Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that are inherent to all human
beings, regardless of their nationality, race, gender, religion, or any other
status. These rights are recognized and protected by international law, and they
include civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The concept of
human rights is found on the principle that all human beings are equal in
dignity and rights, and that they are entitled to these rights simply because
they are human.
A set of values relating to justice and equality is known as human rights. They
acknowledge our right to live as we choose and to reach our full potential as
people. Human rights are "universal" in nature. Human rights are the fundamental
liberties and rights that every person has in the world from the moment of their
birth until the moment of their death.
These fundamental rights are founded on common ideals like independence,
fairness, respect, decency, and equality. These principles are outlined and
secured by legislation. These liberties are essential and unalienable. Human
rights have been demonstrated to be necessary for every person to be able to
live their lives to the utmost. The most distinctive quality of human rights is
that they are challenging to define but unavoidable.
History and Development of human rights in India
Human Rights in Ancient India
Human rights as we understand them today were not explicitly articulated in
ancient India, as the concept of human rights is a relatively modern one.
However, ancient Indian texts and traditions did uphold principles of social
justice, compassion, and respect for the dignity of all individuals.
The ancient Indian legal system, known as dharma, emphasized the protection of
individual rights and duties, and prescribed punishments for those who violated
them which is descriptively mentioned in the epics such as Mahabharat and
Ramayana. VasudhaivKutumbakam (the whole world as one family) is a notion that
is mentioned in the Vedas and Smritis, emphasized the value of all human life
and condemned violence and cruelty.
Buddhism, which originated in ancient India, also emphasized the importance of
human dignity and respect for all living beings. The Buddha's teachings on
non-violence and compassion influenced many subsequent Indian thinkers and
leaders and contributed to the development of a tradition of non-violence and
social justice in India.
The Indian caste system, which dates to ancient times, is often cited as an
example of a violation of human rights, as it institutionalized social
inequality and discrimination. However, many ancient Indian texts also include
teachings on social justice and equality, such as the Bhagavad Gita's emphasis
on performing one's duty without regard for social status or caste.
Overall, while ancient India did not explicitly articulate human rights as we
understand them today, its texts and traditions emphasized the importance of
social justice, compassion, and respect for the dignity of all individuals.
These principles continue to influence Indian society and culture today.
Human Rights in Medieval India
The concept of human rights as we understand it today did not exist in medieval
India in the same form as it does today. However, there were certain norms and
principles that were followed in different parts of medieval India, which could
be considered as precursors to modern human rights.
For example, the Indian caste system, which was prevalent during the medieval
period, prescribed certain duties and responsibilities for individuals based on
their social status. While this system also allowed for discrimination and
exploitation of lower castes, there were also codes of conduct that emphasized
the importance of treating all human beings with dignity and respect.
Furthermore, several medieval Indian rulers and philosophers emphasized the
importance of justice and fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of their
background. For instance, the Mughal emperor Akbar introduced several reforms
that endeavored to improve the status of women and promote religious tolerance
through his theological doctrine, Din-E-Ilahi (divine-religion).
However, it is important to note that these principles were not universally
applied or enforced, and instances of oppression and injustice did occur in
medieval India. Additionally, the idea of human rights as a universal concept
was not fully developed until the modern era.
Human Rights in Modern India
The Modern era is characterized by British control in India. In addition to
depriving the Indian people of their freedom throughout this time, the British
government of India destroyed India's economy, politics, culture, and
spirituality by basing itself on the exploitation of the population.
Every Indian was adamant that the recognition, preservation, and application of
human rights were not only essential but also inalienable for them to live in a
civilized society after experiencing colonial tyranny.
The Indian Constitution, adopted in 1950, enshrines these rights and establishes
India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Some of the human
rights that are protected by the Constitution of India include the right to
life, liberty, and equality before the law; the right to freedom of speech and
expression, assembly, association, and religion; the right to education and
cultural preservation; and the right to access to justice and a fair trial.
In the years since, India has enacted several laws and established institutions
to protect human rights, including the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
India has also ratified several international human rights treaties and
conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child.
Overall, while there are certainly challenges and areas for improvement, India
has made significant strides in protecting and promoting human rights in the
Recent advancements in the human rights field.
Human rights are fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. India is
a democratic country with a constitution that guarantees fundamental rights to
its citizens. Over the years, India has made significant progress in the field
of human rights negatively as well as positively.
- Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is an essential human right that enables individuals
to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of repression. In recent
years, India has witnessed a rise in the curtailment of freedom of
expression. The government has used various laws, such as sedition and
defamation, to silence dissenting voices. Moreover, journalists and social
activists have faced threats and intimidation for speaking out against the
government. In 2020, the Indian government introduced new rules for digital
media, which require social media companies to disclose the origin of
"mischievous tweets or messages" within 72 hours to the government. The
rules also mandate that social media companies appoint compliance officers,
who can be held criminally liable for content posted on their platforms.
- Right to Equality
Discrimination based on caste, gender, and sexual orientation is still
prevalent in India. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act, which provides protection to members of marginalized
communities, has been weakened in recent years. The Supreme Court of India,
in a judgment in 2018, introduced the concept of "creamy layer" for
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which has limited the benefits of
affirmative action to only those who are economically disadvantaged.
- Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)
In December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act
(CAA), which sparked protests across the country. The Act provides for the
grant of Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Critics argue that the Act is discriminatory and
violates the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law.
- Internet Shutdowns
India has one of the highest numbers of internet shutdowns in the world. In
August 2019, the Indian government revoked the special status of Jammu and
Kashmir, which granted the state autonomy over its internal affairs. The
move was criticized for being a violation of the rights of the people of
Jammu and Kashmir. In 2020, the Indian government imposed over 100 internet
shutdowns. These shutdowns have a severe impact on the freedom of expression
and the right to information. The government has been criticized for using
internet shutdowns to suppress dissent.
- LGBTQ+ Rights
In 2018, the Indian Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in a landmark
judgment. The court held that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which
criminalized homosexuality, was unconstitutional. This decision was a
significant victory for the LGBTQ+ community in India.
- Farmer's Protests
The Farmer's Protests started in November 2020 and are ongoing as of March
2023. The protests are against three new agricultural laws passed by the
Indian government, which farmers claim will reduce their earnings and make
them vulnerable to exploitation by large corporations. The protests have
been met with police brutality and have raised concerns about the rights of
farmers in India.
- COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on human rights in India.
The government imposed strict lockdowns, which led to job losses, food
insecurity, and a rise in domestic violence. There have also been reports of
police brutality in enforcing lockdown measures.
- Caste-based Discrimination:
Caste-based discrimination is a prevalent human rights issue in India.
Despite constitutional provisions and legal protections, Dalits and other
marginalized communities continue to face discrimination and violence. In
recent years, there has been an increase in incidents of caste-based
violence, especially in the form of mob lynching. The government has also
been criticized for failing to implement affirmative action policies and for
neglecting the welfare of marginalized communities.
It is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion to whether we have achieved the
objectives of human rights in India as the situation is complex and
multi-faceted. However, some key observations can be made.
On one hand, India has made significant progress in advancing human rights in
some areas. For example, India has taken steps to increase access to education
and healthcare, particularly for marginalized communities. India has also made
efforts to address gender inequality and violence against women, through
legislation and campaigns. For instance, in 2022, EWS reservation, 103rd
constitutional amendment carried out to provide legal sanction carve out 10%
reservation for the economically weaker sections from unreserved classes for
admission in educational institutions and government jobs.
On the other hand, there are concerns about human rights violations in India,
particularly in the areas of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and
minority rights. There have been reports of restrictions on media, activists,
and civil society organizations. Additionally, there have been incidents of
communal violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.
Human rights issues in India continue to persist despite the country's
commitment to promoting and protecting human rights. The government must take
steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected and
that those responsible for human rights violations are held accountable.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sharanya Agarwal
Authentication No: MR345519606890-30-0323