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‘Fraternity’ as enshrined in the Constitution

Published: 14th Sep, 2023


Fraternity is one of the constitutional values that have received the maximum neglect both in the world of ideas and in the political field of action.

  • Fraternity, often overlooked, is a vital aspect of liberal political philosophyalongside liberty and equality.


What does Fraternity means?

  • Fraternity, in the context of constitutional provisions, refers to the idea of brotherhood and solidarity among citizens within a nation.
  • It implies a sense of unity, social harmony, and mutual respect among individuals, transcending differences such as caste, creed, religion, or gender.

It’s Origin and Significance:

  • Ancient Greek Philosophy: The concept of fraternity has ancient roots, with early ideas found in the works of philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.
    • Plato emphasized the sharing of knowledge and love in the pursuit of wisdom, hinting at the notion of sharing and cooperation as elements of fraternity.
  • Medieval Christianity: During the middle Ages, fraternity was often associated with religion, particularly within the context of Christian society in Europe.
    • It manifested as a sense of community and brotherhood among religious groups and organizations.
  • French Revolution: The concept of fraternity gained political significance during the French Revolution in 1789.
    • It became one of the three pillars of the revolutionary slogan "liberté, égalité, fraternité," highlighting its importance in the realm of politics and governance.
  • Evolution in Political Thought: Fraternity evolved from its origins in civic-political friendship in ancient Greece to religious contexts in medieval Europe, and finally to its revolutionary dimension in modern political thought.
  • Enduring Idea: Despite its evolution, fraternity remains an enduring idea that emphasizes unity, cooperation, and solidarity among individuals or groups, particularly within the political and social spheres.

What are the recent threats to the ‘idea of Fraternity’ in India?

  • Social Inequalities: True political fraternity cannot exist if it ignores social inequalities. If fraternity is based on hatred towards an imaginary enemy, it only maintains the existing social hierarchy, benefiting the privileged while oppressing the underprivileged.
  • Belligerent Nationalism: The call for fraternity is often replaced by aggressive nationalism that targets religious minorities as enemies. This kind of rhetoric has been used to oppress religious minorities in India.
  • Fundamentalism: Fundamentalism, which is rigid and extreme thinking, is incompatible with fraternity. Fanatics cannot exhibit true brotherhood or solidarity.
  • Caste and Fraternity: In India, the coexistence of caste and political fraternity is challenging. One must give way for the other to thrive, and the future of Indian politics will determine which one prevails.

Constitutional Provisions in India:

  • As a part of Preamble:The term "fraternity" is explicitly mentioned in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
    • The Preamble underscores the significance of fraternity in promoting social cohesion, individual dignity, and national unity.
    • It emphasizes that along with justice, liberty, and equality, fraternity is a fundamental value that the Indian state is committed to ensuring.
  • Article 15: This article prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. It promotes fraternity by ensuring that the state does not discriminate against any citizen.
  • Article 17: Article 17 abolishes "untouchability" and forbids its practice in any form. It aims to eliminate a deeply rooted form of social discrimination and promote fraternity among all citizens.
  • Directive Principles of State Policy: Several directive principles in Part IV of the Constitution, such as promoting educational and economic opportunities for marginalized groups, aim to reduce inequalities and promote fraternity.
  • Fundamental Duties: The Constitution includes Fundamental Duties (Article 51A) that encourage citizens to promote harmony, the spirit of common brotherhood, and renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of individuals and communities.

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