“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. So stated Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This is what the Indians have been preaching since times immemorial as it has become the immemorial customs of our nation .Human Rights are a fundamental value. There is a long Indian tradition of standing up for the weak against abuse by the strong. Upholding human rights values in every aspect is firmly in our tradition. The ”Great Mauryan emperor Ashoka the great renounced the path of violence after the massacre in the war of Kalinga ” The ”Great Moghul,” Akbar the Great granted religious minorities legal status in his realm, One of the most influential was Mahatma Gandhi’s movement to free his native India from British rule. It is the core of our Constitution and the heart of our national interest today. But the values that we stand for – freedom, human rights, the rule of law – are all universal values. Given the choice, people all over the world want them. But it is regretting that India who was once looked up by whole world as the pioneer of these values is now groveling in lowly dust of atrocities and human rights abuse. Human rights abuse is sadly a reality in Indian society, it is not just an affront to the values of tolerance, freedom and justice that underpin our society. It is also a tragic waste of human potential.
The Need for Human rights Education
The importance of human rights education hardly requires any over emphasis. It has a crucial role in preventing human rights violations from occurring.
The United Nations proclaimed that human rights education is “training, dissemination and information efforts aimed at the building of a universal culture of human rights through imparting knowledge and skills and the moulding of attitudes”. These efforts are designed to strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, facilitate the full development of human personality, sense of dignity, promote understanding, respect, gender equality and friendship to enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, and further activities for maintenance of peace.
Human rights education, training and public information are, therefore, necessary and essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among the communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace. Through the learning of human rights as a way of life, fundamental change could be brought about to eradicate poverty, ignorance, prejudices, and discrimination based on sex, caste, religion, and disability and other status amongst the people.
Human rights Education in India
It may be said that in India that the content of human rights education is not different to what was taught by way of religion, be it Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. There is lot of truth in that statement. The quintessence of human rights is also the basic essence of all religions, Love, compassion, loving kindness are the same. However, while teaching religions we confined the obligations arising from these doctrines only to their followers. Human rights could bring in a universal aspect to moral and ethical education. And we in our divided societies are in great need of this On the other hand in the context of rapid secularization we could still retain a basic common ground for respect for each other. We could still be our brothers’ keepers and withstand value systems which only promote selfish ways of life.
Indian textbooks barely mention human rights. Indirect references to human rights are included in the Directive Principles of the Constitution of India and in civics and history textbooks. Most universities in India do not offer human rights education, although some have three-month to one-year postgraduate courses on human rights. Section 12(h) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, requires the Commission ”to spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness .The National Human Rights Commission of India and many NGOs have launched a countrywide public information campaign for human rights. It aims to make everyone more conscious of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and better equipped to stand up for them. At the same time, the campaign spreads knowledge of the means which exist at the international and national levels to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Any education to be effective needs to be contextualized too. Thus it is not enough to teach abstract principles of human rights taken from United Nations’ documents or our Constitutions. Our historical context as nation as well as local contexts need to be reflected in human rights education. The contextualizing of human rights is essential for nurturing of peace. Creative reflections on local situations from a human rights perspective would help the schools greatly, to become the societies’ most important peace makers. Some say that we Indians should have less rights than people living in Western countries. They say, the human rights concepts are Western. Only people who have all the rights could say this to people who have much less rights. We keep masses of humanity without rights and condemn the growing consciousness of rights as a Western one. This would mean that to be Indian one has to put up with one’s bondage, one must remain submissive, one must eat less and work more. Is that what our women, and our children need to believe. Is that what our workers and peasants need to believe while multinational companies with the help of our elite take away the fruit of their labours, and the fruit of our lands. The relativist theory, though couched in nationalist terms is not nationalist at all. It work for the benefit of big companies Western or otherwise.