Violation Of Human Rights

Authoritarianism in Action

Notan Kar

All humans rest in societies together—as was stated by the U N declaration of Human Rights in 1948. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

This statement defines that each and every human is entitled to enjoy all rights. Human rights are fundamental to human existence. But human rights were always violated in human history. The rulers used to oppress people and did not grant their rights as they are entrusted with. Even religious leaders in some cases were responsible for the violation of human rights.

The human rights movement in India started during the British regime when nationalist movement was going on. That is why the human rights movement in India is intertwined with the nationalist movement. A historic public meeting was held under the monument in Calcutta in 1931 to protest against the police firing on the prisoners of Hijli (Medinipur) Jail. Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore strongly protested the police firing in the meeting. In 1936, at the initiative of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the first human rights association was formed in India which was known as 'Indian Civil Liberties Union'. Rabindranath Tagore became the first president of the association. The Association made a concerted effort to organise protest movements and build people's awareness against police brutality, persecution of political prisoners, government bans on political parties and mass organisations and extrajudicial detention etc. The movement for human rights in the pre-independence period was in many issues associated with the wider anti-British movement. The Anti-Roulat Bill movement, Jallianwala Bagh massacre protest, Simon Commission boycott movement etc. were deeply interlinked with anti-British and human rights movements.

The rulers who came to power after independence also showed extreme indifference towards securing human rights and civil rights of the citizens of India. Successive rulers in India continued to enact black laws following previous British laws. In July 1948, the Congress government at the Centre banned the Communist Party of India and extreme state repression was carried out against communist workers across the country. State terrorism intensified in West Bengal to suppress the communist activities. Scientist Meghnad Saha, politician Sarat Chandra Bose, intellectual Khitiprasad Chattopadhyay and others with many civilians joined the protest against state terror in West Bengal. On their initiative, a human rights organisation named 'Civil Liberties Committee' was formed in West Bengal in 1948. In 1975, the state of emergency was declared and freedom of speech, rights of the people were seized.

At present when the ruling class at the centre is celebrating the 75th year of independence ‘Amrit Mahatsav’, human rights are being severely violated and curtailed in India. The attack has been intensified much more. Human rights are constantly being violated in Jammu and Kashmir. These days severe torture on common people is routine in the state. Disappearing, killing and arresting people on suspicion of terrorist activities has become a daily occurrence in the state. According to the report of 2018 published by the ‘Coordination of Civil Service Society’, a joint human rights organisation in Jammu and Kashmir mentioned that about one lakh people especially the youth of the state had been missing or killed so far. Since a long time, human rights have been suppressed in north-east states especially Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram by the imposition of ‘Armed Forces Special Power Act’ (AFSPA). Recently people are acquainted with the incidents that happened in Manipur in various media. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 till date around 90 people have been killed in the name of encounter. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra bear no testimony of exceptions. People saw the killings of minorities in Gujarat riots with the direct indulgences of the administration in 2002. Most citizens know the episode of Bilkis Banu. Likewise, last year Muslims were killed with the direct indulgence of the rulers in Delhi riots. Students and citizens protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi had been arrested. Student leaders Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and many others are still imprisoned under the UAPA clause. The Bhima Koregaon case prisoners are still being held arbitrarily in the jail without trial. Journalists in India, even today, cannot publish their factual reports. Siddiqui Kappan has recently been granted bail after nearly two years in jail for sedition. Extremists shot dead Sujaat Bukhari in Kashmir for his outright speaking. For a long time, there have been repeated appeals from the citizens for the repeal of draconian repressive laws from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to Manipur. But the governments appear not to be proactive in withdrawing the draconian laws, instead the BJP government that came to power at centre in 2014 making more strict laws for curbing human and civil rights of the citizens.

West Bengal also is no exception in terms of human rights violations. Citizens' democratic rights have been repeatedly undermined more from state tyranny in the last seventies to the present government. Frequently right to expression, civilian meetings are stopped by the administration on various pretexts. Political prisoners are still being held in prisons without trial. Most of them are imprisoned under UAPA. There are currently 72 political prisoners in various jails in West Bengal including women prisoners. Seven political prisoners died in jail during the Trinamool government's eleven-year rule.

Human rights are not at all protected in India. The main barrier to the protection of human rights in India is severe wealth inequality and poverty. Most people in the country still live below the poverty line. Every year starvation deaths make headlines. It is not possible to protect human rights if the needy people cannot get food, medical treatment, shelter and employment.

Last year a US report cited significant human rights violations in India including alleged unlawful and arbitrary killings, challenges to freedom of press, interference with privacy and violence targeting religious and ethnic minorities.

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Vol 56, No. 4, Jul 23 - 29, 2023