Viva La Human Rights Defenders!!!

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

— Article 1 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights,1948.

The above quote marked what can be called the first official confirmation, or rather confession, by the then leaders of our world that yes, things were indeed going wrong with this world of ours and yes, something would have to be done about it.

December 3rd to December 10th, is officially celebrated as the Human Rights Week by individuals, organizations,and institutions all over the world, and we, the folks at the Center for Social Action (CSA), Christ University endeavored to be a part of this stupendous global effort in our own small way.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, CSA organized a day long seminar on Human Rights Defenders, on December 15th 2008. The seminar was attended by a number of students and human rights activists (defenders!) . The speakers at the seminar were social activists working in different parts of India,every single one of them veterans in the fight for human rights.

They touched on a wide variety of issues, ranging from the atrocities committed in the North East, to the obstacles faced by human rights defenders. For example, Ms Rosemary Dsuvichu, a senior lecturer of English at Nagaland University and is also a member of the National Commission for Women,spoke on the deteriorating situation in the North east. She highlighted the blatant manner in which the army was using the Armed Forces Act to violate human rights in The Land of Seven Sisters .

Another tour-de-force speaker was Mr Henri Tiphagne from Peoples Watch, Madurai, who gave an highly insightful talk on the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, highlighting the primary points of the Declaration.

The words of the speakers opened whole new vistas for their listeners, as they were led through reams of enriching words and experiences. It was clear that all the speakers were speaking with considerable feeling, because when it came to protecting human rights , all of them were right in the thick of things.

All in all, the seminar was a really enriching and eye-opening experience for the attendees. It was amply clear that the task of protecting human rights is no joke, and is to undertaken only by those with a spine of steel. To clarify, let me cite the example of Mr Vittal Hegde,who works to better the lot of the rural community of Karnataka. He stated at the seminar that at any given moment, he is shadowed by over fifty plainclothes policemen. Phew ! Talk about having a tough job!

After listening to the experiences of the Human Rights Defenders, I feel it prudent to raise a toast to them and their wonderful work. Hence….


Written by Vivek Kuruvilla Thomas

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