A state of mind that violates human rights


The prime minister reportedly said: “In recent years, some people have started to interpret human rights in their own way, putting their interests first. They see a human rights violation in one incident but cannot see it in another similar incident. Such a state of mind is very damaging to human rights. He is absolutely right.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The document set out the rights and freedoms to which every human being has an equal and inalienable right.

To get worse

The preamble of the document captured the reality of the world in 1948 and justified the need to document the UDHR because “contempt and contempt for human rights has resulted in barbaric acts which have outraged the conscience of humanity …”. What was true in 1948 is true in 2021; it may have improved in some countries, but it has certainly worsened in other countries, including India.

Let’s start with what happened on October 3, 2021, at Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. Farmers were protesting against three agriculture-related laws passed by Parliament – in haste. A convoy of vehicles (at least two of which have been identified) driven at high speed behind the marching peasants mowed down four demonstrators. Violence followed. Three occupants of the car were overtaken by the enraged crowd and beaten to death. A journalist also died. The lead vehicle belonged to the Minister of State (MoS) of the Interior of the central government. It was alleged that her son was one of the occupants of the vehicle.

Human rights were violated in the incident. Article 19 of the UDHR states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference… ”. Article 20 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. The protesting farmers gathered peacefully and the march was an expression of their views on agricultural laws. Article 3 declares that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The high speed vehicle killed three lives instantly.

On the violation of human rights in Lakhimpur Kheri, the Prime Minister has remained silent to this day.

The militants are terrorists!

Let’s go back to 2018 and an incident in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra. On June 6, 2018, five social activists were arrested by police for inciting caste violence in Bhima Koregaon in January 2018. Among them, a lawyer, an English teacher, a poet and editor, and two rights activists humans. They are still in prison; their requests for bail have been repeatedly rejected. (On August 28, 2018, five other social activists were arrested.)

The lawyer, Mr. Surendra Gadling, asked to be allowed to study “computer law and human rights”. His request was rejected. English teacher Ms. Shoma Sen, after a year of complaint, was assigned a chair in her cell. Despite her arthritis, she was forced to sleep on a thin mattress on the floor. In the first few months, she was detained with convicts. Human rights activist Mr. Mahesh Raut has been denied Ayurvedic medicines his family brought for his ulcerative colitis. The poet and editor, Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, was not allowed to meet his colleagues and friends because they are not blood relatives.

On January 2, 2021, a journalist, Mr. Prateek Goyal, documented 16 violations of the law in the criminal proceedings against the defendants in the Bhima Koregaon case.

These included egregious excesses such as warrantless searches and seizures; take a prisoner without a removal order in transit; refusal of a lawyer of the prisoner’s choice; refusal of the State to cover the costs of hospitalization of a detainee; refusal to provide medical reports to a detainee; denial of a pierced chair to an inmate suffering from arthritis; refusal of a long-sleeved sweater; rejection of Swami Vivekananda’s books; arbitrary withdrawal of the case from the Maharashtra police and its transfer to the National Investigation Agency (under the central government, responsible for investigating terrorist acts and crimes) two days after a new government replaced the BJP government in Maharashtra; denial of parole to an inmate to attend his mother’s funeral; etc.

Punishment before trial

Relevant articles of the UDHR read, among others, as follows:

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9: No one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10: Everyone has the right in full equality to a fair and public trial by an independent and impartial tribunal, in determining their rights and obligations and any criminal charges brought against them.

Article 11: Anyone accused of a criminal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until his guilt has been legally established in a public trial.

As far as I know, over the past three years, the Prime Minister has not said a word about the human rights of prisoners in the Bhima Koregaon case, nor about the prolonged delay in even formulating the charges, in a case being pursued by the agency for which he is responsible, the NIA. Needless to say, the trial has not started.

I completely agree with the Prime Minister when he said, “Such a state of mind is very damaging to human rights.


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