International human rights day – 10 December 2011

December 9, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Christopher Human RightsNew Delhi, December 8, 2011: In his message on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), Pope John Paul II said that the Declaration had made a decisive contribution to the development of international law, and that it had challenged national legislation and ‘allowed millions of men and women to live with greater dignity.’ But, very pertinent is his following observation: “However, anyone who looks at today’s world cannot but note: these fundamental rights, proclaimed, codified and celebrated are still the object of serious and constant violations.”

That observation of Pope John Paul II is relevant even today, especially in India, which is proud of having produced a lengthy Constitution. The discriminatory paragraph 3 of the Presidential Order 1950 has denied equal status to millions of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims for more than six decades; various mining projects in the country have resulted in massive eviction and displacement of millions of tribal people without adequate recompense or rehabilitation; people of minority religions like Islam and Christianity have been the unfortunate targets of communal violence. The lot of human rights defenders is no better than that of the above mentioned vulnerable groups. In 2011 alone four human rights defenders brutally killed in unexplained circumstances: Jharkhand social activist Niyamat Ansari in March; environmental activist Shehla Masood of Bhopal in August; Nadeem Sayed, a Gujarat-based activist, and Sr. Valsa John, anti-mining, anti-displacement activist in Jharkhand in November.

Even as the government brags about its recent laws like the Right to Education Act, Right to Information Act, Citizens’ Right to Grievance Redress Bill and so on, frequently reported are several cases of intimidation and harassment of human rights activists and whistleblowers. For example, having been acquitted of all ‘framed’ charges, human rights activist Arun Ferriera, who had suffered unjust incarceration for four years and four months, was abducted and illegally detained by none other than the commandoes of the Central Government Offices, in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, immediately after his release on 27 September – and that in front of his own family members who had come to take him home. And, Dr Pugazhenthi, who had published his findings on the various safety issues related to the power plant in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, laments that the police inspector at Puthupattinam station threatened, on 1 December 2011, to book him under National Security Act for whatever works he had been doing (visit for details).

‘Human rights are simply given by God. They are not to be taken by the State or by any human being without giving offense to God,’ says the Compendium of the Catholic Social Doctrine (No. 153). ‘When the violation of any fundamental human right is accepted without reaction, all other rights are placed at risk,’ said Pope John Paul II in his Message on the World Day of Peace, on 1 January 1999. On this 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us rededicate ourselves to the defence and promotion of human rights, reminding ourselves of the felicitous words of Demosthenes: “What we have in us of the image of God is the love of truth and justice.”

– rev. dr charles irudayam

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