Human Rights For All
Fr. Cedric Prakash, sj*
Two significant 25th anniversaries have just come and gone: the massacre of the Sikhs (in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi), and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which killed thousands and decimated many more. One common factor stands out in both these tragedies: those responsible have been allowed to get away with murder.
Several other incidents have continued to wound the Indian psyche, these include: the Nellie bloodbath, the Bhagalpur blindings, the cold-blooded demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Gujarat genocide, the Nandigram killings. ….All dark and sordid chapters of our country's history…The list though is endless…
In each one of these, there is a definite pattern: those at the receiving end are always the poor and the marginalized, the minorities and the powerless, the adivasis and the dalits, women and children. The situation of the Dalits in Gujarat is on our front pages. The inference is obvious: a fairly significant section of our society is at the mercy of others. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that there are large sections in society who prefer to remain silent and who would rather not get involved, either due to fear or sheer selfishness.
Until the 'human rights of all' are respected and nurtured, no society can call itself developed. The benchmark of any progress is not the material prosperity of some, but rather if all are able to live in an environment where justice, peace and the common good flourish. The 'cosmeticization' of Ahmedabad should never be at the cost of the slum-dwellers of the city.
The world's focus is just now on Copenhagen, where several have gathered to grapple with key issues related to climatic change. However, unless we realize and act on overconsumption and the wanton destruction of our natural resources, we cannot expect dramatic changes. Besides, in countries such as ours, the growing concentration of wealth among a few is directly related to the escalating impoverishment of the many. The challenge then, is to address the needs of the majority and to prevent the greed of a few from increasing.
It is yet another anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The choices ahead are becoming fewer. We all need to live in a society which is more just, peaceful, equitable and humane. Respecting the rights of all, defending them and nurturing them, is perhaps the only way out.