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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 17 New Delhi April 14, 2018

Human Rights Movement must rise to the occasion to defeat Hindutva Fascist Hooligans

Saturday 14 April 2018


I am delighted to read Mainstream’s founder-editor, N.C.’s article “Human Rights: Basic Issues” (published on pp. 11-12 in the Mainstream issue of December 9, 2017). Though the lucid but thought-provoking article was written 25 years ago, it is more relevant in the present situation. The human rights situation throughout the country is, to say the least, very much alarming. One may not agree with all the views expressed in the article but the concerns articulated in the article deserve close attention and deliberation to meet the present challenging situation to chalk out a befitting response to the pervasive violation of human rights. The government’s decision to set up a National Human Rights Commission occasioned N.C.’s brilliant piece. The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, was enacted by Parliament to provide for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commissions in the States.

The international obligation compelled the Union Government to set up a National Human Rights Commission. But the Act, 1993 has many inherent weaknesses and deficiencies. The National Human Rights Commission and the States Human Rights Commissions have not been clothed with effective power, only recommendatory power was given to the Human Rights Commission both at the national level and State level. Moreover, in the Act, 1993, formation of the State Human Right Commission for a State or States was not made mandatory. As a result thereof upto April, 2015 as many as six States did not have State Human Rights Commissions. The Supreme Court in a PIL judgment; passed in April, 2015, directed the defaulter States to form Human Rights Comm-issions within the next six months without fail or to face the music. Tripura has been one of the six defaulter States. In this regard, it may be pertinent to mention that the Tripura Human Rights Organisation (THRO), with which this writer is deeply associated since its formation in 2007, has been demanding the formation of the State Human Rights Commission in Tripura. The State Government’s response has been two pronged: Tripura does not require a Human Rights Commission as being a Left-ruled State in Tripura no human rights violation takes place; and Tripura cannot have the luxury of a State Commission at the expense of the poor taxpayers’ money. Both the planks were unacceptable. In Tripura also human rights violations by the State and its agencies take place frequently. Resource constraint was a baseless ploy to avoid the setting up of the State Commission there.

The THRO did not have the slightest illusion that once the State Human Rights Commission is established, it will be a panacea. Ultimately the Tripura Government, to escape from committing contempt of the Supreme Court, was left with no other alternative but to form a State Human Rights Commission. The section 21 (2) of the Act, 1993 provides that a State Human Rights Commission shall consist of (a) a Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court, (b) one Member, who is or has been a Judge of a High Court or District Judge in the State with a minimum of seven years experience as a District Judge, (c) one Member to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights. The provision for including one person having knowledge of or practical experience in matters relating to human rights has been made to ensure that the State Human Rights Commission has grassroot representation because the Chief Justice of the High Court or District Judge is generally residing in an ivory tower. In Tripura the government has not found a single person in the State who has knowledge of as well as practical experience about human rights. A retired IAS Officer, who hails from Rajasthan, has been made a member of the State Human Rights Commission. As Chairperson Kalyanbrata Sengupta, a retired Chief Justice and presently Lokayukta of Sikkim, has been appointed. The question has been raised whether Lokayuktya is a office of profit and if it is so, any man holding an office of profit cannot be made Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission. The Tripura Human Rights Commi-ssion is an absentee Commission and it is in the lap of the State Government.

Almost all the State Human Rights Comm-issions as well as NHRC are in deep slumber. Throughout the country custodial deaths, ‘encounter deaths’, Dalit oppression, ruthless violence against women and weaker sections of the society, mindless brutality against STs, SCs and Minorities and sexual offence against children are going on unabated but the Human Rights Commissions are in deep sleep. To remedy this situation, Human Rights Commissions at the national level and State levels should be made more broadbased by making necessary amendments of the Act, 1993, to make Human Rights Commissions responsive to the ground realities and aspirations of the sufferers and victims. The Central Government and State governments are very much interested to staff the Commissions with likeminded people.

Human rights violation is inbuilt in the present socio-economic situation. From the dawn of civilisation, when classless primitive societies in the course of development paved the way for class-based societies, the violation of the human rights of the majority by the minority, who has State power and hegemony, began and it is continuing till date. Human rights violation takes place in two forms: naked violation of right to life, liberty by the state and non-state actors and violation of the citizen’s right to food, health, education, shelter, work by the state by pursuing socio-economic policics which operate against the interest of the majority of people. In our country market-driven and corporate-backed economic liberalisation has been ruthlessly plundering the country and pushing the vast majority to the brink of disaster. The State has become the brutest of the brutes, state violence has become monstrously violent.

India faces the most dangerous challenge to its Republican character. The communal fascism is knocking at the door. Right to expression, right to protest, right to eat, right to think, that is, all the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, are being bombarded every moment throughout the country by the RSS-led Hindutava holigans being patronised by the BJP Government in Delhi and State capitals. In such a bleak situation the civil liberties movement and human rights movement have a very onerous responsibility to discharge. N.C. has rightly said that during the Emergency, when India was chained and darkness was clamped in mid-day, the human rights movement was re-born. The pre-independence legacy of the human rights movement, which had the active support and patronage of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, was revived. Then it was a declared Emergency, now it is an undeclared Emergency.

The middle class intellectuals have been considerably infected by the communal virus and ultra-nationalist bacteria. In such a situation the human rights movement faces a daunting challenge. This challenge must be squarely met. The Tripura Human Rights Organisation (THRO), in its humble and convinced way, is trying to meet the challenge of the times. The THRO is not an NGO-type cosmetic organisation. It does not take a single paisa from the government or foreign donor agencies or from the corporates. It is exposing each and every violation of human rights by the State government and at the same time it is exposing tirelessly the RSS and BJP’s fascist manifesto and opposing tooth and nail the Central Government’s each and every onslaught on human rights, the Constitution and Republican character and syncretism of our country. We are hopeful the battle against fascism may be bloody but the people of India will ultimately win this protracted battle.

Purushuttam Roy Barman, (Secretary, THRO Agartala Advocate, Tripura High Court)

January 5, 2018

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