Human Rights Issues of Minorities in Contemporary India: A Concise Analysis

By Ghatak, Sambuddha; Udogu, E. Ike | Journal of Third World Studies, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Human Rights Issues of Minorities in Contemporary India: A Concise Analysis


Ghatak, Sambuddha, Udogu, E. Ike, Journal of Third World Studies


INTRODUCTION

India is today one of the most powerful developing nations. This newly industrializing state enjoys a prominent status as the largest democratic nation-state in the world. Unlike some emerging polities, it has had several successful elections without military incursions into politics. It is a nuclear power and increasingly becoming a major economic actor in this era of the "New Globalization." In spite of her impressive developments, however, India continues to confront human rights problems with respect to minorities, who in the context of this study are Dalits. They are generally members of the Scheduled castes and "assimilated" Scheduled tribes; they constituted 24.4% of the national population in the 2001 census (out of approximately 1 billion). (1)

Caste classification creates amongst its citizens social strata in the country. And, this social schema determines a group's status in the socioeconomic configuration of the society. Due to the peculiar features of this system, the institution has attracted many scholars to its study. (2) Notwithstanding the extensive scholarship on the topic, we do not have a clear explanation of the term in part because of the complexity of its practice. (3) This study is not on the caste system per se; it is on the nature of the breaches of the human rights of minorities, generally exacerbated by the character of the caste structure, that this essay seeks to address. Accordingly, we shall proceed with the discourses around the following themes:

1. Situate the study within a brief theoretical framework of human rights, minorities globally and constitution;

2. Briefly discuss the cultural and historical reasons for the discrimination against the Dalits;

3. Examine relevant provisions of the national constitution, international human rights instruments and the human rights of minorities in the society;

4. Summarize a case study from a fieldwork conducted in the English Bazar municipalities of Malda district in West Bengal on some human rights issues; and

5. Conclude on ways that might advance the amelioration of the infractions of the human rights of minorities.

CONCISE THEORIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS, MINORITIES AND CONSTITUTION

Commonly, human rights concerns have become global in the 21St century. Condemnations of gross human rights infringements committed in the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Pakistan, Nigeria and China, for instance, are vocally rebuked in London, Washington, Paris, Johannesburg and elsewhere by governments and human rights NGOs distressed about its infractions. (4) Moreover, the UN often denounces human rights violations that happen in all regions of the world.

The dilemma worldwide is that all citizens--particularly minorities without political clout--don't have the benefits of human rights proclamations equally in society. Nevertheless, constitutionally and doctrinally (in religious teachings) individuals are expected to enjoy human rights because they are guaranteed in their national constitutions, (5) provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Additionally, human rights dogmas are sanctioned in most theological texts and their pedagogy. Because of the unsatisfactory implementation of human rights precepts equally in society, the general call for the respect of human rights by activists continues. Also, the common desire, among human rights agents, to fight for the respect of minorities' human rights globally has gained currency. in truth, their rallying cry on behalf of those who suffer from victimization in their political, economic, religious and social milieus reached its crescendo within the last twenty years or so. The criticism of campaigners against human rights infractions is intended to bring pressure to bear on polities to change legally and politically those actions/policies that often marginalized individuals and minority groups in a system. …

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