The universal declaration of human rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December 1948, in the wake of the terrors that were unleashed on the world post World War II. It consists of 30 articles that affirm an individual world citizen’s right.
It directed the countries to establish their respective human rights commissions, and in accordance to this direction, India established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The world today is in a state of unrest, and in such a scenario, it becomes imperative for us, as scholars of Humanities, to go beyond the paperwork and investigate the ground reality, to dwell into the realities of everyday life and to fathom how Human rights function in our society. This essay will aim at a close reading of the human rights of the Indian citizen and will scrutinise the way they function and the nuances involved. It will try and analyse recent events that have shaped our realities and will be an attempt to trace how they crossroads with the human rights.
It is no news that today India is in a state of extreme unrest and the atmosphere is that of strife. The wave of Saffronization has hurt the very fabric of the nation and has rendered many without a voice of their own. These days, people have been lynched to death on the basis of rumors of cow slaughter. From Yogi’s Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan, woke cow vigilantes have killed many innocent people. This is in direct contradiction with the Article 3 of the Universal Human Rights that declares, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
It is indeed deplorable that humans have been killed over animals, but one may ask the role that the Centre plays in the act and whether or not it is in any way privy to these incidents. The BJP government openly proclaims that cow vigilantism is one of their major propaganda and that they shall ensure that it is protected (Even though the beef supply to Pakistan has increased in the past four years). In the Alwar lynching case, the police took a “tea-break” before taking the victim to the hospital. Before taking care of the man, police made sure that the cow was taken to “gaushala”, to ensure its safety. The reason why I am dwelling on this issue in such great details is the fact that if one needs to see how rights are being handled in society, one must see how people in power exercise them and when agents of State show slackness in their behavior, it tells a lot about the condition of rights in the society. Just two days ago, PM Narendra Modi said that the cases of lynching are sad, but we must not “politicise” them. I am sure that this statement is self-evident and portrays the Indian State’s concern for the rights of its citizens. Also, it is important to note that the targets in the mob lynching are mostly Dalits or Muslims. Such planned targetting of the minorities is a direct violation of not just Article 3, but also Article 18 which ensures that people can safely practice the religion of their choice without any fear of repercussions for the same.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration Of Human rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” These days there is a lot of hue and cry for freedom of expression, and sadly one finds that there is no real freedom of expression for the citizen of India even when it is one of our fundamental rights. These days people who voice their ideologies are not just called names on the virtual media but are targeted in the real world. One only needs to see around to realise the deplorable condition in which we live. Journalists that speak against the status quo meet an end by state-sponsored violence. For evidence, one only needs to recollect the gruesome death of Gauri Lankesh.
The student activists who are vocal and raise questions are trolled by the troll media which has sprung up in the past three years. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students are constantly under a scanner. They have been branded “anti-nationals” because of their ideology and are being witch-hunted by the beloved “sons” of our Mother Nation. The condition is such that, on August 13 JNU PhD scholar Umar Khalid was shot outside the Constitution Club where he had gone to attend a seminar, “Khauf se Aazadi” which ironically had the motive to free the citizens of the fear that the regime has instilled in them. In such a scenario, when activists are being shot and when women activists like Shehla Rashid and Gurmehar Kaur receive death and rape threats on a daily basis, one can understand the current state of the freedom of expression in the country. Not just this, the media has been censored to such an extent that it has become the weapon for the people in power to exercise their propaganda and to instil hate and fear in the minds of the masses.
Article 2 states that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms outlined in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Today, to say the least, the marginalised are in a state of a constant threat. Muslims are not only being lynched in the name of cow slaughter, but also a larger narrative is being created in which they are being portrayed as the ‘others’ and the ‘oppressor’. No wonder, Jinnah has suddenly taken centre stage in Indian politics and has become the favourite topic of debate on our paid news channels. Today the Kavariyas get away with molesting a woman in Delhi NCR, and the Lord Ram supporters are allowed to march with swords in their hands on Ram Navami in Bengal while there are debates on the TV channels on whether Muslims should be allowed to offer prayers in the open. The Dalits are also being targeted, and this has become more than evident with the dilution of SC/ST atrocities act. To add to this, the violence committed on them has not reduced, and one only needs to be reminded of the groom who in, Modi’s developed Gujarat, was beaten black and blue for riding a horse on his wedding day.
In one needs to understand the condition of human rights in India, a study of Kashmir is indispensable. Earlier, the people of the state suffered under the inhuman AFSPA where soldiers misused the absolute freedom granted to them. Today in Kashmir, eight-year-old Asifa is raped and murdered, and the ruling party’s MLA joins a rally in support of the alleged rapists. The UN released its first-ever human rights report on Kashmir accusing security forces of gross human rights violations on both sides of the border. The report demanded Pakistan stop using its anti-terror legislation to crack down on activists. On the other hand, it accused India of using excessive force on civilians. In responding to demonstrations that started in 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. It is no secret that the Kashmiris have been deprived of the promised right to self-determination and the horrendous way in which they continue to be at the receiving end of the tussle between the two nations.
The right to privacy judgment by the SC and the hearing over Section 377 gives us hope that things aren’t that bad and might change for better someday. However, I feel it is imperative to introspect and scrutinise the way we have gone wrong as a State. Today the secular and democratic fabric of our nation is under threat, and we all must unite in a fight against fascist forces and demand the rights that we deserve under Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.
Source: Youth Ki Awaaz