinforces what the Constitution already promises to tribal people: that land owned by tribal people cannot be sold or purchased by non-tribal persons. The indigenous people have the right to regain their land in such cases, as guaranteed by the Constitution. 

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Last Updated : 13 May, 2022
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