If you had learned Law from any of the universities around the globe, you would have come across a very common statement that “State is the biggest violator of Human Rights.” The statement flashed up in my mind when I encountered two embarrassing situations at the railway station today.
I was waiting to receive my relative in a lonesome platform, where a few cleaners and porters were on their duty. Unexpectedly I could hear a screaming noise of a lady sweeper, who was assaulted by a man seeming to be her relative. Apparently the lady was hurt, but I was unable to understand what was happening. Then all of a sudden the women gathering (cleaners) ran over and started man-handling him. Prima facie it looks as if giving a helping hand to the fellow-lady, but as minutes ticked on the clock, the women crowd encouraged by other male counterparts started physically assaulting him. A cop walked in thereby lethargic whom I was expecting to be intervening the situation and take the offender to custody. To the contrary, he scorched in and heavily banged the offender with his lathi. The man, seems to be in his late fifties, was already dipping with pain and was defenceless. He is as thin as a human being can be and his whole life energy being drained either by alcohol or poverty. The Police again dragged him to the nearby train compartment and bashed him heavily in closed doors. The Public, (including me) stares outside without knowing what to do, while many were cheering him up through the glass windows. The cop was literally unaware of what had happened but he took it for granted that the women were on the side of justice. I truly wanted to intervene, and stop the violence whilst “the Public” wanted something else.
Soon after this incident, I came down to the plot where I had parked my bike. As I had to pick my guest and leave as soon as possible I kept my bike in the “No Parking Area” (my apologies). The moment I kicked off the bike, the Railway Police blocked my way, asked to hand over the keys and to walk along with him to the police station. I requested him my apologies and conveyed my willingness to pay penalty as per the Law. He denied it and was getting harsh on me in the gathering. Amid, a folk who did the same mistake got caught by a second policeman. He was also required to follow the same procedure. Meanwhile I informed the officer that I am an advocate. Before making further explanations, he simply let me free. He wilfully took the other man, in a different route in order to avoid the perception that a concession has given to me. The public, which included workmen, passengers, and my relative (renowned human rights lawyer) were keenly observing the incident. None of their faces conveyed any dismay that the two people being differently treated for the same offence.
The most obvious conclusion about these incidents is power corrupts and state agents violate human rights, state discriminates. But the underlying truth is: It’s the public who is corrupted; who is violating Human rights; and it is the same public who is discriminating.
In the first incident, the offender obviously committed a mistake: but nobody knows the underlying facts. Yet everybody wanted violence: irrespective of the fact that he is feeble, not in his senses and powerless. While this sense of justice did not score when I was being separately treated for an offence. The public saw a well-dressed man, in much well off bike with an apologising tone of talk (actually manipulating) gets free of charges whereas a dark coloured, shabby hair styled, fade-dressed and speechless (his words were not coming out of throat, fearfully) man got caught. He was carrying a huge but torn cardboard box, perhaps the materials for his daily sales unloaded from the train. His job might have been more a matter of necessity and inevitability than that of mine. Yet he seemed to be a criminal. Justice was seen to be done for the public. Police apprehended right man and freed an innocent fellow…Oops…
There are two sets of people in the public. One, who believes the above statement is true because of their socialisation school and the other, who dint want a simple fight with a mighty class. Many among the general public belongs to first set and people like the police men and railway staff belongs to second set. Nevertheless, I argue that both sets represent a corrupted public – one inherently and the other fearfully. However, there may be many who argue that it’s the state agent who committed the wrong. Had the state agent acted wisely, nobody would have questioned his authority. But this preposition is based on two assumptions. Firstly, the State should not corrupt and secondly, the society backs an uncorrupted system. Both these assumptions are almost next to myth in the real contemporary world. Frankly speaking, it is the people at large requires the system to be corrupted keeping in mind the above narrated incidents.
Starting from a parent who does female foeticide, a father who resist his daughter from city education, an uncle who intervenes inter-religious marital relationships, the educational institution that limits an underprivileged student’s innate academic interests, the freaky youth who doesn’t raise for elders in buses, the oldies who screen the youngsters’ choice of dress etc., are all real-time violators of human rights. Ironically they all exert pressure on relatively weaker counterparts and seek protection from the state for their acts. No wonder why Indian Legal system considers consented marriage (by parents) of an 8-year-old as voidable marriage, and dissented marriage (by parents) of a 17-year-11-month-old as an invalid marriage. State is therefore, compelled to derive its structure from the resultant complex situation of the society which accommodates numerous corrupted interactions. For me, the issue is as brief as this: ‘Who’ is more inherently corrupted? The law which allows a prisoner (need not be a criminal) also to compete in election or the people who vote to elect a criminal (need not be charge sheeted) as their leader.
In Kerala, you need not be shocked to notice that a reference given to you for a service is based on a rationale that the service provider belong to his (referrer’s) religion. Last month I travelled in a luxury coach bus where I could converse with a frequent traveller whose reason for choosing the bus is nothing but the religious symbol hanging in front. Keralite speak relentlessly about secularism, yet they vote for their own communal groups. In fact, even in trade, people from one religion hesitate to sell goods or especially land to another religion. There is always a row over marriage and accompanying conversion of religion, among various religious segments of the state, especially in case of women. While no religion seems to have problem in admitting new follower coming in after marriage, every religion expels the people who marry outside the religion. Of course, this story is as old as old can be, but before, complaining against religions let me first examine why does the individuals want to compel, or coerce a different religion on their romantic counter-part. The matter of inter-caste marriage is even worse. It ends up in honour killings. Is it not exerting our own choices on another individual without any ‘reasonable justification’ the biggest violation of human rights?
Interestingly, ‘the same people’ who are supposed to be the drafters of modern democratic constitutions, clearly elaborated the philosophies of reasonable classification, and intelligible differentia in world constitutions. These philosophies require the state to classify subjects, and objects with an identifiable (intelligible) criterion which has direct relationship with objective (aim) of the state action and is reasonable for that purpose. This means while the state is desired to be secular, socialist and rational the public ought to differ and seeks legitimacy to act upon their whims and fancy. Public tends to honour a religious group which supports killing of almost everything in the name of faith (including humans) but not a pig or a holy cow for food. Even then the public should not be questioned, if questioned it violates their freedom of expression. They need to be protected, if not the state is adopting the policy of chronic discrimination.
Remember state is just an agent of the public, a medium for exercising power. Therefore, the state cannot be liable for the acts which it executes in accordance with the needs of the Public. The idea of State took birth to maintain law and order of the society, regardless of the nature of the society. State is never an apparatus invented for the promotion of justice; it was always an instrument to balance interests. The result is that if you rely upon State as an instrument to promote justice, then you are relying inappropriate tool. Moreover, if the society accommodates injustice as natural element like in the above cases, the State cannot be expected to do nothing better. A true state reformation should start from the public – their acceptance of being innately corrupt and violator of human rights. A Constitution now ought to be drafted containing a list of fundamental duties which shall be enforceable against the larger public. If not, tomorrow you are more likely to see an extremist movement from an LGBT organisation, or a union of loving couples. The countering Nations or states may be charged guilty of mass violations of human rights and be accused of the guilt of mass killing, yet still the chronic violator of Human rights is not the State, it would be the public. Because, it knows the way of committing violations in the most heinous way – by suppressing voice of the victims in the name of social set-up, moral order and dignity of the social group.
Nithin Ramakrishnan & Kanmani K.S. (Incidents described in the write-up is based on Nithin Ramakrishnan’s real life situations, and the opinion expressed by the authors are solely personal. CED&L owes no responsibility towards the remarks. Image courtesy: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Gandhi_caricature_public_opinion.jpg)