December 10, which coincides with the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDR) by the United Nations in 1948, is observed as the World Human Rights Day. In India, in Jammu and Kashmir, for many years, the day has been marked by protests to project India as an oppressor of human rights on the people of the state. However, this year was different- the day coincided with the fifth phase of the District Development Council (DDC) election in the state, witnessing an overwhelming response from the voters, who came out in numbers and voted enthusiastically. A new concept for the voters of the state, DDC was introduced on October 17 by the Union by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, and J&K Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, with an aim to strengthen grassroots democracy and Panchayati Raj system.
Another welcome event on the occasion was the observance of “National Human Rights Day” by the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh. This was done under the leadership of Justice AM Magrey. Several programmes were held to commemorate the adoption of UDHR.
The recently- concluded DDC elections and a peaceful environment in the newly- created Union Territory has laid to rest all the allegations of Human Rights violations, which has been doing the rounds since decades by some vested interests in the state, with support of inimical foreign forces. Such fallacious attempts have not elicited any results so far, as they are based on a subjective view and posture. The protests have always been, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
However, as they say, old habits die hard. Some voices could not be deterred from attempting to vitiate the environment. National Conference President Farooq Abdullah chose this occasion to claim that “unilateral” and “unconstitutional” scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has coincided with a steep rise in the infringement of fundamental and human rights in the Union Territory. His statement didn’t elicit much response for obvious reasons- it had a political overtone.
In the present scenario, where a sincere attempt is being made by the Government of India to usher in absolute freedom and democracy in the region by abolishing the draconian, inhibiting and unconstitutional legislations like Article 370 and Article 35A, voices like those of Farooq Abdullah are at the behest of some very big powers having a vested interest to weaken Kashmir and the whole country.
Today, Jammu and Kashmir is enjoying the fruits of democracy and experiencing all facets of freedom, which are the basic tenets of a democracy. Political leaders, who had to be detained due to security consideration post the abrogation of Article 370 and change in status of the region in August 2019, are now free and participated actively in the DDC elections.
Another welcome change that has come post the change of status is the marked reduction of violence and disruption in the form of stone pelting, hartals (strikes), bandhs (lockouts), processions etc. People have realised the fallacy of such disruptive activities that caused loss of life and property. Notably, the wings of the foreign- sponsored perpetrators, who instigated the local population, have also been clipped and their financial conduits sealed.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir should be lauded for challenging foreign-sponsored terrorism with great courage and fortitude to bring normalcy in the UT. Thanks to their courage and incisive counter-terrorist operations, the remaining terrorists are under severe pressure. The best part is that in these operations, ample opportunity for surrender is being given to youth, who have been coerced or misguided into following the self destructive path. In a welcome development, many are availing this opportunity. The peace constituency thus created is giving an opportunity to the local population to move freely without fear or intimidation.
India has a distinguished record in the creation and observance of the UDHR, with New Delhi being a member of the first Commission on Human Rights, in charge of drafting an ‘International Bill of Rights.’ The Indian delegates demonstrated a remarkable degree of magnanimity and foresight in their contributions towards the formation of the UDHR. They were able to translate into words and action lessons learnt from decades of the freedom struggle. The Indian resolution formed was adopted while drafting the UDHR. The UDHR later contributed to the formation of the Constitution of India. In later years, India always stood up for human rights and social justice globally.
India has always been a champion of Human Rights. The problems in Jammu and Kashmir had a foreign signature and were aimed at striking the integrity of the nation. They failed because the country challenged them with the strength of its inherent humanity, righteousness and sense of justice. Human Rights Day, this year, has witnessed a new dawn in Kashmir, a region that has suffered immensely due to rapacious interventions by evil foreign powers.