Indian security personnel stand guard on a street in Srinagar on Aug. 6, 2019. Photo: AFP/Vikar Syed

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a legal instrument – recognized by the United Nations Organization at its 183rd session on December 10, 1948, as Resolution 217 – that consists of principles that protect the primary rights of all and sundry irrespective of race, religion, sex, creed, and color. The codified document contributes to certain defined international laws regarding human rights.

All states are required to formulate their constitutions and laws under the aegis of the UDHR principles. Not even a single segment of any society can be deprived of the fundamental rights as mentioned in the declaration. The UN is liable to ensure fair implementation of human rights by channeling its other bodies.

However, unfortunately, such laws and principles have turned out not to be “universal” because of the gross violations of human rights in several parts of the world, Indian-controlled Kashmir being one of them. Some days ago, India also committed what could be termed “constitutional terrorism” by abrogating Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution, which is totally against the principles of the UDHR.

We can observe grave violations of human rights in multiple regions. But the UN has a very confined role and limited scope for application of the UDHR principles. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Kashmir and other parts of the world are sweltering in the heat of grave violations of fundamental rights in the shape of mass killings, rape, child abuse, and mental torture. It seems that the principle of “every state for itself” rather than humanity is getting ascendency, and the UN itself has been narrowing its purpose of bringing peace and protecting human rights.

Non-derogable rights

According to the UDHR, there are some rights that are granted to every human being. These rights are “non-derogable” – a term mentioned in the declaration referring to primary rights that can never be violated even in conditions of emergency.

For instance, Article 1 of the UDHR states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” But we can see blatant violations of this UDHR article in Kashmir, Palestine and other parts of the world. The scrapping of Article 370 by India, which granted constitutional protection to the special status of Indian-controlled Kashmir, and empowered the state of Jammu and Kashmir to formulate its own laws by retaining the identity of its more than 94% Muslim population, is a violation of Article 1 of the UDHR.

Furthermore, Article 2 of the UDHR endorses and protects due freedom and liberty without any discrimination by stating that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or another status.” Sadly, this article has been violated to large degrees in Indian-controlled Kashmir for many decades by acts of violence and by depriving Muslims in the region the non-derogable rights that have been granted by the UN for all human beings.

The scrapped Article 35A of the Indian constitution ensured that citizens of J&K would enjoy separate fundamental rights and property rights from the other parts of India. The government not only committed a gross violation of the Universal Declaration of human rights by snatching away the separate identity and provision of primary rights of Kashmiris, but has also legalized “constitutional terrorism” against human beings.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaffirms freedom, liberty, and security of all and sundry by stating that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.” For many decades, Indian troops have been violating that article under the nose of the UN and the global community. But now, by abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A its constitution, Article 3 of the UDHR has been rejected officially by India.

More alarming is the silence of the UN and the rest of the leading powers in terms of practical actions. The League of Nations collapsed because of inadequate measures against the states that violated its principles. Merely making statements, introducing courses, conducting conferences and engaging the world in dialogue on human rights will never provide a practical solution to save human fellows from the atrocities of sanguinary nations, nor will it help the UN retain its reputation in the future. So humanity is facing challenges at two levels, international and governmental. The UN along with leading world powers needs to address the challenges at all levels to save humanity.

Last but not least, the UN should liberate itself from the shackles and monopoly of international powers that misuse its laws and structure for the sake of preservation of their national interests, both legitimate and illegitimate. It should take immediate actions on even minor violations of its laws by deploying UN police and peacekeeping missions. Specifically, it must force India to repeal the presidential order and legislation that has wrenched away the special status of Kashmiris.

UN police and peacekeeping missions should be sent to Indian-controlled Kashmir to implement the UDHR in more effective ways. If the UN does nothing more than make statements of condemnation of the violation of human rights by the Indian side, such a failure will be a threat to the UN itself in time. If the UN fails to bring peace in the world by stopping such violations against human beings, it may collapse as the League of Nations did. So the UN along with the permanent members of the Security Council must take practical steps against the “constitutional terrorism” of India, and let the Kashmiris enjoy their basic rights.

Ali Changezi Sandhu

Ali Changezi Sandhu is a columnist in English and Urdu national and international newspapers. He is also a researcher of legal studies and a human rights activist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in philosophy, and is pursuing a higher degree in law.

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