Contests over practices of justice in constitutional systems and publics that are placed on the margins or outside of such systems have and continue to shape the history and experience of democracy in the south Asian region. Especially in the last decade the theme of justice, in south Asia, has exploded as a major point of engagement and tension for governments, researchers and the several publics, with all three actors sorely unprepared for the speed with which the hydra headed theme of justice and restitution keeps emerging in different sites. While livelihood, health, ecology, agriculture, etc are some of the registers in which justice can be interrogated and its domains extended, violent conflicts is the express paradigm that overwrites and underscores all these registers. At the heart of the struggles, theorizing and action on justice is the constitutive power of Constitutional law in South Asia, its silences and complicity with various power structures. In other words, the quest for justice in the south Asian context is marked by a peculiar lacuna: social groups and collective practices emerge from the operations of law, even as they set themselves against the ‘unjustness’ of law. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s prophetic statement on the occasion of the adoption of the Indian Constitution seems to be persistently knocking at the doors of not only the Indian State but various other States of south Asia. Dr. Ambedkar said: “On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value…. How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.” While the south Asian Constitutions themselves may have gone through different journeys marked by suspensions, disappearances, dilutions as well as assertions, the ideas and the contours around which justice has been brought back repeatedly into focus in this region remains peculiarly similar and this includes international covenants and global justice regimes.
This project aims to build a series of studies through films and research papers that will map a range of contests on the idea and practices of justice as they take shape in different sites of south Asia. In so doing it will both profile and interrogate the aims and goals of governance and security.