INDIA: The banality of it all and the inability to mourn 

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2010

The allegations of corruption involving a former Union Minister, some corporate entities, the judges of the Madras High Court and the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India reported by the national media this week, in essence, indicates the state of affairs of the rule of law institutions in the world’s largest democracy. In addition to widespread corruption, three other important issues that continued to negate the functioning framework of a mature administration essential for a democratic republic to perform are the use of torture with impunity, caste based discrimination and the failure of the government to address widespread malnutrition and hunger.

None of these concerns are new in the Indian context. In fact it is these evils that sustain the country’s internal power structures. What is alarming however is the banality with which these serious concerns are perceived in India. Today, the torture and extra-judicial execution of a person or the death of an infant from acute malnutrition or the brutal discriminatory practices committed against the members of the Dalit community have no ‘news value’ in the country. Neither are India’s justice institutions in a position to address any of these fundamental negations of justice and equality.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in its 2010 Human Rights Report on India has analysed these issues. A pre-print release of the full country report on India titled ‘Democratic pretentions and administrative follies’ can be downloaded here:

Corruption alone is not that diminishes the efficacy of the justice institutions in India. These institutions are plagued with a series of hurdles, most importantly, the absence of a proper legal framework and resources, unreasonable delay in adjudications and unbridled political interference. To top it all, the intellectual framework with which the country’s justice institutions operate is either retarded or in a state of suspended animation. This has made important state institutions like the police, prosecution and the judiciary in India unable to withstand or counter malicious attempts upon their independence resulting in their appalling inability to respect, protect and promote human rights. This has led to a situation where the defective elements within the justice institutions being able to considerably damage the inner core of these institutions from the inside.

The democratic institutions in India, including its large body of elected representatives of all tiers, are today a shadow of their past. They resemble a termite-ridden and wilted tree waiting for a strong wind to collapse. Those who benefit from this, including national and international entities, are a minority who are privileged to use every possible opening to unsympathetically exploit a weak democratic structure for private profits.

Therefore today, forced eviction of the tribal communities in India from their hearth and hut is considered to be essential and justifiable to feed the greed of a selected few. Repressive laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 are increasingly used to smother political dissent. Even the highest court of the country condones the brute force, inhumanness and injustice behind this draconian law.

The elected representatives, irrespective of the political parties they represent and the position they occupy, unethically benefit from the situation by reining the government and leading it into directions that suit short-sighted political equations, once again at the cost of pushing millions of Indians to peril. The absence of justice in India’s weakening and narrowing democratic space is literally denying the country’s poor even their right to mourn.

However, India is yet not like some of its neighbours where the hope for a better future is virtually lost. The report submitted yesterday by the Parliamentary Select Committee that reviewed the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 in the upper house of the Indian parliament, the Rajya Sabha, is an indication to the fact that the inner ember of reasoning and justice is still not dead in India. While the complete text of the report is awaited, credible reports suggest that the Committee has taken the bold and essential step to literally rewrite the law from its original draft to a meaningful legislation that could contribute considerably to end the culture of injustice in India.

The frail life within the foundations of this seriously ill democracy must be recovered. This requires the vigil and determination of the Indians to save the country from its present drifting along the downward spiral of destruction, and bring it ashore to repair and develop it into a mature democratic republic that India resolved to become 63 years before.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-251-2010
Countries : India,