Calling for a narrative based on cultural and civilisational ethos of tolerance and compassion, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday said the legacy of pluralism and secularism was at stake.

“What is at stake is the legacy of pluralism and secularism, as citizens are no longer equal before the law and some are more equal than others in many parts of the country,” he said at an international conference here.

Noting that the idea of India as a plural society was at a crossroads, he warned that its civilisational values and culture were facing a critical test due to the onslaught of divisive and exclusivist ideas.

“Time has come to reclaim the idea of social justice through the thought and vision of B.R. Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of our Constitution,” said Siddaramaiah at the opening of the three-day International Conference on ‘Quest for Equity: Reclaiming Social Justice, Re-visiting Ambedkar’.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, human rights activist Martin Luther King III, son of the legendary American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.

Rejecting the majoritarian view, Siddaramaiah told the gathering that adhering to the rigid norms of food, clothing, language and free speech was against the Constitution’s letter and spirit.

“Majoritarianism is untenable in theory and unjustifiable in practice. We, as a nation, need to understand that tolerance of such regressive and divisive ideas is not the way out, as tolerance would postpone the harmful impact of majoritarianism. We need to fight for a truly egalitarian India,” asserted Siddaramaiah, quoting Ambedkar’s views on the issue.

Organised by the Karnataka government, the conference will unveil the ‘Bengaluru Declaration’ outlining specific constitutional, institutional and policy responses to concerns of equity, human rights, freedom and democracy.

In all, 83 international, 149 national and 80 state-level speakers, including academics, activists and policy-makers will address about 2,000 participants at the conference.

As it commemorates the 126th birth anniversary of the architect of the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar’s life and works will be deliberated as they were still relevant to the social, political and economic justice across the country and the world.

Among the overseas speakers will be Cornel West, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, James Manor, Thomas Weisskopf, Upendra Baxi, Laurence Simon, Samuel Myers and Ashutosh Varshney.