Human Rights and Democracy

Ever since the organisastion of societies in different forms came about, conflicts in the manner of assuming, conferring or exercising of authority and rights and contingent duties for the accepted ideals have been considered in great detail by eminent thinkers. Accordingly, concepts like democracy, liberty, equality, fraternity, state, nation, privileges and forms of governments ranging from absolute monarchy to militarism to democratic functioning in different mores have been analyzed, given shape and systematically followed by different peoples in different climes and times in different manner.  

In fact, the connotation of the word 'Democracy' itself has undergone great changes from the very early times to the present. For the purposes of this article, we will confine ourselves to the generally accepted modern usage of western liberal approach. Here, too, we will follow what has been the outstanding contribution of British Parliamentary evolution's gift go humanity as a whole, once again nurtured by such great turning evenings of history as the French Revolution, American War of Independence, liberalism of different hues down to the claims of the proletarian revolution, Afro-Asian-Latin American resurgence and traditions of modern democratic states in general, which by mutual consent between the governed the government, have in theory at least, accepted certain rights as indispensable for the functioning of the state.

Unity of mankind
Similarly information on the way of life of other people, now instantaneously reach all parts of the globe giving scope for reaction, assimilation, adoption or adaptation. Along with many great strides in positive advancements, negative thinking leading to catastrophic events attempted by nihilists, terrorists and anarchists also pose a change to modern states and citizens in not just protecting their narrow domains but to think in terms of global security, growth, prosperity, sharing and a concern for the entire humanity, unprecedented in dimensions in earlier times. And as the micro will show the path for macro or the micro and macro have together to tread cautiously to elude different forms of violence, it is easier to understand the implications of a well-knit individual unit of modern state to pay attention to the human rights to its citizens, with a view to appreciate similar aspirations of people everywhere so that collective protection becomes inherent starting point of all civilised states to come together to enrich humanity. On the assumption of viable modern states and citizens striving for harmony and global peace, inevitable interaction between national and international events, we shall now concentrate on human rights in a democratic form of state.
Modern States
Organisation of modern states was not a smooth task. Philosophers from the time of Socrates down to Bertrand Russell in modern times have dwelt at length on the consent of the governed, participation of the governed, opportunities of the governed, enlargement of the scope of the governed in the process of government for the betterment of individuals and institutions, societies and the world at large. Many modern states have attempted to incorporate in their political constitutions the noble ideals of different nations so that the benefit of collective wisdom is shared and applied in detail to avoid pitfalls encountered by others.
In brief, we have to assume that a modern state has to be concerned with appropriate rights and duties of the citizens who constitute the state. After all, governments are but reflections of the people composing the state. As the heritage of  humanity is common, as indeed scientific and literary delights have been shared, so too the political values need to be imbibed by people to look forward to a betterment of their lives. For we have not reached the stage of people as a community without the burden of the instrument of a state, which essentially has to have some coercive powers to enforce the collective ideals.
This brings us to the complexities of the modern organisation of state itself. It is occasionally possible for a small state to have a sense of great identity in language, religion, culture, way of living, economic moorings, racial characteristics and a desire to live together under the banner of a state. If even the small states with great cohesion do encounter such problems, nothing need be said about multifarious constituents in larger states where diversities are the order due to historical and contemporary factors. We have enough evidence to state that such human rights in a democratically embedded state have led to all-round development of the people and an urge towards extending such benefits to every group of human beings with a view to help realize the value of not just an inherited legacy but the norms of material comforts enjoyed by advanced nations.

Religious differences
So we are concerned with the problem of a modern democratic state but have to address the problem of religious differences as well. For, there are many modern states where one religion is declared to be an official one. We will assume that we are concerned with those states only to the extent of these giving rights to religious minorities. There have been many states paying lip sympathy to some religion or the other, without really caring much for the metaphysical needs of the people. For our purposes this is very important because we are largely interested in giving norms for a democratically inclined societies where rights include the right to practise one's religious inclinations without being disturbed by the members of the rest of the society or from the instruments of the state.
We are not for a moment suggesting that theocratic states have in-built opposition to other religious practices. Secularism
Accordingly we are concerned with a modern, democratic, secular state : this is a contemporary theme. Secularism would imply that people reach out to others to form a state, fully knowing that individuals have the right to hold on to their cherished values. Secularism implies that these differences do not affect the progress of the state and its people as a whole towards betterment of their material comforts and other cultural pursuits so that the purpose of coming together, subordinating other variations, is fulfilled. This requires an explicit laying down the rights of the people -and correspondingly the duties as well - so that this living together can serve a better purpose. With specific guaranteed rights, the government of the state and the people know the respective duties and obligations so that any threat to harmonious balance is averted. We shall now look into the need for appropriate definition of human rights in a democracy.

Democracy, not merely a political tool
There has to be a sense of understanding true democratic norms. Democracy is not merely a political tool to bring together people for economic betterment but it enhances the quality of the life of the people by enabling them to pursue individual course of life to the full and integrating it with those of others so that collectively benefit is shared by all. This is a safer method of government, for in this, the rights to discuss, dissent, disseminate views are recognised and larger the participation of the people, the better for the state as a whole. When Abraham Lincoln declared that the then civil war would decide the great issue that all men were created equal, he laid down a noble norm implicitly followed by people elsewhere too. People like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and a host of others had this passion for serving the common people. We find in all the newly independent countries in the post-second world war era, people clinging to the liberalist ideals and democracy of the European hue. And to overcome violent means to sustain democratic practices, states have carefully incorporated in their constitutions the basic principles which would guide the people in active participation in community life.
Having stated that in a modern, secular state people come together for advancement of material and other benefits, we shall briefly state the rights required for such advancement and the means whereby they could be furthered. Rights, accordingly, would be qualitatively stronger and greater than mere quantity.  

Human Rights
Human Rights postulate, therefore, the attitude on the part of the people that would enable them to blend the fine values of the past with the fine elements from contemporary world, wherever good things could be absorbed. They would be embedded in the basic structure of the constitution as rights to be enjoyed by the people. The following are indispensable in the domain of rights.

1. Right to Health Care
The right to good health needs hardly to be stressed, though surprisingly overlooked. If health starts with water, then what of other medical facilities? Waster, clean environment, food, healthcare are indispensable tools for building a better society. To invest in human resources is to reap the benefits for all. To live first as decent human beings, basic health care for all must be conceived, developed and sustained.

2. Right to Education
Democracy is a form of government assuring equality and liberty for all the citizens and it would be a mockery if a large number of people go with proper education. Educational rights should not be exclusive for the privileged alone. We may also note that in many newly emerging states gender injustice, that is, denying womenfolk to good education is denied. Education is a great equalizer. It clothes men and women with right attitudes, right conduct and right thinking. It is not a gift by a society or a government. It should be made the inherent right to gateway to knowledge. To deny education is to deny civilization: to deny values: to talk of democracy without assuring the citizens the right to be educated is a travesty of justice. Education is the most liberating influence on individual and society. Education truly is the guiding spirit for the success of democratic way of living.

3. Right to Employment
It is true that there are many problems confronting any society to provide all the citizens appropriate employment opportunities. There are practically no limits to which the human mind is capable of devising measures, if the need arises, to overcome any obstacle. Work is life; idleness is death. Work is positive: idleness is negation of values.

4. Political Rights
Mere guarantee of political rights is not enough. The assumption that political rights such as equality and liberty, voting and elections would ensure permanency in the system is naïve. Any right has a corresponding duty. If people are invested with political rights, they have to be clearly told about their duties as citizens. Political rights are like two-edged weapons. Ignorance or indifference of the people would lead to disaster. Political rights of modern times largely rest upon the assumption of equality of opportunity and status for all. This equality presupposes a number of variables but for our purpose, it is enough to state that political rights have no meaning if they are just enshrined in paper. They require constant application by the people. Technically we can have a plethora of rights but when people are so disillusioned with the system, they do not care even to exercise the most elementary freedom of right to vote. Unaware of the tremendous sacrifices made by the forebears to gain these rights, indifference and cynicism of a people not appreciating their rights would invite disaster.

5. Economic Rights
This brings us to the most important right in a democracy. Economic rights are not much talked about though various 'isms' and theories are put for to bring about changes in the economic condition of the people. Liberty of equality or any type of political right is meaningless if a section of people to be for ever consigned to penury . The problem is deeper than mere ideological approach. It involves human values as well. Economic rights must include proper wages, holidays, right to advancement in the career, retiral benefits and finally a dignified old age. It is not too much to expect the collective wisdom of mankind to evolve conditions suitable for optimum working conditions and a respect for the right to work.

6. Social and Cultural Rights
When health care, housing, education, employment and economic rights are appropriately guaranteed by political rights, it would just be a matter of time before social and cultural rights are fruitfully conferred or enjoyed. The greatness of democracy is that it can be a great instrument in transforming the society from slumber to The greatness of democracy is that it can be a great instrument in transforming the society from slumber to The greatness of democracy is that it can be a great instrument in transforming the society from slumber to wakefulness, from inertia to dynamism and from darkness to light Political theory and thought have been enriched by great philosophers and their practice have benefited millions.
To sustain it we require an understanding and genuine will to confer and practice human rights. Democracy and human rights go together. 


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