Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, 10th December, 2012
It is often said that India is the largest democracy in the world. By definition this would presuppose that the Indian Constitution and the government have provided mechanisms to guarantee human rights for everyone in India. But the conditions of existence of our people and the gross violation of rights day in and day out contradicts this claim.
People in India do not have the right to free speech and the right to one’s conscience. People are targeted on the basis of their nationality, ethnic origin, religion and language. People residing in Kashmir and the north-east who are demanding that their national rights are guaranteed, people of tribal origin protesting against the exploitation of their natural resources by multinationals, people belonging to minority religions who are demanding that those who organized genocides and massacres of their people be punished – all of them strongly feel that their human rights are being violated by the ruling establishment.
Our people do not have the right to essential goods and services such as food, nutrition, education, health care, livelihood, fuel, electricity, and others which all members in a modern society need to live a dignified life. Such services are being increasingly privatized, leaving the people to fend for themselves. The central and state governments are absolving themselves of the responsibility to provide these essential services in adequate quantity and quality at reasonable costs for the public.
Among the worst violations of human rights in India is the violation of the rights of women. The growing numbers of dowry deaths, sexual assaults, honour killing, female foeticide and maternal deaths speak about the degrading status of women in India.
It is a well-known fact that India is near the bottom of the table in the world both in the human development index and the gender development index. But the government is least bothered about this shameful position.
Several Commissions such as the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Minorities, and others have been set up. But they neither have the resources nor the mandate to ensure that human rights are guaranteed for all. The government periodically announces several development goals relating to elimination of diseases, reduction in child and maternal mortality rates, reduction in malnutrition and so on. But the goal posts keep getting shifted with every five-year plan.
The people of India have been opposed to FDI in retail, banking and pension. But the ruling party steamrollered the policy decision in Parliament without organizing any debate or referendum among the people on issues that have a tremendous portent for the livelihood of millions of small producers, traders, consumers and pensioners. This was a glaring example of the total marginalization of our people in the current political process and the deprivation of political rights.
The issue is that the Indian Constitution does not recognize the modern definition of human rights, that it is inviolable and indivisible, that it belongs to everyone by dint of being a member of society, that it is the duty of the state to provide prosperity and protection to all members of society, and that there should be Constitutional guarantees and mechanisms to enforce these rights.
In the Constituent Assembly set up for drafting of the Constitution, the task of preparing a report on Fundamental Rights was delegated to an Advisory Committee headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who later played an important role in creating an Indian Union by forcibly annexing princely territories and independent states into the Indian Union. The interim report prepared by the Committee advised that the rights should be separated into a justiciable and non-justiciable part and that even the justiciable rights should be hemmed in by so-called safeguards and provisos. One member commented that “ very minimum rights have been conceded and those too very grudgingly and these so-called rights are almost invariably followed by a proviso… these are fundamental rights from a police constable’s point of view and not from the point of view of a free and fighting nation”. Thus, our Constitution makers set about the task of writing the Constitution with an anachronistic view of human rights, not accepting them as something inalienable but treating them as a set of privileges which can be given and taken away according to the whims and fancies of the ruling establishment.
There was an extensive debate in the Constituent assembly on the nationalization of land, mines, key industries and basic industries so that the fundamental rights of farmers, tribal people, and others can be ensured. This was turned down. With the result that land grabbing, illegal mining and privatization of natural resources which belong to the people continue unfettered today.
The prevailing political system and process and the existing Constitution do not guarantee rights for the people. Instead they guarantee rights for the political parties of the status quo and powerful monopolies and business houses to ride roughshod over the fundamental rights of the people. If any section of the people oppose this deprivation of rights they are termed as secessionists, extremists, terrorists and so on. Some are put behind bars on mere suspicion.
On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day our people must demand such a Constitution that guarantee the rights of all sections of the people and ensure prosperity and security for all. Only such a Constitution can ensure a political process where the domination of political parties of the status quo is ended and people have a right to decide on the economic orientation and future course of the country. This demand will be resisted by the forces of the status quo because it will take away their unbridled right to keep the people marginalized from political power and to continue with their loot and plunder of the national resources. People have to build their own organizations in their villages, mohallas, colonies and work places to struggle for a new political process that will enable constitutional guarantees for human, democratic and national rights in tune with the needs of a society in modern times.