Hindu Narratives on Human Rights

Hindu Narratives on Human Rights

Hindu Narratives on Human Rights

Hindu Narratives on Human Rights

Synopsis

This pioneering work examines the existing understanding of Hinduism in relation to human rights discourse.

Excerpt

Human rights discourse is fast emerging as the global idiom of moral discourse. The process started with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations Assembly on December 10, 1948. As work on the text progressed, the word “universal” was substituted for the word “international.” It appears doubtful that, had the declaration been called the International Declaration of Human Rights rather than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it would have come to possess the moral status it enjoys. The word “international” is so political that it would, in all probability, have led people to view it as a political rather than a moral statement. The substitution of the word “universal” for “international” signaled the desire of its framers to produce a document that reflected not merely a political but a moral consensus. It is part and parcel of the Kantian legacy to the modern world, that the truly moral must be universalizable and, therefore, ultimately universal.

It could be argued that while, one the one hand, the adoption of a “universal” declaration made it less problematic as a document in the moral sense, on the other it makes it more problematic in the context of Hinduism in a religious sense, as Hinduism is often perceived as lacking such a universalistic element, on account of the allegedly particularistic nature of its morality. Such an assumption is widely shared in Western Indology and has also affected not only the understanding of Hinduism in the West, but even Hindu self-understanding to a certain extent as well. Although the view is, in this sense, widespread, it is not, on that account, necessarily correct, as the work of such modern Indian scholars as P. V. Kane has clearly demonstrated. The truth of the matter seems to . . .

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