Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Human Rights Day Celebration Eclipsed by Majoritarianism Violation

S N Sahu |
There is an intense struggle for human rights in a world where is rising inequality and hatred in the name of faith.
Human Rights

Human rights day is celebrated globally on December 10 to honour the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) by the United Nations (UN) on this day in 1948. It was a historical step to declare that every individual irrespective of gender, race, nationality and caste has civil and political rights—though such rights were not made mandatory and enforceable.

Before the declaration, an individual was treated with compassion as a citizen of a nation and not because he or she had rights universally recognised.

It is worth mentioning that the UDHR was initially male-centric and women delegates protested and demanded that it be made gender-neutral. Consequently, it referred to the rights of both men and women.

Adolf Hitler’s hatred, terror and violence, which resulted in the death and devastation of millions of people, including six million Jews in  Germany, tarnished humanity and sensitised people to declare a set of universally applicable rights.

While UDHR constituted a landmark step in recognising the rights of all humans, it remained confined to only civil and political rights—social, economic, cultural and environmental rights were not part of the declaration. That is why UDHR has been criticised as a declaration with a limited perspective to promote western culture. The developed western countries always used the violation of human rights in developing countries to deny them aid and other benefits.

While human rights centring around civil and political rights were the flavours of the western capitalist world, social and economic rights were the concerns of the socialist world. Slowly, social and economic rights were recognised and given equal importance to civil and political rights. US President Franklin D Roosevelt had said that social and economic rights constituted the Second Bill of Rights. The First Bill of Rights guaranteed civil and political rights to American citizens.

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was understood that the culture of liberal democracy would spread across the world and all would enjoy human rights equally. The UN also adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which for the first time recognised the immense importance of social, economic and cultural rights of all individuals along with their civil and political rights, in 1966.

In the early 1990s, it was adopted by the UN that ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’, which for the first time provided a much-needed gender perspective to human rights. Therefore, gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to human rights. Any violation of women’s rights is considered a violation of UDHR. The struggle continues against such violations.

Of late, along with civil, political, social and economic rights, environmental rights, which flow from expanded interpretations of human rights—at the core of which remain the right to life—have been recognised.

The Supreme Court has interpreted the right to life to include the right to work, health, clean air, clean water and shelter. India enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, which defines human rights as the rights, liberties and equality and equal opportunity guaranteed by the Constitution and embodied in international covenants and enforced by the courts of law in our country. As a result, we have the National Commission on Human Rights at the national level and Human Rights Commission at the state level.

Now, the scope of human rights is continuously expanding. For instance, access to credit by all is considered a human right. Besides, the right to connectivity is being said to be a human right in a digitally driven world.

While the right to credit as a human right was flagged by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank—which provides microcredit to poor women without any collateral—the right to connectivity as a human right was proclaimed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. It is tragic that Facebook itself is violating human rights by often providing its platform to hate peddlers.

The evolving and expanding scope of human rights coexists with the intense and persistent struggle for access to human rights in a world where, among others, rising inequality and hatred in the name of faith and other identities are testing UDHR. While the Narendra Modi regime waxes eloquent about ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, it also gives remission to convicts who were serving life sentences for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering several of her family members.

People are increasingly becoming aware of their rights in the same manner in which the powerful and rich have access to those rights. This awakening is an important dimension of the march of humanity to ensure human rights for all. It is rather sad that the Modi regime is giving primacy to duties over rights instead of giving equal emphasis on rights and duties. This is against the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights to citizens and even non-citizens that are enforceable. The call of a few Hindutva leaders to pick up arms and commit genocide of minorities, particularly Muslims, and their comprehensive social and economic boycott negates human rights. It is indeed a categorical imperative to defend human rights by upholding the constitutional vision of India.

The writer was officer on special duty and press secretary to President KR Narayanan. The views are personal.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram