In commemoration of international Human rights day, it is but natural to assess how does the international covenant on human rights or the norms adopted by agreement between nations coalescing in international forums apply to one's own self or to the group of people forming the habitat one lives in. In applying this yardstick to Kashmir, the conclusion is unmistakable that human rights here are remembered by violation of the norms rather than the application inherent in the covenant. We may also assess the purpose behind the application of the norms of human rights, also the movement for rights, since earliest times, even to the extent of dwelling in so called pre-historical times which may not be consistent with a scientific assessment of history, nevertheless forming the religious lore, hence deeply etched in collective human memory, inspiring the movement for attaining rights.
Human rights are basically meant to improve the quality of life, not only in material but in moral sense too. Man, it stands recognized, does not merely live by the bread he eats, though economic rights are inherent in human rights. There have been benevolent autocracies or dictatorships still exist, where milk and honey stands provided, however the craving to participate meaningfully in the affairs of state, to be a part of decision making process in order to protect life and the limb, which basically means providing security has been the basic human craving. The denial of meaningful participation constitutes denial of human rights. No amount of milk and honey can compensate the loss. In order to evolve the framework within which the basic human urge, the craving finds expression, the right of self determination has been accepted as the most suitable instrument.
Self determination is defined as human right in international law expressible by a group of individuals with distinct ethnic, linguistic, religious and geographical features. Whether Kashmir carries such a distinction or not might be debatable, given that India is a heterogeneous state, where people ethnically, linguistically, religiously different live in geographical regions which might not be topographically akin. Groups of people with distinct features live in areas from higher Himalayan ranges to seacoasts. And pleading the Indian case, one might feel tempted to buy the argument that if the principal of self determination is applied in totality, groups of people pleading maladjustments-minor or major could succeed in balkanizing the country, thus unleashing forces upsetting peace and global order. Much stands against this Indian plea, principally there is no other region barring the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where India has made an international commitment to allow the people living therein to exercise the option to determine their future, by their freewill. Kashmir might be a test case for the implementation of this universal principle, but in relating the battle of human rights, we need to study a lot more than Kashmir, though the fate of it remains our prime concern.
'You were climbing trees, when Cyrus the great proclaimed the charter of human rights' so said Muhammad Reza Shah Pahalvi, the Iranian monarch to a group of western correspondents in a televised news conference, which I heard live, a few months before his ouster by the Islamic revolution. I was working in Iran those days, as the revolution was unfolding led by Ayatollah Khomeini from Najaf in Iraq, later from France. Shah was right in his reference to Cyrus, though his pique was far from appreciable. It did not hold water in the face of his miserable human rights record. We had been warned by democratic India's foreign office mandarins to refrain from passing political comment of any sort while working in Iran, in a briefing given to 162 doctors slated to work there, as a part of Indo/Iranian agreement in the year 1975. We were also asked to say 'Gulf' without the prefix of Persian or Arabian. Non-aligned India stood neutral here too!
Shah's Sazman-i-Itelaat va Amniyait Kishwar-SAVAK [Bureau of information and security] was a dreaded intelligence organization, every Iranian feared every other person and there was palpable fear in the land of Cyrus [Jamsheed in Persian, in abbreviated form Jim] who proclaimed the charter of human rights, long before Magna Carta of the west, called the chapter of genesis in human rights. Jam-i-Jim [goblet of Cyrus] became the symbol of statecraft. Goblet represented the wine of statecraft, which Cyrus had a fill of, getting enriched in piloting the state, while respecting the rights of those, he administered and did it justly. Zoroastrianism in its original pristine form helped with its three cardinal priciples-Pindar-i-Neik [noble thought] Kirdar-i-Neik [noble character] Raftar-i-Neik [noble demeanor/interaction] just as Buddhism in its pristine form called for nobility in public affairs and respect for human rights-the rule of Asoka and Kanishka erased the erosion of human rights by 'Brahmanism' which with the code of Manu had degraded and dehumanized those branded as born without rights, hence deserving none!
We are compelled to dwell more in human rights, even refer to epics which might fail historical scrutiny, but then there is much that predates history, yet inspires millions serving as the guiding light symbolizing human rights, basically the right of human beings to live without fear and favour and with total justice in conduct of public affairs. In epics, we may refer to Ram Rajya, representing the pristine form of 'Vedic Dharma' a shining example of human rights, before Brahmanism made a mess of it. We may talk of the fight of Moses for securing freedom of bonded labour, Pharos engaged Hebrews in, concluding in their exodus from Egypt and settlement in Israel. We may date back the struggle to secure the rights of the people to Jesus Christ lucidly arguing against exploitation by Jewish religious order of the day, in the court of Pontius Pilate-the Roman Governor of Palestine, where the Jewish Rabbis had dragged him after he overturned the trays of offerings in coins made by the simple and God fearing people of Palestine and set free the sacrificial animals on a Jewish Passover. He was named a rebel, a heretic and death on 'Cross' demanded by Jewish clergy. The fight for securing human rights does indeed pre-date Magna Carta by millennia or two. In the matter of faith and belief, historical data stands a poor second, in spite of branding pre-historic as unsubstantiated, this being the verdict of scientific historians.
Prophet Muhammad [SAW] however stands above everyone else, as the benefactor of humanity [Mohsin-i-Insaniyat] in full glare of history, as Stanley Lane Pole terms his mission to improve the quality of life of not only his own people, but the cross section of humanity. As he shaped the Islamic Republic of Madina, the stakeholders engaged and guided by him chartered a covenant-Madina Declaration [Misakh-i-Madina] a glaring document of human rights. The stakeholders affirmed their resolve to respect the rights of others while exercising their own. Apart from the Medinite tribes-Banu Aus and Banu Khazaraj, Jews living in the suburbs of Madina joined the covenant. Jews however backed out soon, as the declaration meant freedom from exploitation of all sorts, including economic exploitation. Jews had a stranglehold on Medinite economy, as they had exploited and fueled the conflict between the Medinite tribes by supplying arms and feeding the media-formed by poets of yore with their eulogies for their own tribes and elegies for opposite tribes. Has it stopped even in 21st century? Your guess could be as good as that of mine! Prophet Muhammad [SAW] later worked out the treaty of brotherhood and cooperation [Muwakhat] between the migrants [Mahajarin] and their local helpers [Ansars] another glaring human rights document, meant to improve the quality of life of Ummat [nation in Arabic]. However the effort was not meant for the nation of Arabs only but Ummah [nations] all over the world in universal brotherhood, where borders between nations are taken to be part of the effort to divide humanity.
"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphan, the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy? I assert in all my humility but with all the strength at my command that liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood" [Mahatma M K Gandhi-Non violence in peace & war (1942) 2 volumes Naya Jivan pub: house, Ahmadabad-Vol I-p: 357] the write-up is an emphatic commentary that merely espousing the holy name of liberty and democracy does not confer the right to violate rights of people to any nation. It has to be conceded that India is a working democracy, with expected lacunas in a democracy so young and practiced in heterogeneity. However the fact stands, substantiated too even by sections of Indian polity who practice it, that India democracy gets derailed at Lakhanpur-the entry point to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, derailing human rights too.
"It is implicit presumption from the postulates of determinism that if every citizen in Kashmir felt completely safe , with a future that was secure and they became a willing participant of true democratic system of governance, then they would not only settle down to a peaceful animated living but also fully engage in pursuit of progress and development of their nation and possibly abandon claims for self determination" [Dr. Abdul Majid Siraj-Kashmir Case Law-pub: Scottaspress Publishers Limited, UK-Chapter Thirteen-Human Rights in Kashmir-p: 119].
It evokes a thought, makes one wonder whether India might have missed the bus!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
(Dr.Javid Iqbal is a noted columnist and Academic (V.Principal) Controller & Coordinator and HOD-Operation Theater Technology Tahira Khanam's Paramedical Sciences Institute, Lawaypora-Srinagar. Feedback at email@example.com)