The Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, conceived and established by Prof. Mushirul Hasan, Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, became operational in February 2005 when Ms. Kumari Selja, Hon’ Minister for State, Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation, Government of India, in the presence of Dr. K. R. Narayanan, former President of India, formally inaugurated it.
In his keynote address, Dr. K. R. Narayanan referred to the salience of addressing the concerns of Dalits and Minorities in the larger interests of the nation building processes in the country. He appreciated the overlapping nature of the two vital subjects – Dalits and Minorities – that have aptly been recognized and included in one centre. “This arrangement will enable scholars to study the issues in an inter-related manner, which would bring out the totality of the real situation for the world to know and act upon”, Dr. Narayanan observed.
Recognizing Dr. K. R. Narayanan as a philosopher guide, the Centre has been rechristened as Dr. K. R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies.
The Centre has been conceptualized as a relaying point, as well as, a source of inspiration for all inter-related issues concerning the Dalits, Minorities, and other marginalized and socially excluded sections of the population. While at the political level, the Dalit-Minority unity has been on the agenda in the recent years, an academic investigation on the subject cannot rest here. The limitation of the political approach to the problem is obvious. However, academic discourses ought to venture beyond and explore the possibilities of reviewing the paradigm of fragmentation and suggest ways of redefining the problem of solidarity in public sphere in the context of the sub-continent.
The Centre aims at generating academic debates and discussions, formulating them in a non-partisan and plural manner within a framework of egalitarian social solidarity as an ideal. In terms of what has come to be termed in the academic circles as the ‘rights approach’ to the problem, the entitlements of both, the caste oppressed and the community excluded are seen as an extension and elaboration of the new concepts of Human Rights, Social Development, Distributive Democracy, and Protective Discrimination. Such a broad based view will bring the Centre right at the centre stage of the wider debates, benefit the students, and assist the researchers in different faculties.
The ever deepening crisis in social, political, and economic spheres and the escalating tyranny of the traditionally hegemonic/dominant known as the majority, on one hand, and the rise of consciousness among Dalits and Minorities on the question of their legitimate rights, the growing global attention on internal socio-politics on the other, call for a paradigmatic shift. Any intellectual effort to revive the historical identity of interests, to view and interpret the differentiated collective existence within a single academic value framework and in this light to re-read the recent socio-political developments of the sub-continent would be at once a significant service to this fraction-driven society and also an advance of intellectual concerns. Dr. K. R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies is a step in that direction.
The Centre’ primary objectives are to generate awareness on the socio-economic, political, and cultural issues pertaining to Dalits, Minorities, and marginalized and socially excluded sections of the population. It aims to achieve this by encouraging inter-disciplinary research and creating various forms of intellectual platform for disseminating views and opinions concerning Dalit and Minority issues. It focuses on the following core thematic activities –
- Undertaking PhD, Post-Graduate, and Diploma Programmes;
- Conducting seminars, workshops, discussions, and lectures on issues relating to Dalits and Minorities;
- Functioning as a Research Centre for undertaking multi-disciplinary research;
- Exploring ways to introduce Dalit and Minority concerns in various University curriculum and syllabi;
- Establishing networks with various institutions, which thematically focus on Dalit and Minority issues; and
Functioning as a Resource and a Documentation Centre for students, researchers, visiting scholars, civil society organizations, and faculty members etc.