Fraternity: Explained – Indian Polity

Context: The idea of fraternity evolved since ancient ages remains a significant tenet of liberal political philosophy along with the idea of liberty and equality.


Fraternity in politics refers to a specific bond and relationship between the members of a community that compels them to live together as equals and to provide mutual aid in case of need. 

Fraternity represents a sense of unity and brotherhood among individuals and communities, transcending the mere sharing of material resources. It is essential for the survival and effective functioning of a social system.

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Historical Context

Ancient Greece: 

  • The idea of fraternity can be traced back to ancient Greece, where philosophers like Plato and Aristotle explored its early dimensions. 
  • Plato’s dialogue “Lysis” emphasized the importance of philia, or love, as a strong desire to pursue wisdom.
    • In this context, sharing knowledge and forming meaningful bonds with others were seen as integral to fraternity. 
  • Aristotle introduced the concept of the polis, highlighting the importance of political community and friendship among citizens.
    • This laid the foundation for the idea of political fraternity.

Medieval Europe: 

  • In the Middle Ages, fraternity took on religious connotations within the Christian society of Europe. 
  • Religious communities and monastic orders fostered a sense of brotherhood among members, emphasizing shared values and spirituality. 
  • Fraternity in this period was often tied to religious morality and communal living.

French Revolution: 

  • The concept of fraternity found its way into the political arena during the French Revolution of 1789, where it became one of the three core principles of the revolution, alongside liberty and equality. 
  • The motto “liberté, égalité, fraternité” reflected the revolutionary ideals of solidarity and unity among citizens in the face of oppressive monarchy.

Fraternity in India 

In the context of India, the idea of fraternity gained prominence during the country’s struggle for independence and the subsequent emergence of constitutional democracy. 

  • Leaders like B.R. Ambedkar stressed the inseparability of liberty, equality, and fraternity as essential principles for a diverse and socially stratified society. 
  • The framers of the Indian Constitution recognized the significance of fraternity, particularly in addressing hierarchical social inequalities.

Constitutional and Legal Provisions Promoting Fraternity 

Constitution of India while mentioning fraternity in preamble also provide for many provisions which promote fraternity:

  • Constitutional Restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Expression (Article 19)
    • Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution imposes certain restrictions on the fundamental right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. 
    • These restrictions, including considerations of decency and morality, defamation, and incitement of offenses, aim to maintain social harmony and protect the dignity of individuals.
  • Protection of Distinct Language, Script, and Culture (Article 29)
    • Article 29(1) of the Constitution recognizes the right of any section of citizens with a distinct language, script, or culture to conserve the same. 
    • This provision promotes fraternity by safeguarding the cultural diversity and identity of various communities within the nation.
  • Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
    • This section addresses deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. 
    • It reflects the importance of respecting religious sentiments and upholding fraternity by discouraging actions that could incite religious tensions or hatred.
  • Protection of Human Rights
    • Various legislations and the establishment of institutions like the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions underline the importance of safeguarding the human rights of all individuals. 
    • These measures aim to ensure the dignity and well-being of every citizen, promoting fraternity by protecting their rights.
  • Welfare of Senior Citizens (Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2017)
    • This legislation addresses the welfare of senior citizens, emphasizing the need to care for and protect the elderly in society. 
    • It reflects the values of respect and responsibility within families and communities, contributing to a sense of fraternity.
  • Protection of Women’s Rights (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005)
    • Legislation aimed at protecting women from domestic violence acknowledges the need to safeguard the rights and dignity of women. 
    • This aligns with the principle of fraternity by promoting gender equality and ensuring the well-being of all citizens.
  • Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Rights of the Persons with Disability Act, 2016)
    • This law focuses on the rights and welfare of disabled persons, emphasizing the need for inclusivity and equal treatment. 
    • It reflects the spirit of fraternity by advocating for the inclusion and protection of vulnerable individuals.
  • Juvenile Justice and Child Protection (Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015)
    • This legislation addresses the rehabilitation and reformation of juveniles in conflict with the law.
    • It recognizes the importance of offering guidance and support to young offenders, promoting a sense of responsibility and care within society.

Role of Judiciary in Promotion of Fraternity 

The judiciary plays a pivotal role in safeguarding individual rights and upholding constitutional values which promote fraternity. 

  • Judicial Interpretation
    • The judiciary, in various cases, has recognized the importance of fraternity as reflected in the Preamble of the Constitution. 
    • It has emphasized that achieving justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity requires the commitment and loyalty of the State’s organs to these constitutional values.
  • Reservation and Fraternity
    • In cases like ‘Aruna Roy v. Union of India’ and ‘Indra Sawhney v. Union of India,’ the Supreme Court has discussed the idea of fraternity in relation to reservation policies. 
    • It recognizes fraternity to achieve national unity and dignity and as a justification for affirmative action aimed at addressing historical inequalities.
  • Cultural and Religious Awareness
    • Encouraging education about different religions and cultures, as advocated by the Chavan Committee (1999), can promote social cohesion and harmony. 
    • Such knowledge can help build mutual trust, understanding, and respect, reinforcing the value of fraternity in a diverse society.
  • Secularism and Fraternity
    • The Supreme Court has emphasized that secularism is an essential feature of the Indian Constitution, and it sees the principle of fraternity as a precursor to achieving secularism. 
    • Secularism is considered a bastion for building fraternity, emphasizing the need for a society where all religious beliefs are respected.
  • Protection of Dignity and Human Rights
    • The judiciary has taken a stand against arbitrary or misguided state policies that could damage the idea of fraternity and human dignity. 
    • It underscores the importance of policies and actions being in line with constitutional values and morality.
  • Privileges and Fraternity
    • The Court, in cases like ‘Shri Raghunathrao Ganpatrao v. Union of India,’ has held that certain privileges, like those enjoyed by the princely class, may threaten the common brotherhood and fraternity. 
    • This reflects the principle that privileges that create divisions can be incompatible with fraternity.

Importance of Fraternity in India

  • Promoting Constitutional Values:
    • Fraternity is seen as a tool to protect and promote other constitutional values such as liberty, equality, and justice. 
    • It is particularly vital in a diverse country like India, where unity is essential for social and political progress.
  • Rule of Law:
    • Faith in the idea of fraternity can help establish the rule of law as a reality. 
    • It implies that fraternity is a foundational principle for a just and law-abiding society.
  • Role of Fraternity in Governance:
    • Fraternity imposes duties on the State to foster social cohesion and solidarity. 
    • It necessitates ensuring the well-being of marginalized individuals and promoting social inclusivity.
  • Universal Rules of Morality:
    • Fraternity can be viewed as a set of universal rules of morality that transcend individual, group, or caste interests. 
    • These rules ensure the protection of individual rights and prevent conflicts within society.
  • Religious Choesion:
    • Different religions have varying degrees of fraternity. 
    • While some, like Buddhism, emphasize a sense of brotherhood extending to all humans, others may limit it to specific communities or castes.
  • Fraternity and Dignity:
    • The Preamble emphasizes that the nation’s unity can only be achieved when the dignity of the individual is secured. 
    • This underscores the importance of respecting the rights and dignity of every citizen.
  • Countering Divisive Forces:
    • Fraternity plays a crucial role in countering regionalism, linguistics, communalism, and secessionist activities. 
    • It fosters a spirit of brotherhood that helps bridge the gaps created by societal diversity.
  • Duties of the People:
    • The constitution not only outlines the ideals and aspirations of the Indian people but also highlights their duty to achieving justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all citizens. 
    • Article 51A(e) impose a duty to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India
  • Complementary to Equality:
    • Fraternity complements equality, as it operates as a safeguard against inequality. 
    • The Constitution explicitly prohibits all forms of inequality and untouchability, reinforcing the need for fraternity in society.
  • Civil Liberties and Self-Regulation: In a civil society, where individual desires need to be controlled and reconciled, fraternity promotes self-control and self-regulation, prerequisites for a just and fair society.
  • Freedom of Speech and tolerance: Fraternity encourages respectful communication and tolerance among citizens. 
  • Freedom of Religion and Neutrality: Fraternity helps reduce misunderstandings by establishing a sense of common brotherhood among different religious groups.
  • Cultural Rights and Duties: The Constitution safeguards cultural rights, and it also imposes duties on citizens to promote harmony, common brotherhood, and the preservation of India’s rich cultural heritage.

Challenges to Fraternity in India

  • Fraternity vs. Caste System
    • The caste system in India posed a significant challenge to the idea of fraternity.
    • The mixing of caste and politics has led to the politicization of caste identities, which can be detrimental to social cohesion and fraternity. 
    • Fraternal ties have often been limited to caste communities, hindering the forging of broader political unity.
  • Attacks on Minorities
    • Incidents of violence and attacks against minority communities undermine the sense of fraternity among different religious and ethnic groups. 
    • Such actions create divisions and disrupt social harmony.
  • Violence Against Women
    • Violence against women, even by their relatives, is a serious concern. 
    • It reflects a lack of respect for the dignity and well-being of individuals, which is a core aspect of fraternity.
  • Exploitation of Weaker Sections
    • The exploitation of weaker sections of society, including child labor and child sexual abuse, is a clear violation of the principles of equality and fraternity. 
    • It highlights the need for greater social justice and protection of vulnerable groups.
  • Gender Inequality
    • Gender inequality remains a challenge, reflecting a lack of fraternity in the treatment of women and their rights. 
  • Communalism and Religious Fundamentalism
    • Communalism and religious fundamentalism disrupt social harmony and create divisions among religious communities. 
  • Political Violence
    • The use of violence for political purposes is dangerous and erodes trust and unity among citizens. 
    • It undermines the principles of democracy and fraternity.
  • Regionalism
    • Regionalism, driven by regional disparities and imbalances in development, can create divisions within the nation and hampers fraternity.
  • Lack of Promotion of Harmony
    • The efforts to promote harmony and a spirit of common brotherhood among people of different sections and religions have been insufficient. 
    • True fraternity requires respecting, understanding and accommodating diverse beliefs.

Way Forward

  • Preamble and Beyond:
    • While fraternity is explicitly mentioned in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, its significance goes beyond just being a preamble statement. 
    • It should permeate all aspects of society to establish a peaceful, just, and fair social order.
  • Caste System: 
    • Dr. Ambedkar believed that eliminating the caste system is essential for achieving true fraternity and building a united nation.
  • Link to Other Constitutional Values:
    • Fraternity is seen as a foundational step toward achieving other constitutional values such as equality, liberty, and the dignity of individuals. 
    • It is posited that by nurturing fraternity, India’s unity and integrity will naturally flourish.
  • Role of Judiciary:
    • The concept of fraternity is suggested to have ample scope for interpretation within the Constitution. 
    • It can be a valuable tool for promoting social solidarity and addressing various challenges and inequalities.
  • Responsibility of All Organs of Government:
    • All three branches of government (executive, legislature, and judiciary) should have a responsibility for promoting and fostering the idea of fraternity and brotherhood. 
    • This implies that the government should work towards ensuring that policies and actions promote unity and respect among citizens.
  • Educating About Fraternity:
    • Education about the concept of fraternity is deemed essential. 
    • Raising awareness and understanding of fraternity among citizens can contribute to a more cohesive and harmonious society.
  • Protective Laws:
    • Numerous protective laws have been enacted by Parliament to safeguard the rights of underprivileged sections of society. 
    • However, if fraternal bonds had been appropriately developed and maintained, such laws might not be necessary.

To achieve political fraternity, certain preconditions are necessary, it should not overlook social inequalities or promote social solidarity based on hatred or discrimination. It must resist the rhetoric of belligerent nationalism and religious intolerance, as these factors can undermine true fraternity. The relationship between caste and political fraternity in India remains a complex and evolving issue. The task of Indian politics in the future is to determine whether fraternity or caste will prevail, as they appear incompatible in the current social milieu.

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