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Special Report: Human Rights
Source # Title:  Click to visit article
Soumendranath Tagore 1 Excerpts from 'Chapter VII: Rammohun and the struggle for the Freedom of the Press' ;in 'Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance'; The Asiatic Society, 1975; page 62 to 78.
Emmanuel Agius 1 Excerpts from 'Obligations of justice towards future generations: A revolution in social and legal thought' ;Future Generations & international law; Earthscan Publications Ltd., London; page 8.
3 Watch this space for new additions!
4 Watch this space for new additions!
5 Watch this space for new additions!
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Preamble:
Today, especially in Bengal, things are going terribly wrong. Many people believe it is because of the moribund bureaucracy - government, institutional, private ... whatever - that is responsible for this unacceptable state of affairs.

The objective of 'Stop'n Look!' is to throw the searchlight on the problems created by those people who are thriving in an obsolete bureacratic system - at our expense. We compile information from the media, as well as first-hand reports from our correspondents, that show how callous our elders have become.

You will be the ultimate judge of our future direction.

Viva la vox populi!

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Special Report: Human Rights
1. Chapter VII: Rammohun and and the struggle for the Freedom of the Press' by Soumendranath Tagore in 'Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance; The Asiatic Society, 1975; page 62 to 78.
Special Note for Essem: Although this article relates to happenings almost two centuries ago, its contents are still very relevant to the contemporary struggle for freedom of expression. What is most poignant  to read is that, even an illustrious person of Rammohun's stature was often run aground more by his fellow countrymen, than the Britons who were supposed to have been our public enemy number one! The more things change, the more they remain the same! As long as youth continues to behave like the old, and the old try to emulate the youth by hanging on to power for what it is worth, what can be said about our own struggle for freedom?
The upsurge that came in the wake of the manifold reform movements - social, educational, economic, political and religious - initiated by by Rammohun underlined the need for a liberal press. The origin and the development of the press in Bengal can be traced to this important need.

The first liberal paper to be published was the Bangala Gazette, a Bengali weekly started in Calcutta in 1816 by the enthusiastic members of Rammohun's "Atmiya Sabha". This newspaper was in existence till 1820. The Serampore Christian Samachar Mission started another Bengali weekly, the Samachar Darpan, in 1817, and also published an English journal, The Friend of India. The first liberal newspaper in English, the Calcutta Journal, was brought out by James Silk Buckingham in October, 1818.

The Sambad Kaumudi, a Bengali weekly, was started by Tarachand Dutta and Bhabani Charan Bandopadhyay. When Bhabani Charan resigned from the editorship of this publication in December 1821, Rammohun took charge of it. The Sambad Kaumudi being intended for the common people, Rammohun used the new Bengali prose style for the man in the street.

The first issue of Sambad Kaumudi under Rammohun's editorship appeared on December 4, 1821. Though Bhabani Charan Banerjee was nominally in charge of this weekly till the publication of its thirteenth issue, Rammohun was its promoter, and for all practical purposes, also its editor. The Reverand William Adam, while delivering his well-known lecture "The life and Labours of Rammohun" at Boston, said : "He established and conducted two native papers, one in Persian and the other in Bengali, and made them the medium of conveying much valuable political information to his countrymen.

In a prospectus for the Sambad Kaumudi, published in English and Bengali in November 1821, Rammohun appealed to his countrymen to lend him "the support and patronage of all who feel themselves interested in the moral and intellectual improvement of our countrymen". In the same prospectus, he further stated that religious, moral and political matters, domestic occurrence, foreign as well as local intelligence including original communications on various hitherto unpublished interesting local topics, etc. would be published in the Sambad Kaumudi every Tuesday.

On December 20, 1821, the Calcutta Journal brought out an editorial, commenting on the publication of this "new Bengali newspaper edited by a learned Hindoo". It also reproduced the prospectus, and published the 'Appeal to the Bengali Public" written by Rammohun in the first issue of the Sambad Kaumudi, dated December 4, 1821. In the appeal, Rammohun said :

    "It is our intention hereafter to give further currency to the Articles inserted in this paper, by translating the most interesting parts in the different languages of the East, particularly Persian and Hindoostanee; but all this will entail considerable expense, the accomplishment of it will, of course, depend upon the encouragement which we may be able to obtain. The foregoing being an outline of what we are desirous of performing, our countrymen will readily conclude that although the paper in question be conducted by us, and may consequently be considered our property, yet virtually it is the 'paper of the public' since in it they can at all times have inserted, anything that tends to the public good ..."

Although under Rammohun's editorship the Sambad Kaumudi was in existence only for six months till May 1822, its impact on the public mind can be assessed by the following passage of the editorial of the Calcutta Journal of February 14, 1823:

    "The paper which was considered so fraught with danger and likely to explode over all India like a spark thrown into a barrel of gunpowder, has long since fallen to the ground for want of support; chiefly we understand because it offended the native community by opposing some of three customs, and particularly the burning of Hindoo widows, etc."
 The Sambad Kaumudi dealt with various subjects of public interest; for example:
  • an appeal to the Government for the establishment of a seminary for the 'gratuitous instructions' of the children of the poor;
  • an appeal to the Government to extend the boon of trial by jury to the moffussil,  zillah and provincial courts of judicature;
  • an address to the Hindu community, stressing the need of giving their children instructions in the grammar of their own languages before imposing upon them the study of foreign languages;
  • an article describing the miserable condition of the Hindus suffering from the prejudices of caste; and
  • an article requesting Hindus to become tradesman rather than mere copyists or sircars.
In April 1822, Rammohun started a weekly in Persian, the Mirat-ul-Akhbar - the Mirror of News - which was the first Persian periodical to be published in India, with a view to communicating his political and social views to the educated elite in a manner and form suited to their needs.

... In the second issue of the Mirat-ul-Akhbar, Rammohun published an article written by him on the English Constitution. In 1822, Rammohun wrote an editorial about the trial of one Pratap Narayan Das who had succumbed to the injuries caused by whipping ordered by one Mr John Hayes, Judge of Comilla, for the breach of internment order passed by the Judge. Pratap Narayan got 20 stripes, and was then thrown in jail where he was found dead. The trial of Hayes by the Supreme Court took place in April 1822. Rammohun's editorial was translated into English ad published in the Calcutta Journal of May 14, 1822, by James Silk Buckingham, the editor of the Journal, who was a great friend of Rammohun, and was well-versed in quite a few oriental languages. In this editorial, the following observations of Rammohun are noteworthy:

    "It is necessary that the local Magistrate should be vested with more efficient authority for carrying the orders of the Government into execution, and likewise, for preventing the powerful from tyrannizing over the weak. But there is no remedy whatsoever for the abuse, which is noticed in this case arising from their being invested with such powers, except the Government should adopt such measures as might enable it to become acquainted with the proceedings of its executive officers without the intervention of favor or partiality to screen them. It is probable that this superintendent of the Government would be a sufficient check upon the police officers and put them upon their guard. Although the mode of establishing Courts of Appeal may be considered as in some degree a substitute for their restraints,  yet it fails in some instances to produce the desired effect. For example, after one has ben punished with rattan and thrown into jail, and put in irons by order of a local Magistrate, he cannot recover from that disgrace although the sentence passed upon him by the local Magistrate should be reversed at a subsequent period. If the execution of the sentence passed by the local Magistrate for inflicting corporal punishment upon a person ... be deferred in case the person condemned appealed against the order of the local Magistrate and paid the regular fees, until the order of the Supreme Court of Appeal be issued, this might pe preventive of excesses on the part of the police officers and might secure the subject from the injurious consequences arising from their passion or error."
... [Rammohun's] criticisms off popular Christian faith, then English foreign policy and of the British insolence on public roads towards the common people was too much for the British administration in India to swallow.

Soon, the acting Governor-General came down with a heavy hand for the suppression of the liberty of the press, and promulgated a new Press Ordinance, drastically curtailing free expression of opinion through the press. Immediately after the enactment of the ordinance, Rammohun closed down the Mirat-ul-Akhbar as a mark off protest. In the last issue of his paper, he "declared his inability to go on publishing under," what he considered were "degrading conditions", and he lamented that he, "one of the most humble of men, should be no longer able to contribute towards the intellectual improvement of his countrymen."

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2. Excerpts from 'Obligations of Justice towards Future Generations: A revolution in social and legal thought', by Emmanuel Agius ;Future Generations & international law; Earthscan Publications Ltd., London; page 8.
Excerpts from the Section: "Mankind includes future generations"
The term mankind denotes more than the present population and hence more than a present collectivity. It includes both the present and future generations.

The interchangeable usage of mankind and present and future generations suggests that they are synonymous, and justifies the interpretation which international lawyers give to mankind in terms of species, thus including all generations yet to be born. The explanation of mankind in terms of species gives a broader dimension to the concept of human rights, for it includes individuals who will exist in the future. This remarkable development in the evolutionary process of human rights has continued to widen the subject of human rights in international fora from a specific group to mankind as a whole, or the human species. The entire human race has a collective claim. Human rights could thus be defined as those rights to which every person, irrespective of whether he/she actually exists now or in the future, can have a just claim, by the very reason of being a person or because he/she is a member of the human species. This is close to what Jacques Maritain meant when he spoke of "things which are owed to a man because of the fact that he is a man". Human rights are therefore those claims which belong to all people, everywhere at all times. This interpretation has transgeneralized human rights, rendering them applicable to all members of the human species, existing in time.

Historians of the development of human rights have adopted the habit of speaking of three generations of human rights: the political, the socioeconomic and the environmental. But it is possible to see the three generations in a somewhat different light: as the rights pertaining to the individual, the rights pertaining to defined socioeconomic groups, and the rights pertaining to the human species as such. The emergence of "solidarity rights" or the "third generation of human rights", in international environmental law gives credence to the broad definition of mankind in terms of both present and future generations. The collective rights of mankind are an extension of solidarity rights whose distinctive feature is the fact that solidarity among mankind as a whole is a prerequisite for their realization. Among these rights we find :

  • the right to development
  • the right to peace
  • the right to a healthy and and balanced environment, and
  • the right to share the benefits of the common heritage of mankind.
According to Vasak, the human rights of the third generation are those "born to the obvious brotherhood of man and their indispensable solidarity: rights which could unite men in a finite world." The sense of solidarity among the international community which cropped up during the 1960s  has in the late 1970s developed into a sense of solidarity across generations. The widespread sense of global interrelatedness has been broadened by the insight of transgenerational interdependence.

It is reasonable to suggest that, in our search for grounding our obligations to unborn generations on sound ethical principles, we have to recast two concepts of traditional social ethics, namely common and social justice, in the light of the community of mankind as a whole extending over space and time. Thus, the vision of an intergenerational community challenges us to reconceptualize the notions of common good and social justice by adding to them a time dimension. These two social principles justify relations of justice between present and future generations.
 

Excerpts from the Section: "The common good of the human species"
During the 1960s the concept of common good evolved from a national to supranational level. This was the result of the newly awakened sense of interdependence which led to the notion of the family of nations. During the late 1970s the concept of common good was redefined froma broader perspective. Environmental issues have shown that the good of a particular society cannot be separated, first from the good of the world community, and second from the good of the human species as part of the finite world ... Recent ecological awareness has made it quite evident that the concept of common good must include also the natural resources of the earth ... The human species is not apart from nature, but a part of nature. Every human being therefore needs natural resources for its survival and for its quality of life. Accordingly, the natural resources should not be the privilege for some and a source of frustration for many, but for the good of mankind as a whole ...

Excerpts from the Section: "Social justice and the weaker members of the human species"
On the concept of justice, human beings have always agreed on the following three basic points: 

  • Justice is essential  to human conviviality;
  • Justice is not merely a matter concerning the relations between one individual and another - in traditional terms, commutative justice; it also implies duties of individuals towards the community or communities to which they belong - in traditional terms, social justice.
  • Justice is logically connected with the concepts of equality and proportion; hence the requirement that an individual contribute to the welfare of the community has particular relevance to the question of proper conduct towards the needier and weaker members of humankind.
Social justice refers both to the duty of every member to contribute to the common good of the community, and to the responsibility of the community to all its members, with particular regard to those in a disadvantaged situation. Social justice demands the respect of everyone's right to share in the common good ... Intergenerational justice may be defined as that principle of ordering community of mankind which will make it possible for every generation by virtue of its own effort and responsibility, to secure a proportionate share in the common good of the human species.

Future generations - subject to the long-term consequences of our actions - are disadvantaged with respect to the present generation because they can inherit an impoverished quality of life. The present generation has the power to :

  • overpopulate the earth
  • spoil the delicate balance of the biosphere
  • store nuclear wastes which are disastrous to their genetic heritage
  • deplete the earth's natural resources, and
  • use genetic engineering to manipulate the evolution of the species
Moreover, future generations ... have no representatives among the present generation, and so their interests are often neglected in present socioeconomic and political planning.

The resources of the earth belong to all generations ... We have no right to intervene irreversibly and exhaustively in our relations with the natural world so as to deprive future generations of opportunities of well-being ...

Social justice forbids any generation to exclude other generations from a fair share in the benefits of the common heritage of humankind ... We have an obligation to regulate our current consumption in order to share our resources with the poor and with unborn generations ...

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