of India under perpetual attack
The President Espouses the Cause of Those Who Have Been Victims of Societal
Violation of Human Rights for Centuries
The privileged section of our people want a President for India who must
speak their language, who must espouse their cause--the cause of the 200
million; the other 800 million to be treated were therefore angry and
upset because President Narayanan, in his Republic Day-eve address last
year (in 2001) espoused the cause of the 800 million--the poor, the deprived,
the child, the woman--all those who have been victims of tyrannical social
order and societal violation of human rights for centuries. He was attacked
for not accepting the advice of the privileged to keep his lips sealed
on issues like criminalisation of electoral politics, non-implementation
of social justice, human rights, programmes like basic education, uplift
of Dalits, Tribals, absence of social democracy, and so on.
This year, too, the President has been attacked for his Republic Day-eve
address. Quite a few national dailies have come down heavily on him--these
dailies did not publish even the important parts of his address, not to
speak of publishing the full text; some of them gave untrue and misleading
account of his address. One daily went to the extent of insinuating that
the president is canvassing for another term--an insult to his person.
Another daily wrote a lengthy editorial that the subjects the President
dealt with are trite and reprimanded him for not concentrating on important
national issues. Obviously the reference is to terrorism. The President
does refer to terrorism, and how to tackle terrorism, as we will see later.
Let us give a quick look at what President Narayanan said in his address.
In the context of attack on Parliament by terrorists he said:
"It is significant that it is the extraordinary courage and heroism
of the ordinary security personnel at the Parliament House that saved
the seat of our democracy against the dastardly terrorist attack. While
we rejoice in the success of our security personnel, let us remember that
our safety and security is dependent on our common people like them, and
it is for their interests and welfare that we should work from our imposing
Parliament and Government buildings."
Mr. Narayanan referred to India's ancient philosophy:
"We know that this old philosophy had been battered by the vicissitudes
of history and that for long periods our country had fallen into the depths
of thralldom, indignity, ignorance and superstition. ... Swami Vivekananda
had declared that the chief cause of India's ruin has been the monopolising
of the whole education and intelligence of the land among a handful of
men. ... India has the largest number of illiterates in any country in
the world. Therefore we welcome the Bill now before Parliament for the
provision of education for all children between the age of 6 to 14 as
a great leap forward. This is still a partial measure. There is the need
for extending the facility of free and compulsory education to the entire
age group upto 18 years so that illiteracy is banished from the land."
In fact, the present BJP-led government has played fraud on the victims
of human rights violation of the right to education. Article 45 of our
Constitution provides for "free and compulsory education for all
children until they complete the age of fourteen years."
The 93rd Amendment Bill to which the President refers restricts this right
to education--a fundamental right--to age-group 6-10. Which means a vast
number of children will be deprived of the right to education. What is
disturbing is that our opinion makers, not even social and human rights
activists have raised their voice against this perpetual human rights
violation, and the cunning on the part of the government. The spirit of
the amendment is to make Article 45 of Constitution a fundamental right-this
article refers to all children up to the age of fourteen, not to 6-14
age group. So that children below age six are deprived of their right
The President once again drew the attention of our political rulers about
the non-implementation of social welfare programmes, human rights violation
of women, Dalits, Tribals:
"One of the clearest indicators of the development of a society is
the position and status of women enjoy in that society. Even though women's
rights are recognised as human rights and they are considered as best
of human resources and central actors for development, their standing
in our society is deplorable. ... While women's movement is gaining momentum
and gathering pace and reaching one milestone after another, the ill treatment
and atrocities on women are recurring in regular and brutal manner. ...
Half the number of women killed in India are killed in their bedrooms.
Rise in cases of sexual harassment by 40%, dowry deaths by 15.2% and smuggling
of girls by 87.2% in 1998 are indicative of their traumatised existence.
No place is safe for them, not even their mother's womb. ... It is high
time that we got rid of this inequality and indignity to women. ... We
have become an inclusive society in spite of the political triumph of
our democracy. The discrimination being suffered by women, the scheduled
castes and scheduled tribes is a crying denial of the democracy that is
enshrined in our Constitution."
The President was also attacked for advocating the human rights cause
of Dalits and Tribals, especially for his reference to their representation
in the private sector of the economic system. He said: "It is necessary
for the private sector to adopt social policies that are progressive and
more egalitarian for these deprived classes to be uplifted from their
state of deprivation and inequality and given the rights of citizens and
civilised human beings. This is not to ask the private enterprises to
accept Socialism, but to do something like what the Diversity Bill and
the affirmative action that a capitalist country like the USA has adopted
and is implementing."
He concluded thus:
"If our great democracy is to remain great and relevant to the problems
of the masses, we will have to pay heed to these crying socio-economic
issues. With such attention to the problems affecting the masses of our
people, our country will be strong and powerful to pursue the policy of
peace and co- existence, specially with regard to our neighbours in the
sub-continent and in Asia. And that will be our democratic answer to the
evil phenomenon of terrorism that we in India and the world in general
are facing to-day" (emphasis added).
No other President has ever spoken so passionately about the importance
and role of the common man and woman in the development of our country.
He has repeated his plea that the governance of the country cannot be
left in the hands of the privileged few, and that without social democracy
and a democratic way of life, and without promoting human rights specially
of Dalits, Tribals, Women, Children, and the Minorities, formal political
democracy does not have any meaning. Mr. Narayanan must be applauded for
his forthright address by all thoughtful human rights activists who want
the 800 million "non--persons" to have their legitimate share
in the fruits and achievements of independents. -- 15 February 2002