PUCL Karnataka Towards civil liberties and human rights for all in Karnataka

Interaction Session with Shri Prabhakar Sinha, President, PUCL – A Summary

11.09.2009 · Posted in Human Rights, Meetings and Events

On 21st November 2009, Saturday, the PUCL Bangalore chapter invited the public, members of NGOs, people’s organizations and media  for an interactive session with Shri Prabhakar Sinha, the national PUCL president who was visiting Bangalore. Shri Sinha was asked to share his viewpoints and experiences with the group on the current status and challenges of human rights (HR) activism in India.

Shri Sinha felt one of the biggest problems facing HR organizations was their isolation and a lack of social support for their causes, from the class that mattered. He noted that there were two different classes: the privileged one and another consisting of ordinary or common man.  The privileged class was generally educated, resource consuming, and an empowered group that has an important voice in decision making from an individual to the national level. In contrast, the class of ordinary or common man, who by sheer numbers represent a large majority of our citizens, are underprivileged, voiceless and un-empowered in decisions that directly impact their lives, and often faced a trampling of their fundamental rights. He commented that the privileged society was largely indifferent to the issues of the common man.

It was insufficient to have a democratic constitution to guarantee fundamental rights if the functioning of the governance, administration, security and judiciary were incompatible with the spirit of the constitution. Shri Sinha felt that HR work would benefit if we concentrated on issues to ensure compliance within the system.

Addressing the challenges facing HR issues, Sri Sinha felt it was extremely important to cultivate empathy amongst the middle class for problems of HR and inculcate HR values in the wider society. The current situation of large scale HR violations would change only with changing the social mindset and spreading HR values.

Shri Sinha questioned whether confronting HR violations was a matter for the citizenry or the state. When the latter becomes a primary violator of HR, it is up to the citizens to react against the violations and hold the state accountable. To be able to do this one had to mobilize public opinion and put pressure on the government.

It was also important for the general public be educated on normal laws , to be able to insist on their applicability, and draw wider attention against their misuse. But while it was important to take HR issues into classrooms, it could not be taught in an academic fashion since it was more a matter of feelings, inculcations, and changing mindsets. Here a student did not start with a clean slate over which common HR values could be inscribed, but had a value system already in place depending on his/her class, caste, and socio-economic background.

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