A call to be human rights defenders
Dimapur, Aug. 30 (EMN): With the objective to respond and advocate the issues on freedom of opinion, expression, association, assembly, dissent, protest and all other rights including harassment and criminalisation of all human rights defenders (HRDs), a consultative meet cum seminar on ‘People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space’ (PCSDS) for Nagaland state was conducted on August 28.
The programme was organised jointly by Peace Channel and North East Institute of Social Science and Research (NEISSR) in the latter’s conference hall.
Speaking on the occasion, resource person and human rights defender from Assam, Ms Bondita Acharya, stated that human rights defenders are individuals, groups and associations, who are committed to defend and uphold all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Highlighting on human rights violation scenario in India, she stated that people need to raise their voices against arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, prisoner rights, militarisation, social and structural discrimination, employment and livelihood issues, forced evictions and displacements and no access to basic necessities for dignified human life, ecology, environment, people’s rights over land and natural resources, discrimination, rights of indigenous peoples etc.
Stating that human rights agencies have failed to protect people’s rights, she said human rights defenders should come forward to fight for rights, which has been compromised by the stakeholders starting from whistleblowers to law makers. She went on to state that stakeholders have failed to protect and promote fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals including principles of democracy and secularism.
Later, Ms Acharya briefed the participants on PCSDS – its objectives, structure, state process etc. She also encouraged the participants to be part of PCSDS to protect human rights defenders and advocate human rights. She added that PCSDS does not accept grants from any agencies. She further urged the participants to visit its website www.pcsds.in for any information regarding PCSDS.
T Limanochet Jamir, assistant professor of Kohima Law College and member of PCSDS national working committee, exhorted that a person need not have to be in a position of power to bring change.
He added that sheer will-power and determination and most of all God’s favour is needed to bring about any social transformation.
Referring Jesus Christ as a human rights defender, he explained how Jesus Christ defended rights of the poor and the needy, widows etc. and worked for the welfare of the people but was persecuted even to the extent of His death.
Principal of City Law College, P Leonard Aier, in his concluding remarks, claimed that the state, which is supposed to safeguard rights of its citizens, is the biggest violators of human rights. To substantiate his statement, he said the state regulates law and at the same time misuse the law by coercive power and projects their authority to the citizens.
Describing India as a democratic country under the constitution where rights of its citizens are safeguarded, he however stated it is not absolute and effective as it is enshrined. Quoting Martin Luther King “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” he questioned if we are following the principles of democracy when there is a lack of dialogue.
Stating that the Constitution provides democratic space for fundamental rights, he asked the participants to ponder upon whether they are using the democratic space or scared to use the space to defend their rights.
Rev. Fr. John Poji, NEISSR vice principal, invoked God’s blessing and the programme concluded with a vote of thanks delivered by Ms Garrol Lotha. Altogether 120 participants from different organisations and institutions actively participated in the programme.