Being the largest democracy in the world doesn’t mean much if people don’t grasp the concept of rights. Rights are the hallmark of a modern civilized society. An affirmation of the inherent value of each and every human being and the qualities that define them. They need not be earned, bargained for, compensated for, or balanced out. They exist by default regardless of what a person does. One of the only situations when the state is allowed to take away a person’s rights is when that person has themselves infringed on someone else’s right. That’s what going to jail is all about.
And yet, it’s painfully obvious that a large section of Indians, the police, and politicians not only fail to grasp basic rights such as freedom of expression, but make up their own flawed rights. For example, god knows who gave them the idea that people have a right to not be offended! A few days back I wrote about the police and religious groups objecting to an atheists festival because it violates people’s “religious rights”. I mean what the hell?
Others have this notion stuck in their head that rights need to be earned and that they come with “responsibilities”. Somehow implying that if you don’t honor these imaginary responsibilities, then your rights can just be taken away. How often have you heard statements like “Freedom of Expression comes with responsibilities” or “Just because you have freedom of expression doesn’t mean etc etc.”. Now there are surely a few situations where freedom of expression is restricted mostly those dealing with specific and immediate harm. But these exceptions to FoE have kept on broadening. Only the occasional intervention by the courts have kept our inept politicians and religious groups from hijacking all of our rights entirely. I’ve often argued that so called “fundamental duties” need to be abolished. I don’t know why they were incorporated in 1975 in the first place. They’re not legally enforceable any way and are just a waste of space.
Rights need not be earned, bargained for, compensated for, or balanced out. They exist by default.
I’ve often felt that many Indians are just not ready to live in a free country. They don’t want a free country. They aren’t prepared to accept things like equal rights for everyone regardless of gender and sexuality, they aren’t prepared to tolerate the expression of opinions that “offend” them, they don’t want to just let people live. I sometimes feel the motto of our country should be “Learn to mind your own business!”
It makes me marvel at the tremendous good fortune that gave us such a progressive Constitution. I’m 100% certain that if our current gathering of politicians were to frame one anew, they would take out all pesky ideas like rights, freedoms, privacy, and separation of powers. We obviously had some truly visionary leaders back in 1950 and we don’t appreciate them enough for the magnificent gift they gave us.
I personally think we need civics lessons in schools to focus more on the critical importance of rights especially with a little bit of historical background demonstrating how they’re one of the greatest achievements of our civilization. Because as things stand right now, I don’t think most Indians “get” it at all.