Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Abstract 2014 Anna-Lena Wolf

Anna-Lena Wolf, University Bern


The Claim to Equality and the Right to Development in India

The struggle for equality in post-colonial India has been framed in a language of non-discrimination or affirmative action mainly with regard to religion, race, caste or sex. These four categories are acknowledged in the Indian constitution (article 15) to ensure equality to Indian subjects. Moreover, recently persons with disabilities were additionally brought into focus (Kannabiran 2012). The present paper seeks to broaden the study of equality in India by focusing on the question, how different notions and claims to equality are negotiated regarding the right to development in India.

In 1986 the United Nations proclaimed the right to development, which is included in the so-called third-generation human rights or solidarity rights. The notion of development has played a crucial role in global politics ever since the era of colonialism. With regard to British rule in the Indian subcontinent the image of underdeveloped and primitive Indians helped to justify a „civilizing mission“ and to generate and maintain structures of dominance. Nowadays „development“ remains a core concept in international relations, although it has been highly criticized in post-development discourses. The historical and contemporary discourses on the concept of development evoke different meanings of equality such as equality before the law, distributive justice or equality of opportunity, for instance. The present paper aims to show how notions and claims to equality are currently negotiated in India regarding actors engaged in human rights and the right to development, including national and federal commissions (e.g. National Human Rights Commission in Delhi), law institutions (Supreme Court in Delhi and High Courts in federal capital cities), international and local NGOs (e.g. Human Rights Law Network in Delhi) as well as individuals (e.g. politicians, judges, activists, claimants, academics). Central questions are: What are the impacts of the global propagation of the right to development and the right to equality on local concepts and practices? How do implementations and consequently interpretations of the right to development and the idea of equality on a local level in turn transform meanings of universal human rights in global discourses?

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