The cruel irony of Human Rights Day

By Abdullah Khan

10 December is internationally celebrated as the International Human Rights Day. In 1950, the United Nations declared 10 December as the International Human Rights Day so that, by organizing different programs on this day, the attention of the people from all over the world could be drawn toward the international declaration relating to human rights. The UN General Assembly drafted the declaration and officially adopted it on 10 December 1948. Since this global organization came into existence at the time of war and struggle, it is obvious that when it took over the responsibility of trying to establish peace in the world, the issue of explaining and observing human rights was the centre of first priority. This global organization has prepared an official Human Rights Charter, and the member countries are bound to respect the UN Assembly’s decision of accepting and advertising the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In order to spread the views of this global organization on the issue of human rights, 10 December was declared the International Human Rights Day. On this day, light is thrown on human rights issues through political conferences, cultural programs, and exhibitions. Besides this, the global organization also gives human rights awards to activists who fight for human rights.

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It is commendable that the United Nations expresses sincerity and celebrates the day as the World Human Rights Day in the honor of global declarations and distributes awards and organizes different functions, but the question is: Even after 70 years, is the United Nations in a position to claim that its member countries respect this declaration on human rights and follow it responsibly. Has the global institution been successful in proving its mettle to any extent whatsoever on the front of human rights? The answer to this question is apparently no because a vast region in the world has become a battlefield. From Palestine to Syria and from Burma to Xinjiang, the deadly storm of murder and killings is underway and human beings are being cut like vegetables and these unfortunate regions have turned into a hell.

Undoubtedly, the UN alone cannot be expected to protect human rights. To ensure the protection of these rights at every level is the responsibility of every country and society, which will also be proof of the society being civilized. Today, is there a country where human rights are not being violated? Statistics as well as situations and incidents are proof. Where statistics are tampered with, situations and incidents will stand proof. This will also have to be kept in mind that human rights violations are not confined to some major subjects such as wars, famine, starvation, massacres, etc. but these rights also exist in “trivial incidents,” the violation of which is not generally considered to be a violation of human rights. For example, the issue of hunger due to poverty, the issue of non-availability of employment because of unemployment, the issue of health facilities not being available to fight diseases, the issue of there being no guarantee of peace and security because of fear and terror, the issue of government protection not being available to weaker sections because of those who are powerful, the issue of unjustified arrests, the issue of keeping in custody without being tried, or the issue of not ensuring an unbiased safety mechanism against organized riots.

The condition of prisons in India, too, is proof of large-scale human rights violations. Seventy per cent of the prisoners are such who are under trial. So slow is the pace of cases that prisoners are forced to endure the hardships of incarceration i.e., serving their terms, without allegations having been proven. An allegation can or cannot be proved, but the punishment of imprisonment goes on. Such is the situation that the ratio of three sections of the populations — Muslims, Dalits and tribal people — in prisons is more than their population ratio. Muslims constitute 14.2 per cent of the population but in prisons, they are 19.7 per cent, Dalits constitute 16.6 per cent of the population, but in prisons they constitute 21.6 per cent. Tribal people constitute 8.6 per cent of the population but in prisons they constitute 11.8 percent. The extremely-slow hearings on petitions regarding the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people in Kashmir are also very perturbing.

A very strange atmosphere of chaos prevails everywhere. Somewhere, some region is facing anarchy. Somewhere foreign aggressors have forcefully imposed themselves. And at some other places, murder and anarchy have taken over in the name of race and regional disputes. The irony is that even those governments and the countries which are signatory to the declaration of the international institution related to human rights are not ashamed of colouring their hands with each other’s blood. Be it the bloody conditions prevailing in Iraq and Afghanistan or Armenia and Azerbaijan, one can’t stop himself from saying that the world is being ruled by the law of the jungle and the human rights are being suppressed and suppressed without any mercy. Therefore, celebrating a day as a tradition, and distributing awards will not change the ground realities. If one closely observes human settlements, it will become clear that against the indolence and apathy of the governments, not 365 days of the year, but every moment of every day should be associated with the protection of human rights, only then will emerge the sensitivity that is the first condition for the protection of human rights, and without which a state of peace and security worth mentioning cannot develop.

Abdullah Khan is a communication consultant based in New Delhi and holds a PhD in Media Studies.