A Historical Anatomy of Human Rights

What truly are Human Rights? Why do we clamor for it with a personal enthusiasm? Moreover, when is it going to be recognised? Since the World War years, in particular the Second World War, we have seen Human Rights emerge as a very important subject. The extremely dismal yet superiorly structured genocide of the Jews by Hitler led Germans was the starting point of Human Rights. The devastation caused singularly to one religion, wiped out the golden rays of European and American ethics, principles and self-suffering idealism. Though the early proponents of Human Rights were the British and the Americans, they are no less when it comes to atrocities on the human kind. The British have left a legacy of about three hundred years of painful violence on India alone; need we step into their former colonies in Asia and Africa? The USA has had a long-standing curse with the nuclear bombing of Japan and it continues in Abu-Gharib and Guanatamo Bay with no response of constructive apology.

What seems to be wrong with the concept of Human Rights is that we seem to be seeing the concept through the broken prism of the Second World War. The dilapidated view has taken us, new nations like India, nowhere because the principles constructed in the last century have no validity and no application in the 21st century. The world order has changed dramatically and by the end of the next few years, recession hit USA and Europe will be knocking the doors of the new leaders in the BRIC countries.

Every century comes with a new set of rules where the principles of diplomacy changes and the very definition of important issues find themselves being modified to suit the new ways of thinking. History has been a keen witness to the changes, be it the European Renaissance, the Indian revival from the dark ages, the Chinese march towards domination or the awakening of USA amidst the World Wars while the European order crumbled. These changes are constant and change we must because if we cannot keep up with them we shall never progress.

Thus in the new scenario we also need to change the designation we give to Human Rights. We also need to revise the very application of the benefits of these rights and consider keenly as to on whom should we confer them. On paper, these rights seem holy and white washed with morals and stringent beliefs in the eventual goodness of the human kind, but it is the execution of these rights that bring in the necessary changes. Here we are not only concerned with execution but ethical and proper execution. Over the last fifty odd years, we have seen only execution of human rights, which has in turn meant shoddy, and under prepared implementation by the international agencies at large.

The Constitution of our very blessed and young country provides us with a platform to voice our opinions and choices while giving us an impetus to forge ahead to a life we deserve to live. This is what true human rights are. It is a space where we can be truly human, where we can be assured of the next set of breaths which we will take and reassured of a life where we are sure of contributing to nation building. In this scenario, we also need to realise the value of human rights. At this point, the country is unanimous in opinionating aggressively against terrorism as a potential threat to the very human right of a peaceful life and internal security, against political detraining and abysmal treatment of Prisoners of War and against atrocities committed against women and children.

However, the larger representation swirls around us looking beyond the picture painted before us. It is time we decide to look further than the mere definition given to us and as it has been defined for years. If we look back into the history books, we will only ridicule the vibrant concept of Human Rights. It is time we traverse the boundaries set by man and look outside the conventional boundaries of colour, sex, creed and nationality to define Human Rights.

In my opinion Human Rights is the right to be ‘ME’, believing in my capabilities and contributing effectively to the nation and the world at large. It is the inherent right to live a life by terms and conditions that are personal but adhering at the same time to the collective principles of a secular society. Human Rights are the very need of every human being to live a life of justice. Equality is a panacea, which is never going to be achieved, and this fact is universal. Yet, the truth is that human rights need to be implemented so that justice is served.

This brings me to execution. On whom should we bestow this right? My answer is simple. The very phrase Human Rights gives us the answer. These rights are for humans. Humans differ from animals because we have a conscience, can think constructively for general good, are capable of speech, of crafty articulation and of diplomacy among the larger community. Right is a want if each human which is not only warranted but also guaranteed.

With the above definition, these rights are to be conferred only on those capable of being humans. It is not to conferred on a terrorist who does not regret his actions, on army personnel who over step the line of duty to commit unsaid carnage and on political leaders turned dictators who simply have an over sight on those on whom crimes are being performed in the name of administration. Human rights are simply for humans.

As we turn towards 2009, it will be wise to measure up our system of managing these rights. These rights should be respected but too much emphasis too may dilute the principles of independent administration. Right now is the time to amend our views with respect to Human Rights and deliver on promises of justice if not equality.

Sayan Supratim Das

[Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/riacale/1347846108/]