Why Don’t Indians Understand their Rights?

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.

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  1. Whenever either of my kids had to speak on some form of ‘Freedom comes with Responsibilities and duties… etc’ (and it’s a favourite topic with Indian schools) they began with ‘The biggest responsibility that Freedom comes with is the responsibility to protect it from those who think Freedom is an indulgence, a privilege or a favour.”


  2. “Rights need not be earned, bargained for, compensated for, or balanced out. They exist by default”

    You’re talking like a congress neta. Right to food, Right to Eductation, Freedom of speech, Right to Employment…. It sounds nice. But it doesn’t work that way. You’ve to fight for your rights. They don’t come free. It does’nt exist by default – it has to be fought for and be brought.


    • In reply to Mir

      I also mentioned that people can’t just make up their own rights. There is no true “right to food” or “right to education”. Only those rights as enumerated in the Constitution like Freedom of Expression and Right to liberty that don’t cost anyone anything are true rights.

      Did you read my full post?

      True rights do indeed exist by default. They need not be fought and bought. But they definitely need defending from those who seek to take them away and make them contingent on other things. That is after all, the definition of a right!


    • In reply to Mir

      Nice argument but that is not true. America fought for it’s right and won their independence and drafted a bill of rights. Our founders had the intention that these rights will be preserved for future generations without bloodshed. When Americans are giving up rights for “freedom” or having to fight just to preserve their rights that they are given as every other American then it is time to regroup and a new government is to rise that is created by the populace.
      There is no “right to food” but there is a right that entitles people to be able to secure a job to purchase food or to buy land to grow there own regardless of gender, race, handicap, religion, etc
      And the “right to education” is shown by example of this countries public education system. I think you should examine the document that covers this issues, it is called the Bill of Rights, not the Constitution .


  3. This is a concept that applies to born and raised Americans as well. People have been conditioned that by questioning a governing authority that it is somehow unpatriotic and are shamed. Little do these people know that questioning authority is a founding principal for which this country is based.
    I am not Indian so this is based purely on speculation but I would guess that every immigrant wants to be accepted in their new culture doesn’t want to appear to be ungrateful or “rocking the boat” . HEY INDIANS: the majority of this countries population is here because their ancestors IMMIGRATED here, learn your rights, question injustice, and tolerate others that are different just as you want for yourself and your loved ones. (this applies to everyone, not just indians) There are many wonderful benefits to living in a country with many different cultures, races, and ethnicity, one of the downsides is that there are going to be a lot of varying philosophies that their subscribers belief is supreme to all others. I could rant on here forever and I am not even where to end this because I feel as if I am just getting started but I shall spare you and your readers and just trail off…………….


    • In reply to Brooke

      True. Too many people view rights are privileges that need to be earned. Not realizing that the “earning” was already done by those who fought for our independence and drafted the Constitution.


  4. Western Point of View says:

    India is, indirectly, a socialist nation. The problem is socialism doesn’t work for a variety of reasons. The ills seen in India today are example of that. When you try to make sure everyone progresses, no one does.


  5. Bingo ! spot-on.
    But does any society understand ‘Rights’ ? I think, with any group of people, the concept of rights does get diluted to accommodate some socially-acceptable rules, where we start begin to control some fringe behavior and slowly start eating into everyone’s liberty. No good constitution can come out of lobbying or negotiating. It can come only out of reason, and discussion.

    Our constitution too, while being an outstanding document, too has these ills. A case to the point are the limitations.. ‘Freedom of expression, limited by…’ or “Equality, limited by…”, “Free market, limited by..”.

    We have an inherent tendency to fix the society, the way we want. We want to control every small outcome, without having a confidence in our principles, that despite small variations, principles get the desired result. ‘Equality’ was such a good & noble principle. But we did not believe in our principle, we had to add a quirk that some people have to be given precedence, at least for some time.

    We had a such a good principle of private education (not limiting it to government), we ended up restricting it to have non-profit motive. So, every profit making education institution is illegal by mere-existence, and so cannot raise its voice against the illogical rules.

    We had vision, but lacked conviction on our ideals.


    • In reply to Murali

      Very well put. I agree.


    • Western Point of View says:

      In reply to Murali

      this is the problem with socialist governments that enforce entitlements. When one group is protected (say women) then others will demand that sort of protection or entitlement.

      Best way to solve these ills is just to enforce life, liberty and property. Government doesn’t need to own or mandate anything else.

      If there are so many manduates, rights get diluted. Keep it simple stupid, that is the best way to govern.


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