10 December 1948 marked International Human Rights Day, the day that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted. In honour of this occasion, the winter session our Parliamentraised the issues of human rights violations in Tibet and Jammu and Kashmir.Similar issues were discussed by civil society organisations, including a talk onhuman right violations against refugees in India, that I had the opportunity to attend.
On a day that we reaffirm our commitment to Human Rights, principles enshrined in the UN declaration, and our own constitutional values of ‘economic, social and political justice,’it is of course befitting to give due attention to some of the grossest violations of human rights that take place across the world, reflected in these various forums be it parliament or society at large. However, it is perhaps as important to acknowledge thathuman rights is not isolated to a single region, community,or particular event in our country.
The discourse on Human Rights also encompasses the daily struggles that people across our country continue to face. This includes our children who continue to suffer from malnutrition, womenwho face abuse and violence,slum dwellers who lack access to basic housing, and thousands who lack access healthcare facilities, or, and livelihoods.All of these represent violations of Article 25 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees everyone “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.” More so, they represent a living reality for many.
But, the narrative of human rights need not stop at economic and social inequalities. Something as basic as the right to a clean environment is something that most of us continue to be denied, whether it isit noxious fumes in the air, the pollutionof our water bodies, or the rapid rate of resource depletion that is slowly destroying our ecosystems. Thoughit may not explicitly be stated in UN Declaration, our own judiciaryhas upheld that a clean and hygienic environment is ultimately fundamental to our Right to Life, in our own constitution.
So, when we talk of human rights, we need not look very far or wide, nor to a specific time or place when pledging our commitment to the cause. Recognising this is perhaps the first step to giving due attention to all of those who feature in the wider narrative called Human Rights.Hopefully, it is alsoa step closer to actually working towardsHuman Rights for all.
Saanya Gulati is a LAMP Fellow at PRS Legislative Research