Editorial – Human Rights Day Lessons


Today is World Human Rights Day. This is a time for all to reflect on what every human being should be guaranteed. Not an easy question to resolve no doubt but one which cannot at any cost be neglected. The biggest hurdle comes from the fact that fighting for Human Rights necessarily has had to be most of the time against the state. Not only is this because the state has been the biggest violators Human Rights through history, but also because of the very nature of Human Rights, as envisioned by the United Nations Universal Charter of Human Rights. This charter indeed is a post-modern statement of distrust of the presumed infallible morality of the state. It is therefore no coincidence that the modern Human Rights movement took birth immediately after the 2nd World War, a moment in history where the failure of the modern state to deliver its promise of universal uplift, was never as pronounced. The state is a necessity, never mind idealists like John Lennon who sang and believed in an imaginary world where there are no countries, flags, religions or ideologies. But the state is not goodness embodied. It represents a conglomeration of interests, and this interest is defined by the ruling elite. It is also capable of unthinkable violence and wilful atrocities against anybody who it believes are against this interest. The Human Rights movement is precisely a caution against this attribute of the state. It is unfortunate but true, that Human Rights movement everywhere in the world, are prone to be painted as anti-establishment, especially by the omnipresent cabal of unabashed apologists of the state.

It is pertinent to note here that the pioneering Human Rights activists, right from the very inception of the movement, were not unaware of the nature of the beast they were handling. This is evident from the very nomenclature they have chosen for the UN charter. It is called “Universal” Charter for Human Rights and not Charter of “Universal” Human Rights. There is nothing as “Universal” Human Rights. If it does, it is only a matter of rectitude and thus un-codified senses of rightness of things that everybody has from intuition. What constitute rectitude can differ radically from cultures to cultures, individuals to individuals too. The HR and rectitude however are far too often confused, therefore our effort to underscore the difference once again on this very important day. To put it another way, the state is there to look after all issues arising out of any breach of law and order. Ordinary crimes hence cannot amount to Human Rights violation from the vantage of the UN statute book. But when an atrocity results or is committed wilfully outside what can be considered as a breach of law and order, as for instance when a particular piece of legislation itself becomes the instrument for demeaning the dignity and freedom of individuals, the law keeping mechanism cannot anymore be relied upon to ensure justice. In situations where the law itself has become the aggressor, there is nowhere else to go than to supra-national bodies such as the United Nations. The Human Rights movement therefore must be understood from this standpoint.

But there has come a time now when the conflict of interest is no longer just between the individual citizens and the state. This is why there should now be a reconsideration of the expansion of the scope for the application of Human Rights clauses to other situation. In particular, in situations of insurgency, where the insurgents have also become virtual states, running parallel laws and administrations, this reconsideration becomes absolutely needed. This became extremely pronounced in the case of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE, while it lasted. The Tamil rebels were running a virtual state, hence when their ways were not considered within the scope for the Human Rights charter to scrutinise, the HR movement itself exposed its inherent weakness. The LTTE however bailed the movement out of its dilemma by indulging in what are in the true sense “terrorist activities” earning itself the stigma and censure of the world as a “terrorist” organisation. The hard and fatal price the organisation paid for earning this isolation from world opinion and sympathy is everybody’s knowledge. This being the case, the lessons from the Human Rights movement on this day, should be for the establishment as much for the increasingly lumpenised, ideology sterile underground movements in the state, threatening and intimidating people for ransom.


  1. Defence against Terrorism is the universal let out clause against respect for human rights. Today in the Hindu, the Indian Ambassador to the United States of America, wearing a saree no less, was aprehended by a low grade security official in America while trying a board a plane to return to Washington. The Ambassador is entitled to the full dignity and respect that one gives to the Nation. She is taken to a room and given an intimate search by a minimum wage security official. Presumably since this is what the Indian State argues should be done to the women of the North East then India has nothing to complain about. You believe in the interests of preventing terrorism any miminum wage security guard paramiitary or army squadee should be able to take away any woman for what is termed questioning in the North East and if he argues that it is to prevent terrorism then he should have the unconditional backing of all decent people. On this day when the world celebrates human rights a low level thug in a uniform outraged the modesty of the Indian Ambassador the United States of America and their defence is that their low level minimum wage thugs are the last line of defence against terrorism. As Malcolm X put it when my chickens come home to roost they do not go to my neighbours homes, they do not go to strangers homes, my chickens return to their own homes to roost. Repeal AF(SP)A. Free Irom Sharmila. Or look on this brave new world where the lowest paid ignorant white thugs again are masters of your all your women. Or is this the price the Mayangs are willing to pay for their abuse of the people.


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