23. Human rights

Rights are essential for the individuals because no man can attain fullest development of his life in the absence of rights and liberties.
Laski says “Rights are those conditions of social life without which no man can seek himself to be at his best.” Despotic and authoritarian regimes allowed very little freedom to the people. But in every society the people have struggled against inhuman treatment, political economic, social and cultural oppression and for their rights and liberties. It is the nature of man that he wants rights and liberties and does not like interference of others and that of the authority in some of his activities. Thus developed the concept of the rights which every man should enjoy not merely as a member of the state, but as a human being, as a member of the human society.
Fundamental Rights are generally those rights which a political society considers basic for its members and declares as such through the constitution or the law of the land. But Human Rights are defined as those rights which every human being is entitled to possess, enjoy and to have protected irrespective of his nationality, political views, citizenship or the form of government under which he lives. Concept of Human Rights is based on the view that man is endowed with certain rights by the Creator and those rights are inalienable.
The political organisation is meant to protect those natural rights not to snatch them away. All the movements which opposed the despotic and authoritarian regimes were based upon the sacred and invaluable rights of the human beings. The two most important historical declaration—The American Declaration of Independence, 1776 and French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789 clearly support the Doctrine of Human Rights, Stress on the rights and liberties of the people was laid more and more with the spread and growth of concepts of humanism and democracy. Idea of Human Rights getting universal recognition and universal declaration gained ground in the 20th Century when two World Organisations for the maintenance of world peace were established, namely the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945. The United Nations took upon itself the task of recognising and implementing the Human Rights on universal basis through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December, 1948.
Meaning of human rights
No man can attain the fullest development of his life in the absence of rights and liberties. Every society recognises some rights and liberties for its members which are enforced and protected by the state. Thus these rights are those which the individuals enjoy as the citizens. When these rights are declared through the constitution, they are generally known as Fundamental Rights.
Human Rights have a different basis. Human Rights are those rights which every man as a human beings is entitled to posses, enjoy and to have protected. Human Rights are those rights which are considered to be essential for every human being to lead a life of respect and dignity. All societies in past have developed some ideas about the rights and principles that should be recognised, respected and implemented in every part of the world, and these rights and principles have gained universal recognition in the 20th century. Thus Human Rights are those rights which every human being or member of human species, is entitled to possess and enjoy irrespective of his place of birth, race, creed, political ideas, form of government under which he lives and his social and economic status.
It may be pointed out the Human Rights are not somewhat different from the rights maintained by the nations for their people. But democratic states have provided for maximum rights and liberties whereas despotic and authoritarian regimes allow minimum possible rights for the people. Human Rights are common to all the nations, democratic or authoritarian, and are expected to be implemented by all since they are the minimum or the basic rights which a human being is entitled to enjoy. Without them no human being can lead a happy life.
Concept of Human Rights
Origin of the concept of Human Rights can be traced to the period of Renaissance and later from the principles of Humanism and Liberalism. Before the Renaissance, no importance was attached to the individual, his wisdom, his thinking and creative potential and dignity and he was supposed to do what he was told to. In that period question of his rights and liberties did not arise. Humanist and Liberal thinkers attached importance to the individual, his worth, his wisdom and creative potential and advocated that he be left free and endowed with rights and liberties. All those revolutionary movements that emerged against the despotic and authoritarian regimes are based upon the belief that man has some inalienable and scare rights which no government has the right to snatch or abolish, and that the new political order should be based upon the rights and liberties of the people. The American Declaration of Independence, 1776 and Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789 clearly point out towards the development of the concept of Human Rights which are not dependent upon the will of any political authority.
The concept of Human Rights began gaining ground in the 4th quarter of the 18th century and was fully developed by the 2nd quarter of the 20th century, and the United Nations made a Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December, 1948.
Following events throw light on the growth of the concept of Human Rights.
Concept of humanism
Concept of Humanism is the root of concept of Human Rights. Concept of humanism emerged in the second half of the 15th century, the beginning of the modern age. In the medieval periods, no importance was given to the man as a man, as a human being and he was treated simply either as a part of the state or society or a follower of the Church. He had no identity as a man and was supposed to obey the orders of the feudal lord or of the Church. He could not question even the usefulness of the orders. Renaissance brought a change in the attitude of the people and it was voiced that every man has wisdom, rational thinking, ability to judge about his interests and take decision and capability to implement them. It was demanded that the man should be recognised as a man, as a human being and must be given freedom in the matters concerning his life. Thus the idea of humanism emerged, it grew with the passage of time and contributed to the development of concepts of human rights.
Views of john locke
John Locke (1632-1704) who expressed his views on the theory of Social Contact about the origin of the state has opened that man enjoyed natural rights in the state of nature and has not surrendered all of them to the state which has come into existence rather for the protection of those natural rights. He is of the view that these natural rights, right to life, right to liberty, right to property are inalienable and cannot be abolished by the state. If the state abolishes them or cannot protect them the people have a right to change the government. Thus even in the 17th century natural and inalienable rights of man have been advocated.
American declaration of independence
On 4th July, 1776 the American Colonies which were under the British Government previously declared themselves to be independent. This declaration clearly mentions about the inalienable rights of man. It says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, government are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organising its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
This declaration speaks of inalienable rights of man which even the government cannot snatch, and if the government does so, the people have a right to change the government.
Declaration of the rights of man and citizens
The French Revolution abolished the absolute monarchy and established a Republic. The National Assembly of France issued on 26th August, 1789, the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen in which it stressed upon the necessity and importance of Human Rights. It was declared: “The National Assembly consequently recognises and declares in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and citizen…” Thus rights were declared not only for the citizens but for all men as well. It was clearly declared that men are born an remain free and equal in rights and that the aim of the political organisations is to preserve the natural and inprescriptible rights of man which are rights to liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. This declaration also puts emphasis on the rights of human beings.
Declaration of the rights of working and exploited people
First Communist Revolution took place in Russia in October, 1917 which overthrew the despotic rule of Czar and established U.S.S.R. In 1918 it issued declaration of the Rights of the Working and Exploited People. It declared that the U.S.S.R. is a state of working classes whose aim is the abolition of any type of exploitation of man by man and the merciless suppression of the exploiters. The declaration also makes it clear that men have the inalienable rights and liberties and that exploitation of man by man in any form must be abolished.
The independence pledge by India
The Indian National Congress celebrated 26th January, 1930 as Independence Day and the people of India took a pledge for attaining complete independence. On that day they declared that they have an inalienable right of Swaraj, like any other people and enjoy the fruits of their toil and that they have a right to alter or abolish the Government which has denied this right to them.
The Indian National Congress in its session held at Karachi from 29th to 31st March had also declared that ‘any constitution which may be agreed to on its behalf for the people of India must provide for the fundamental rights of the people. It means no constitution which contained no provision of rights and liberties was acceptable to the Indian people.’
Objective resolution passed by the constituent assembly of India
On 22nd January, 1947 the Constituent Assembly of India passed the historic Objective Resolution upon which the new constitution of India is based. It also speaks of the rights and liberties of the people. It has mentioned that “Where it shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India, justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity and before the law, freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association, and action, subject to law and public morality; and where in adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities backward and tribal areas and depressed and other backward classes, and…”
All these rights have a bearing on the concept of Human Rights and were declared through the Constitution under the head Fundamental Rights. Most of the human rights stand include in these fundamental rights.
U.N. charter
United Nations Charter which was signed by all the participating countries on 26th June, 1945 and came into force on the 24th October, 1945 (U.N. Day) also speaks of universal recognition of the need of Human Rights. The Preamble of the Charter say, “We the people of the United Nations determind…to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…”
Universal declaration of human rights
The General Assembly of the United Nations appointed a commission to prepare a list of Human Rights in 1946. On the basis of the report of this commission the General Assembly adopted and issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the 10th December, 1948. This Declaration contains 30 articles and a preamble. The United Nations expects its member states to implement these rights within their jurisdiction. 10th December is observed as Human Rights Day all over the world.
These human rights are the minimum and basis and must be made available to every man as a human being irrespective of his race, religion, language, place of birth, political belief and the form of governmet under which he lives. These are for the welfare of the mankind.
Necessity of Human Rights
No man can seek the fullest development of his life in the absence of rights. Today all democratic governments provide for maximum rights and liberties for their members and they are generally declared through the constitution and are called fundamental right. But upto 17th Century very few rights and liberties were allowed to the people by the rulers. In the middle ages no importance was attached to the individual, his wisdom, his discretion, his dignity and creative potential. The individual was considered slave, completely under the control of the political and religious authorities. He was supposed to do only what he was asked to do and was not allowed to exercise his discretion and free will. During the Feudal age, the common man or the serf was not free even in his domestic and family affairs.
In almost all societies, sooner or later, voice was raised by the people against this attitude towards the man, against political, economic, social and cultural oppression, against injustice and inequalities and for the recognition of some rights an liberties which the human beings are entitled to.
In the last quarter of the 18th Century revolutionary movements were launched to overthrow the despotic and authoritarian regimes. The necessity of some inalienable and sacred rights of man and their universal recognition was the basis of these struggle. The socialist movements which emerged as a reaction of individualism and policy of non-interference in the economic field also highlighted the necessity of some basic rights of man.
The National Assembly of France in its Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen clearly emphasised upon the necessity and importance of human rights when it said “…Considering that ignorance, disregard or contempt of the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortunes and governmental corruption have resolved to set forth a solemn declaration of the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man.”
Thus the necessity of some inalienable human rights and their universal recognition had fully gained ground and it found its way in the Charter of the United Nations in the 20th century and paved the way for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Importance of Human Rights
Importance of Human Rights is supported by the following facts :

  • Human Rights aim at the welfare and development of the whole mankind. The human rights will enable every human being to attain the fullest development of his life and this would result in development of the whole world.
  • Human Rights are based on the belief that all nations—big or small—are equal. It promotes universal brotherhood and peace and security. The concept of Human Rights encourages nations not to adopt the policy of imperialism and colonialism.
  • The concept of Human Rights is based upon the belief that no man should be subject to exploitations of any kind, political, social, economic or cultural and that every human beings has the inalienable rights of life, liberty and security, irrespective of his race, creed, language, place of both ad political views.
  • The concept of Human Rights encourages the renunciation of policy of war and promotes world peace and spirit of universal cooperation and welfare. Human Rights would result in the end of atmosphere and fear of war.
  • It promotes universal, social, economic and cultural development.
  • Observance or implementation of Human Rights would result in all round development of the mankind.
  • Human Rights are based on the concept of equality, that all men are equal and they are entitled to enjoyment of some basic rights, liberties and opportunities of development of life on the basis of equality.
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