Dissent, Constitutional remedy, Rights (especially those called Human Rights), and Duties are essential words in a democracy, which itself is an essential word in any human citizen’s lexicon. All these words are made up of letters of the English Alphabet (pun intended), but the spirit behind each of them is perhaps more important. And sadly, in India, for some time now, but more so in the last 7 years, the spirit is missing, while the words themselves have acquired new meanings that the Oxford Dictionary has yet to recognize and record. But then who cares. English is not our language, and we must pay it no heed!
We – human beings – are animals first, – a different species maybe, but animals nonetheless – and our animal instinct is best seen in our attitudes to the lives of others. The law of the jungle – Survival of the fittest, fastest, and the most cunning, is often the norm in the human world too, but this base instinct is also tempered by the Human beings ability to realize, recognize and tame it… and hence the word, “Human Rights”. And we have a day in the calendar on which we celebrate them.
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims 30 inalienable rights to which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated, most read document, but least adhered to in its entirety, in the world, especially by those who espouse it the most – all in the name of self-preservation – Self is grandiosely identified with the nation for this purpose. Another word for Self-Preservation is “National Security”.
The theme for the celebration this year, is, naturally, “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”. It relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.
Human Rights, the theme reiterates should be at the center of a post-Covid World – A world where discrimination does not exist, and/or is mitigated by addressing inequalities created by a Covid Economy, by creating participation and solidarity, and promoting sustainable development.
The distribution pattern of the Vaccine that is expected in early 2021, (One is already certified for emergency use in the UK) will be a true test of the theme!
India is a proud member of the UN and professes a great commitment to the UDHR and its own 7 fundamental rights (One added by the Supreme Court via a judgment that thankfully stymied the Government’s intentions in this regard) – the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights, and the Right to Constitutional Remedies and of course now, the Right to Privacy.
Professing allegiance to these rights in all the forums that matter is important and done well by the Indian Government. But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and the recent trends in legislation – the love jihad law, the anti-conversion law, the NRC, CAA, the UAPA, Sedition, and amended laws/regulations, facilitating and actively pursuing selective raids, confiscation, and arrests by the 2 and 3 Alphabet central agencies, the almost impossible to adhere to amendments to the FCRA leading to the withdrawal from the social and rights sphere of several NGOs, including Amnesty International, the extremely poor judicial speed in most cases, barring a few, and the unbailable (despite all attempts) arrests of Rights activists can be found only in the pudding. But We the People are unimpressed by the dessert, as the main course is quite filling!
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
The 11 fundamental duties we have in the goal of self-preservation – well, those are for someone else to do. We don’t even know what they are do we?. Please do google and find out and carry out some of them if not all from this day onward….