Concepts of equality, dignity and justice are fundamental to realising human rights irrespective of jurisdictions. Universally recognised as yardsticks to measure the probity in realising human rights in a country, and guaranteed to every Indian by the Constitution of India, these normative and essential prescriptions of a justice design is experienced far below the expected threshold in India since the past three decades. There were no visible signs of significant improvements this year in India, made to the functioning of institutions required to guarantee these basic aspects critical to ensure human rights to every Indian. On the contrary, what was experienced is the intentional distancing of these indispensable guarantees to a large section of the population, numbering into millions of individuals, who refer to India as home, the second most populous country in the world.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released today a detailed analysis of the human rights situation in India, marking the International Human Rights Day. This report is available at http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2012/ahrc-spr-005-2012.pdf/view
The AHRC over the past 12 months has reported cases, meticulously documented, of human rights abuses from India. This includes cases of brutal forms of custodial torture; extrajudicial executions; caste, gender and other forms of inhuman discrimination; deaths from acute starvation and malnutrition – of women, children and the aged; and of forced displacement and denial of livelihood options to thousands of Indians. Adding fire to the ordeal, of what is termed as life in India, are illustrations of brute and criminal suppression of the freedom of expression and opinion for which the criminal justice process and the state’s privileged authority were intentionally misused, to the extent that today the country has fallen far below by comparison to many other democracies of the world in terms of the freedom of expression and opinion indices. Thrown further into the melee is widespread corruption in all its cognate expressions at all tiers of the administration, that today it is hard to believe that the country is a democratic, socialist, republic as originally conceived.
While it is true that despite a global economic recession, the country has moved forward without being much hurt financially, the chasm between the classical ‘haves and have-nots’ has deepened and widened further this year, that today, to breach this gap, the government, irrespective of its political colour, will have to work overtime, focusing on improving the overall justice framework in India. This is because, as of now, the very notion of justice has reduced to become selectively accessible to a limited few in the country, negating in the process, the very idea of justice. In that the fruits of economic development is placed as reserved for a minority in India, rendering the concept and modus of development itself as an open warrant for exploitation by a minority of the majority. This must end.
Key to addressing these issues in India are: (i) criminal justice reforms, including the complete overhauling of the police, most importantly bringing about an advanced legislation criminalising torture that is capable to redefine the role of Indian police into one that fits the expectations and demands of a democratic state; (ii) enacting and meticulously implementing legislations that can chisel transparency and accountability upon the face of state institutions and on the complicated network of bureaucracy that runs these institutions; (iii) opening up avenues for consultation and discussions, so that administrative and all other state policies are no more approached through a top-down method but are those that reflect people’s needs and demands, giving priority to protecting all fundamental freedoms so that the belief in ownership of rights and freedoms are rekindled in the people; and (iv) the repealing of draconian legislations like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or the Madhya Pradesh State Security Act.
The government should stop playing the catch-up role with administrative reforms that has happened across the world, in more developed countries. Given the resources and potential the country has, Indians, irrespective of the region, language, religion or ethnicity deserve much more than what is today offered to them. Central to the realisation of advanced living conditions is the equal ability of every Indian to enjoy all fundamental freedoms. For this, it is elementary that the overall justice framework in India should improve. Even the smallest improvement India could achieve on this front will have an immediate positive impact in other countries in Asia and globally. It will further legitimise India’s moral authority upon global issues, that today it lacks miserably.
Today, when the world celebrates the International Day to respect all human freedoms, perhaps resolving and working towards making India a better place to live for all those who call India home could be the best thing that Indians and their government could consider a mission worth embarking upon. The AHRC hopes that in the months to come the country will wake up from its slumber and that a report to be prepared in 2013 on a similar occasion would have many positive aspects of improvements in India to speak about.
This report is available at