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Rights On Paper, Wrongs On Ground

Rights On Paper, Wrongs On Ground

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was on December 10, seven decades ago, a milestone document was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being. The document categorically confers this right on each individual regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is one of the most translated documents in the world, available in more than  500 languages .

Unfortunately, the rights enumerated in the document are honoured more in breach than in observance. This is true across the continents, though some countries claim the ‘badge of honour’ in violating human rights.

Shifting the focus to India, it is indisputable that every government, in States and at the Centre, has betrayed traits of intolerance leading to extreme cases of rights violations. The situation has become worse under the current ruling party.

Look at the following dismal scenario: human rights activists who take up the cause of the poor and the marginalized are branded as Maoists and put behind bars; non-government organisations which do not toe the line of the government and the ruling party are made to suffer by cancelling their licences; farmers who seek better price for their produce have to face the ire of the police; the unemployed who want jobs face water cannons; students are charged with sedition for expressing their views; and the litany of such rights violations goes endlessly even as the world observes seven decades of a declaration that assures, but not ensures, every individual his or her inalienable rights.

One does not have to go far looking for the dismal state of affairs in the country. Rule of law is the best safety net for protection of rights of individuals. Where-ever and whenever the rule of law collapses, it poses the greatest danger to human rights.

India presents a classic case of this dreadful situation. Here lynching mobs take law into their hands with impunity; police unleash unmentionable brutality, often at the behest of ruling dispensation, to suppress protesters; law-enforcers fabricate evidences to muffle sane voices; dalits are brutalized when they dare to enter temples or try to use public utilities. These violations happen despite laws permit the victims to have their rights. The ultimate of such violations occur when court orders are thrown into dust bins even by leaders who are supposed to set an example. Things have come to such a pass that even Supreme Court directives are thrown to the wind without batting an eyelid.

Who will keep the keepers if law-enforcers become law-violators. The best way to ensure rights is to allow the court orders to take its course. Governments, political parties and organisations are duty-bound to help implement court directives, especially those coming from the apex court of the land. Someone’s right may be perceived as somebody else’s violation of rights. But in a democracy, what matters more is law and its implementation rather than perceptions and views. Many incidents of rights violations can be contained if the functioning of constitutional bodies is not tampered with. Democracy is built on the foundation of human rights. If rights are violated, democracy will collapse .

(Published on 03rd December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 49)