International human rights day – OJPD-CBCI

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

International human rights dayOn the eve of the 64th International Human Rights, one is baffled by the sheer magnitude of human rights violations in India and in the world at large. It is very disconcerting to note that the State which is under covenantal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights of its citizens has failed them. What is comforting, however, is the fact that there is growing awareness among the people of their rights. Hence, one sees massive protests and demonstrations by people in defence of their rights.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day this year, the Office for Justice, Peace and Development, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (OJPD-CBCI) wishes to compassionately delve into the human rights situation in India, and, at the same time, to urge those who act on behalf of the State to urgently remedy the situation.

The most distressing is the situation of the religious minorities whose right to religious freedom is ruthlessly rubbished and trampled upon by the militant majoritarian groups that apparently enjoy utmost impunity in the new political ambience following the general elections this year. These militant groups not only take the law into their own hands, and violently assault and intimidate the minority religious groups but also challenge the local / district administration that honestly attempt to maintain rule of law. The incidents in Trilokpuri and Bawana in Delhi, Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh, Kundupur in Karnataka and Bastar in Chhattisgarh are only the tip of the iceberg. Unless restrained, these footloose majoritarian groups that have little regard for constitutional norms can become a national menace and imperil human rights.

Equally disconcerting is the situation of the tribals whose rights are not respected in the name of ‘development’ in order to placate the profit-hungry corporates. Hundreds of MoUs signed between the state governments and the companies only result in the displacement of millions of Adivasis in the central India. Their struggles for jal, jangal, jamin are heartlessly repressed. And, the bloody repression is ‘justified’ by powers that be by merely branding the Adivasis as Maoists/Naxalites. The situation of dalits leaves much to be desired. They have been unscrupulously subjected to violence and riots. This being the reality, Article 17 of the Constitution of India states: “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. Indisputably, the most discriminated among the dalits are the Christian and Muslim dalits who, unlike the Hindu dalits, have been denied the Scheduled Caste status and, hence, their right to affirmative action.

The other vulnerable groups that merit special attention are women and children in India. According to India’s National Crime Bureau, 92 women are raped in India every day. Another recent survey reveals that 91 percent of women and girls in India face sexual harassment in their lifetime. On the other hand, the Child rights activist Mr Satyarthi, who is one of the two recipients of this year’s Nobel peace prize, laments that not enough is being done to protect children from servitude.

There are two groups of people in India whose three-decade-long quest for justice remains unfulfilled: the survivors of the 1-3 November 1984 anti-Sikh riots that left about 7,000 Sikhs dead; and, the survivors of the 2-3 December 1984 Bhopal gas-leak disaster that killed more than 3,000 people instantly and thousands more over the years.

Against this backdrop, one can rightly appreciate the pertinence and significance of the announcement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the theme for Human Rights Day this year is: Human Rights 365. The theme encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. The theme also celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, the CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development underscores the need for inculcating rights-respecting codes of conduct among people everywhere and endorses as well as echoes the following message of Pope Francis:“The Church renews today her strong appeal for the protection of the dignity and centrality of every person, respecting his fundamental rights, as her Social Doctrine stresses, rights that she requests be really extended where they are not recognized to millions of men and women in every Continent.” (Pope Francis’ Address to Pontifical Council for Migrants, Vatican City, on 24 May 2013).

OJPD-CBCI calls on government authorities to honour their obligation to protect human rights everyday of the year and also urges all, especially the people of good will, to seek out more meaningful roles where they can make a difference in their attempt to respect, protect and promote human rights that belong to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

– rev dr charles irudayam, executive secretary, ojpd-cbci

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