Human Rights and democratic tenets should ideally be on the same side of the spectrum. But in reality human rights and democracy are diametrically, infact diabolically at opposite ends of the spectrum! Thus advocates and activists of human rights easily antagonise the State threatening their own (the advocates’ and activists own) lives. Anti death-penalty campaigners risk being labelled as traitors, and they are likely to face jail terms or death squads themselves.
Human rights manifest in so many ways: human rights is not just about opposing death penalty. Human rights encompasses bridging inequalities, ending discrimination, protecting the rights of the differently abled, the unborn foetus, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, the inalienable right to life and expression, livelihood, food and water security, right to equality before the law and recognition of others’ rights… a diverse political set of ideals that so challenge feudal mind-sets in the former colonies – especially Afro Asian nation and challenge so much Democracy and democratic tenets of governance.
That is where the Arab Spring got it wrong too. The inevitable fall of the military dictatorships in the Middle East has today come to endanger the stable democracies and Economies of Europe. An article in the BBC (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170330-the-uncertain-future-of-democracy?ocid=ww.social.link.email) makes an interesting read about the efficacy of democracy.
Democracy is the best political vehicle to guarantee such human rights as it is representative in nature and vests the protection of minorities in the public representatives chosen by the majority in the electorate. Democracy is not majoritarianism per se. That is not the choice of the majority; but the elected leader of the majority of the public representatives is vested with the authority to protect the rights of the minority. Thus the leader of the legislature party assumes the role of the public servant – the chief executive of the government. This in essence is the bicameral nature of democracy. It is in this light that free and fair electoral processes have to be scrutinised. It is about free and fair representation of the interests of the minorities.
Putting into practise such political thought is what transforms a political leader to a statesman / stateswoman. By keeping his or her political flock together while encouraging diverse political views makes the leader of the legislature a true democratic leader. Euphemisms like minority appeasement and pseudo secularism even pseudo nationalism (in India) disenfranchisement (in Sri Lanka), ethnic minorities (in South Africa) are utterly politically incorrect ultra vires the constitution of democracy … more so since they are holier than thou to majoritarianism; Far Right xenophobia vitiates political thought when articulated by nascent political upstarts instead of matured political thinkers. Nationalism should be no euphemism for vendetta, infact vendetta must not be a part of any political discourse; it is depraved xenophobia, and is deprived of rational constructive discourse.
The role of the Media – the Fourth Estate and Fourth pillar of democracy is thus critical to protection of human rights. Social Media is, in this light divisive as it only reaches and preaches to the converted, almost compartmentalising divergent views. Mainstream Media on the other hand includes diversity. This diversity in the Mainstream media addresses the unconverted and is much more responsibly researched content than xenophobic sensationalism. We in the Media also need to introspect why Television does not engage so much with the question of Human rights unless it is TRP driven sensational content like an imminent execution / death penalty.
Changing mind-sets in a free society needs steady political campaigns, - also with media discourse, not just dictatorial bulldozing by the majority party in power. Therein lies the critical significance of governance and public administration. Recognising this inherent responsibility of the Fourth Estate – the Fourth pillar of Democracy is the benchmark of stable democracies. Today courtesy xenophobia the fault lines between fake news and feudal / patriarchal newsrooms is blurred by agendas – be they Public Relations Offices, advertising lobby, funding agencies, industrial lobbies, etc, putting enormous pressure on Media barons, not to speak of corruption in the Fourth Estate. The role of the mainstream media is thus cut out insofar that the narrative of the social fabric has to be idealistic. Not an easy job for the writers! Mirrored views are not necessary in the Fourth Estate; rather the Media has to hold the light in political darkness where human rights are vitiated normally in the course of majority rule.
However it is heartening to note that the Indian Parliament has passed two pieces of critical legislation in favour of inclusive human rights in the Budget session of Parliament currently underway: On 27th March 2017 the Indian Parliament decriminalised attempt to suicide paving the way for non-stigmatised mental health care… a bold step in protecting the human rights of mentally ill population; secondly the Indian Parliament also passed legislation protecting the human rights of people affected and living with HIV. In a statement released to the Press, Steve Kraus, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific said “This is an important step forward for people living with and affected by HIV in India and around the world”. “This legislation begins to remove barriers and empowers people to challenge violations of their human rights.” Significantly, the legislation contains provisions to increase access to justice for people affected by HIV, including obligations for health-care institutions to establish complaints mechanisms and a health ombudsman supported by special procedures to be followed in courts.
The law also protects the rights of people affected by HIV to informed consent (including for any sterilization procedures), to confidentiality and to a safe working environment, and promotes the delivery of critical harm reduction interventions, including condoms, comprehensive injection safety requirements and opioid substitution therapy.
Compare this to the insensate abrogation of human rights of a person with schizophrenia who was executed by Indonesia on 29th April 2015 in utter violation of not just human rights but Mensrea the legal protection of people with mental health issues.
Comparing does not paint the comprehensive picture in this context because India has not banned executions itself. Indonesia’s sensitivity about being judged for its vindictive colonial legacies like trigger happy death squads rooting for the war on drugs does not absolve the country of blood thirsty vendetta. But Indonesia ignoring global pleas, including from former UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon not to execute reformed convicts and people with mental health issues – without the power to grasp the import of death sentence - was in contravention of all human rights. Both social media and Mainstream Media failed to prevent the denouement in the killing fields of Nusa Kambangan in Java Indonesia on 29th April 2015. As we write this news emerges of an Indian military officer being sentenced to death in Pakistan.
The unending Indo Pak conflict is taking a toll on ordinary law abiding citizens. If Pakistan wants to back its claims of the condemned Indian Kulbhushan Jhadav being a spy, then it has to publicise its documentary evidence for the scrutiny of international media or give consular access and a right to legal defence to the condemned prisoner. It is an opportune moment for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exemplify his enormous political will to rescue a trapped Indian soldier on enemy land. Political sagacity may be a more mature option compared to war mongering braggadocio and rhetoric in nuclear powered South Asia.
Thus a free and responsible Media / Fourth Estate is critical to the functioning of democracy all the more so in dictatorial regimes like Pakistan. Both the Media and democratic institutions of the State need each other for the upkeep of human rights.
Tweets n thoughts
MEDIA ON DEMAND
Interview with Umar Shah, Jounalist Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir (On revocation of Article 370)
Interview with Umar Shah Kashmiri journalist
Digital Discourse Foundation
Interview by Malini Shankar
1 Umar what did Article 370 mean to the common man in J & K before it was abrogated?
It meant nothing at all. The people of Kashmir were least concerned over the internal autonomy. For them, it is the Indian government which has been ruling them since 1947. Not even a single person was rejoicing over having own flag, constitution or power to amend the Indian laws.
However, if there was anything people were worried about- it was the State Subject Law enacted by the Hindu King of Kashmir- Hari Singh back in 1927. It was later incorporated in the Indian constitution through 1956 presidential order and was known as Article 35-A. This Article was the component of Article 370. The Article 35-A used to bar outsiders from buying any property in Jammu and Kashmir. For the people, this Article was a shield that used to protect their Muslim majority character. Even today, if Article 35-A is restored, everything in Kashmir will become normal. You wouldn’t find any mourners for Article 370 but for Article 35-A.
The people are not protesting against Article 370 but for Article 35-A
2 Was the common man unable to access - say packaged milk or vegetables not available in J & K imported from other states in India? The other way around was it possible under Article 370 to export meat and poultry / horticultural produce / NTFPs from J & K to other states / UTs in India or the world? Oak / Cedar / pine and walnut timber are very sought after but barely available anywhere else in India – for instance.
Article 370 wasn’t even remotely connected to the business activities in Kashmir. It never acted as a barrier for the locals or for the people hailing from mainland India to do businesses in Kashmir. Taj, Lalit and many prominent Indian brands had their businesses flourishing in Kashmir even before 370 Abrogation.
3 There is talk of economic investment in J & K and creation of employment opportunities which were hitherto apparently hindered by Article 370. But unemployment remains an issue even in states and UTs without Article 370. Your comments please. Activists and political pundits aver that economic investment will fuel unsustainable economic growth and bring industrial pollution to J&K. Would you agree?
Before the revocation of Article 370, the employment and literacy rate of Jammu and Kashmir was far better than other Indian states including those which are ruled by the BJP. How the removal of Article 370 will boost the economic activities in Jammu and Kashmir is beyond the reach of reason.
Jammu and Kashmir particularly Kashmir Valley is environmentally fragile zone. The ruthless industrialisation, as proposed by the government, is going to prove apocalyptic in more ways than one. Kashmir is a place that provides water to 1/5th population of the world.
4 Was Article 370 a hindrance to Kashmiris to marry Indians outside of J & K?
Not at all. It never was a hinderance.
5 Why in your view did Article 370 prevent employment and livelihood security to locals if at all?
I am sorry to say this. All this rhetoric is manufactured. There is Article 371 and similar clauses in force in other Indian states like Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, North East. Are these special provisions acting as a hinderance in the employment and livelihood security to the people there as well?
6 Do you think this unemployment was the primary reason for terrorism in J &K?
No. It was the status quo that was the main reason. The delay in addressing the dispute.
7 Or was there political disenchantment in society that fuelled terrorism?
8 What are the civil rights of the common man that Article 370 curbed? I need an apolitical perspective please.
There were no civil rights associated with Article 370 except the state subject law or Article 35-A. People are ruing over its abrogation as they fear that its removal will change the genesis of Kashmir dispute forever as it can change the demography of the erstwhile state.
9 Tell me if wildlife protection was in any affected by Article 370 in J & K? I mean measures like waivers and exemptions pertaining to wildlife protection or penal provisions for wildlife crime etc…
No. Wildlife protection was not in any way affected by Article 370. Infact there were series measures taken during the past years for the wild life protection like Save Hangul project that won praises all over the world. The wild life protection act of 1978 in JK was more stronger than any national law meant for the purpose.
10 If a non-Kashmiri girl marries a Kashmiri boy will she and their children not be allowed to inherit his ancestral property in Kashmir as is being alleged? Or the other way around if a Kashmiri girl marries a non-Kashmiri, will she and your / their children not be entitled to your ancestral property? I mean before it was abolished… and if its abrogation makes a difference in this regard. It implies Article 370 stood for a patriarchal lineage in favour of Kashmiri men… your response…
If a woman from J&K marries outside the state, she doesn’t lose property rights. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said on record that his sisters, who are married outside the state, own property in Kashmir as much as he does.
11 Before Article 370 was abrogated could any non-Kashmiri not buy land on account of either Article 370 or domicile factors?
No. Non residents of Jammu and Kashmir were not entitled to buy land in the erstwhile state.
12. Do you think revocation of Art. 370 will enable Govt. Of India to reclaim through annexation Pak Occupied Kashmir?
Indian Government has always been maintaining that the Kashmir under the control of Pakistan should be annexed to India and has often been terming it as an unfinished business of partition of India in 1947. The Government of India has been reiterating its stand time and again that it will get the other Kashmir annexed with the union.
Article 370 was not in force in Pakistani Kashmiri and therefore its revocation will have no affect on that territory. It was not an impediment either for the Government of India to reclaim Pakistani Kashmir.
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