FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS



FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS
           
This chapter attempts to understand freedom of religion as a human rights issue. This is done in order to maintain that the freedom of religion is universal and it is a globally accepted basic human right. The amount of freedom of religion a nation exercises determines its civilization. It is not to disregard the other existing provisions for maintaining freedom of religion like constitution, secularism, freedom of religion and minority rights. The main purpose is to gather wider and necessary credentials to the issue of freedom of religion. In all forms it is repeatedly reiterated that humanity cannot be discriminated on religious grounds.

7.1 Human Rights- Definition
Since freedom of religion is identified as one of the basic human rights a graphical reflection on the prevailing definitions of human rights helps understanding the gravity and ambit of them.  Although the gender biased and mail chauvinistic language is quite explicit, the rights are concerned with the whole of humanity. M.B. Dube states, “Human rights are the rights and freedoms possessed by human beings.  These rights are often called as Fundamental rights. In earlier centuries, European thinkers commonly referred to them as Natural Rights or the Rights of Man.[1] In this and the following definition a connection between human rights and fundamental rights is found. B.S. Bishat writes, “the Human Rights, a subject of animated discussion at regional and global level today are often called Fundamental Rights or Natural Rights or the Rights of Man.”[2] Added to this connection is the andocentric nomenclature ascribed to them, ‘Rights of Man’. Of course there is no male chauvinistic tendencies.
 The real intensity of the meaning is echoed in the definition “some rights are eternal to man and they are known as “natural rights”.”[3] In this connection natural rights are more relevant in that freedom of religion takes roots in the eternal nature of those rights. This is further emphasized in the following definitions.
Manoj Dixit and Trigun Bisen write, “Human Rights in their simplest and widest connotation are the inalienable rights that are bestowed upon or accrue to each individual person as soon as he is born.”[4] The unavoidability of accepting human rights is explicit in C.P. Barthwal’s definition that  “the expression ‘human rights’ denotes that the individual as a human being enjoys certain basic rights, which are necessary for the all round development of human personality and, in the absence of which, no individual would be able to lead a happy, moral, civilized and human life.”[5]
Often the human rights are blamed for it’s being individualistic in nature. This may not be true as they reflect individuals and their connection to the society. For example “the expression “human rights” embraces the right of man both as an individual and as a member of society, their aim is to promote individual welfare as well as social welfare.”[6] It is also clear that they are concerned with both individual and social welfare. One without the other is incomplete and nonviable. The connection of human rights with individuals and society is clearly stated, as “the state cannot interfere with the natural rights of man. But the rights can exist in a society only through duties.”[7]
From the point of government obligations “Human rights describe the minimum entitlement that governments must protect and secure and that governments must themselves respect. These rights are often called fundamental and universal.”[8] The wider spectrum of the definition of human rights is that “the term Human Rights refer in general the civil rights, civil liberties, the political rights and newly emerging social and economic rights.”[9] On the basis of the above analysis it can be said that human rights are called with various names. And humans are entitled to human rights and the states are expected to protect the human rights of the individuals.

7.2 United Nation’s Human Rights Declaration

 The concept of human rights is not a very ancient one. There was no trace of it in the classical or early period. It was not tangible even in the middle ages. Sanjay Gupta writes, “no concept of human rights could develop in the middle ages as it was a “dark age” dominated by monarchy, papacy and feudalism.”[10] King John of England’s “Magna Carta of 1215 is the first document which has reference regarding human rights. Actually it was a petition to the king for certain rights.”[11]
To move the history further “for the first time the word ‘Human Rights’ got the place was in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. After this the French Revolution of 1786 contained the message of liberty, equality and fraternity. But on the international level for the first time the ‘human rights’ were given the legal form in the U. N. Resolution of 1945.”[12] Since then the concerns of Human rights drew the attention of civilizing societies.
December 10, 1948 was the day the universal declaration of human rights was adopted by the U.N.  General Assembly, and it observes the day as Human Rights Day all over the world every Year.[13] More specifically “on 10 December 1948, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, the 58 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with 48 States in favour and eight abstaining (two countries were not present at the time of the voting).”[14] This was a great move forward in the direction of civilization.
The declaration was adopted ‘as a common standard of achievement for all peoples’. To keep the spirit perpetual   “subsequently, some 60 human rights treaties and declarations were negotiated at the U.N. on the Universal Declaration.”[15] The effort found much solidarity from many nations. For example, “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the two international covenants of 1966 have been signed by number of states expressing their full faith in the ideology of human rights.”[16] As the globe is becoming a village Human Rights deserve special attention.
The significance of these continued labors are hailed, as “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Economic, social and cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights constitute a trinity often called the Magna Carta of humanity.”[17] This again suggests that Human rights are so essential to the civilized world.
The reception for the new venture is remarkable all over the world. For example, “at the world Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna (Austria) in June, 1993, 171 countries reiterated the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, and reaffirmed their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They adopted the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which provides the new “framework of planning, dialogue and cooperation,” to enable a holistic approach to promoting human rights and involving actors at the local, national and international levels.”[18]
One of the characteristics of this human rights document is that it is not a legally binding one. It is said “although the Declaration, which comprises a broad range of rights, is not legally binding document, it has inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights.”[19] These are enough evidences to understand the importance of the human rights and also to appreciate the response accorded to it all over the world. It is also a reminder that the humanity is civilizing and it expects cultured way of dealing matters at national and international levels.
In spite of all the positive aspects of human rights, certain negative remarks are also on the rise. In the words of Shimreingam Shimray “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being a non-legal adoption it is accepted by many but not respected and preserved its commitments.”[20] This comment is partially true. At the same time it needs to be remembered that many human right organizations are establishing themselves and the governments of nations are also becoming conscious about the protection of human rights. There have been many human rights commissions established by the governments.
 Another adverse remark is that “the universal character of human rights thinking has led some to express fears of cultural imperialists.”[21] But one thing needs to be kept in mind is that preservation of culture is important but at the same time the individuals need to have choice to express themselves in ways acceptable to the standards of developed human life. No less significant is the fact that Human rights underline the necessity of preserving the culture of the minorities world over.
The same fact is explicitly stated as, “the universality of human rights is often challenged- what is often referred to as a ‘North – South’ divide- by States that seek to emphasize one set of rights over another….Cultural relativists are of the view that while in the West an individual and his/her rights are considered above group rights, this is not universally applicable and that certain societies of the South  are ordered on the lines of the community; the rights and identities of individuals are subsumed by the larger interest of the community. The aggressive promotion of a universal standard of human rights is sometimes viewed as a paternalistic attempt to impose alien Western values. In any event, human rights must be developed within understandings of specific peoples’ culture, community, and traditions. The concept of human rights should not, however, be frozen in time, but rather be a dynamic principle, capable if adapting within a complex, varied, and changing global society.”[22] This in a way is acceptance of the need of Human Rights but at the same time listing the possible shortcomings of International Human Rights like North-South divide, cultural dominance of a specific region and imposition of certain values on every one. 
The third world nations are pondering over the viability of Human rights in their own situations. M.B. Dube observes, “sometimes it is claimed that these rights are a luxury which third world nations can afford only after they have achieved economic development and national unity.”[23] It is true that the economic constrains are the main hurdles in maintaining these rights but from the inception of development the nations can take adequate measures according to their ability to maintain, to implement and to protect human rights.  On the basis of economic backwardness and disunity within a nation the citizens cannot be denied basic human rights.
People who are concerned with the Indian realities particularly caste discrimination are uncomfortable with the individualistic nature of the human rights. James Massey writes, “due to the historical relationship of human rights with these northern countries revolutions we find, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is more individualistic in nature.”[24] This cannot be fully justified because both individual and community rights go hand in hand. If the community wanted to inflict undue authority on the individuals it might curb the freedom of individual. If the individual is deprived of basic human rights he or she may become victim to the parochial interests of the community.
It is remarkable to notice, in the midst of positive and negative remarks, that after the declaration of UN human rights in 1948 “again on November 25,1981, the UN proclaimed a specific declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief which virtually warned the human race that no kind of discrimination / exploitation by any state, institution and group of persons on the ground of religion or other beliefs of a particular ethnicity would be tolerated.”[25] This is the most significant aspect of human rights in relation to freedom of religion. It is not to say that the UN declaration of Human Rights is concerned only with the freedom of religion. It is outright always in suggesting that religious intolerance cannot be accepted in a civilizing world.
This is a remarkable feature as the chances are growing in India for a kind of majority influence over the minority. Added to this is the emergence of communalism and also the politicization of religion. As political parties are busy taking advantage over the majority religious sentiments of numerically dominant groups these kinds of declarations are essential eye-openers. 
As the world perceives the increasing possibilities of religious discriminations, Human rights is prudently rising to the occasion and trying to protect the people and cement relation between different religious and cultural communities. For example, again after a decade, the UN on December 18, 1992, adopted a declaration for the promotion of safeguarding the identity for cultural, ethnic and linguistic and religious minorities.[26] This did not become extra burden to India as the principles of Human Rights are found in the fundamental rights of Indian constitution. Since India developed its constitution in the light of human rights declaration it has absorbed many of the insights of the human rights. But it does not mean that India should be complacent on the basis of fundamental rights in part three of the constitution. India should do all that is possible to promote human rights in the context of growing communal conflicts and communal politics. In India there is an obvious possibility for the dangerous arousal of communal carnages where human rights are never cared at all.
It is obvious that discrimination based on religions is unacceptable to all and it is against the interest of human dignity. It is true and significant that “the right to profess and practice one’s faith was adopted by an overwhelming vote in the UN Assembly as all the countries voted in favour.”[27] This is a victory point to the promotion of human religious freedom.
Many insights are drawn for the freedom of religion from the human rights point of view. For example “it is significant that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks of the “freedom of thought”, conscience and religion all together. But these rights also extend to those who do not profess a religion. Their thought and conscience enjoy the same freedom.”[28] In nutshell, freedom of religion is very essential in order to enjoy other freedoms.
The reason is that a person’s religious convictions are the result of his/her inner convictions. When this is expressed openly then other things flow freely. Ninan Koshy refers to the internal nature of spiritual convictions and reiterates, “in any case, it is clear that religious convictions are part of the inner spiritual freedom of a human being.”[29] Often the mistake is that there is no chance to express one’s own real inner urges. When this freedom is denied it amounts to denial of other freedoms. Thus religious freedom belongs to the realm of basic human rights and that it needs freedom to express itself. The UN declarations on human rights have time and again reiterated this aspect.
The above fact is vividly and emphatically stated as, “the external manifestations of that inner freedom require political rights and privileges- the external or social aspect of religious liberty.”[30] One fact is clear that the international community is unanimous in upholding and implementing religious freedom in all parts of the world. It is also realized that religious freedom is essential to experience the other forms of freedom. Now it is appropriate to see the effect of human rights in India.

7.3 Human Rights in India

To start with and to find roots of human rights in India let us begin with the basic difference between western countries and India in relation to human rights. M.B. Dube writes, “the concept of a right did not figure in ancient India.  As social security and obligation were the main concerns of the Hindu thinkers, the Dharma was the core concept of the ancient Indian political thought, the term Dharma is employed in the sense of duty, virtue, religious creed, justice and law.  It is not surprising, therefore, that Hindu law began with duties rather than with rights as in the west.”[31] It is essential that duty and right go hand in hand.
Some what to find a beginning of human rights in India it is also suggested  “for his catalytic thoughts and actions, Rammohan can reasonably be regarded as the founding father of human rights movement in modern India.”[32] The history of human rights in India is further advanced connecting with another notable person as “the unfinished work of Rammohan was carried on by another great social reformer in the nineteenth century Bengal, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91).”[33]  One remark needs to be remembered at this point is that he mainly stood for women causes.
Following the above two great stalwarts the substantial contributions came from Christian Missionaries. For example “it was Carey and his colleagues at Serampore Mission who actually prepared the solid ground in Bengal for social reforms and human rights movement led by Rammohan and Vidyasagar.”[34]
From the political point of view  “in India, the demand for human rights can be traced to the formation of the Indian National Congress itself.”[35] In fact the Indian national congress was initially started to express the Indian grievances to the British. Later it became a political party.
The remarkable feature of the Indian constitution is that it has taken in to consideration the major propositions of the human rights as the Indian Constitution, which protects India’s social and religious diversity, was framed at a time when the issue of human rights was gaining importance. And India is one of the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human rights.[36]
There is a real connection between human rights and the Indian constitution. This reality is emphasized as “the Preamble, Part III of the Constitution consisting of Fundamental Rights, part IV comprising Directive Principles and Part IV (A) containing fundamental Duties, constitute the human rights framework in our Constitution.”[37] S.S. Tiwana endorses the above viewpoint as “it was in keeping with our rich tradition that within a year of signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Constitution of India has incorporated all the principles of Human Rights in its Preamble, Part III – Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.”[38] There is no disagreement as to the content of human rights in the Indian constitution.
The incorporation of human rights in various aspects of Indian government is evident. It is not just incorporating the values of human rights but also it is effectively facilitated to function. For example “to show the importance of human rights and to protect it, the President promulgated an Ordinance on September 18, 1993, with a view to providing for the setting up of a National Human Rights Commission for better protection of human rights and for matters connected therewith.  Later on Parliament embodied the provision of the Ordinance into the Human Rights Act, 1993.”[39] This is an important proof for India’s commitment for Human rights.
            Following the above-mentioned presidential ordinance “the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.”[40] In taking the human rights to every section of the society, “the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, also calls for the establishment of State Human Rights Commissions in order to complement the functioning of the NHRC as also to ensure that redress mechanisms are within easy reach of complainants across the country.”[41] Hence, India is not just committed to human rights but also dedicated to make it available to the people.
From the point of this research freedom of religion is important and it is one of the fundamental human rights and which precedes all other rights. Any violation of human rights from the point of religion is inadmissible.
Safeguarding human rights especially religious freedom is one of the main concerns of the UN declaration of Human Rights. It is evident in its specific declaration proclaimed on November 25,1981, on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion.[42] This is further strengthened by the subsequent declaration on December 18, 1992, for the promotion of safeguarding the identity for cultural, ethnic and linguistic and religious minorities.[43]
This concern is very grave in India particularly when states have legislated freedom of religion bills. With regard to the freedom of religion bill in Orissa, MP and Arunachal, it is remarked, “these Acts and their implementation also contravene the Charter of Human Rights to which the Government of India is a signatory.”[44] Efforts to curb freedom to choose and follow a religion of one’s choice are termed as human rights violation. India needs to play crucial role in this direction, as it houses many living religious traditions. Also, India is one of the members of Human Rights Council of the United Nations, which replaces the Commission on Human Rights.[45]
Respecting human rights and allowing space to practice human rights are the signs of a developed society. As India is a leading partner in these ventures its contributions and compliance are carefully watched.

7.4 Human Rights, Fundamental Rights and Duties
The concerns of the UN declaration of Human Rights are well augured in the Indian constitution. In India the preamble of the Indian constitution is considered as one of the best documents on human rights in the world. And the Fundamental Rights which are found in part III of the Indian constitution and enforceable in court are a guarantee in the furtherance of the above Preamble.[46]
 The reasons for the substantial content of human rights in the Indian constitution is not accidental one but quite gradual. First, the demand for fundamental rights appeared in the Constitution of India Bill.[47] In fact  “the Nehru Committee in 1928 stated that the guarantee of fundamental rights should be in such a manner that it would not permit their withdrawal under any circumstances.”[48] This is evidence for the determined efforts of our constitutional makers to maintain the dignity of the Indian citizens.  Demand for the maintenance of fundamental rights was not again just an individual incident, but was the concern of many. For example, “the second demand for fundamental rights was Annie Besant’s Common Wealth of India Bill in 1925.”[49]
The fundamental rights in the Indian constitution like the universal declaration of human rights, is concerned with the individuals.  Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta maintains, “the fundamental rights are mostly of individual character and meant to protect individuals against arbitrary state action.”[50] At the same time the interests of the communities are also given due consideration.
Again in India, in addition to fundamental rights there are fundamental duties. That is to say that in India  “rights and duties are interrelated.”[51] This is right in connection with the constitution. Otherwise the common Indian trend was duty first and then the others second as indicated earlier. The turnaround of the constitution in this matter is fitting to the Indian situation where the freedom of religion is under threat in the wake of communal and majoritarion politics.
Since the Human rights are implicit in Indian constitution and freedom of religion is one of the main principles of Human rights, the Indian constitution has taken adequate measures to protect freedom of religion in India. This is vivid in the preamble, citizenship, fundamental rights, directive principles, fundamental duties and other provisions. It is only the communally oriented groups try to divert the provisions of the constitution with regard to freedom of religion. In truth, one of the duties of the Indian citizens is to strengthen religious harmony.

7.5 Human Rights and Religious Minorities

After the declaration of UN human rights in 1948, the UN declaration on November 25,1981,was directly focused to eliminate any discrimination on the basis of religion.[52] Even the December 18, 1992, declaration was for the promotion of safeguarding the identity for cultural, ethnic and linguistic and religious minorities.[53] The theme religious discrimination has captured the attention of all is a remarkable development in the global level to fight and eradicate such an evil and discriminative agenda. This is also fitting in the context of communal politics where religious minorities are increasingly targeted. 
Freedom of religion is a pertinent Human right issue and it is essential to the religious minority communities. This has been affirmed, as ‘the relatively old right that was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to religion would seem to belong to minority religious groups in India’.[54] It is worthwhile to consider all the connections between human rights and Indian constitution so that one can understand that the religious minority is an international concern and it is well conceived in the substance of the Indian constitution. It is only the communal forces, which are trying to sidetrack the issue on several grounds.
The UN perception of the problems and challenges the religious minorities are undergoing is timely and it has taken it up earnestly so as to see that nowhere in the world people will be discriminated on religious grounds. Although it is unfortunate in India that the so-called religious minorities are suffering the vandalizing activity of the so-called religious majority, the UN contribution is remarkable. It is said the UN saw the right to religion as a human right and confirmed the principles that human rights are means and ends to the preservation and protection of minority rights.  It went further and gave centrality to religious rights as a means to realize other rights of the minority groups.[55] In guaranteeing freedom of religion to the minorities, the international Human rights concerns and the commitment of Indian constitution are unanimous.
 Another remarkable development is that minority issues attracted same gravity as that of human rights. In the international and national levels ‘minority rights’ are enjoying a special status along with the human rights in general’.[56] This is an evidence to conclude that the religious minority all over the world suffers same difficulties and those difficulties are considered by all civilized and good willed people all over the globe.
The Indian constitution does not give any special rights to the minorities, but articles twenty-nine and thirty safe guards the rights of the minorities.[57] The respective governments are expected to see that the minorities are protected and their rights are established. Very specific is the commitment that the government seeks all the possible measures to develop the minority groups in all realms of life. Such good efforts are often termed as minority appeasement by the so-called religious majority and any such process is not looked at positively. The communal forces desire that the minority should be always vulnerable and subjugated.

7.6 Human Rights and Religion

It is established beyond doubt that the international human rights activities are committed to eradicate religious discrimination of all sorts. In other words the global family does not like any form of discrimination on the basis of religion. To this effect the UN has passed a few declarations.[58]  Those declarations uphold the basic principle of human dignity and equality.[59] Even in the original declaration of the UN human rights this fact is repeatedly emphasized.
In the subsequent declarations UN made it clear that humanity cannot be discriminated on religious or cultural basis.[60] The seriousness of the significance of freedom of religion is vividly stated from the point of the Indian constitution as, “religious freedom is a fundamental right of Indian citizens, an entitlement that is available to members of all religious groups. The Indian Constitution describes it as a basic human right, which can be enforced by the Judiciary”[61]

            It is gratifying that the international human rights agencies have accepted freedom of religion as an essential freedom of humanity. More satisfying is the phenomenon that the Indian constitution has taken special efforts to enforce freedom of religion in India. These efforts are heartwarming for the Indian citizens as we are at the thresholds of communal politics.

 7.7 Human Rights and Development

As human rights and freedom of religions are closely related “Human rights and development are interrelated. They reinforce each other. Rights constitute the condition of a good life.”[62] This is true. In this sense India is also developed. The only problem is that some communal forces are aggressive towards the religious minorities. The progress and well-being of the religious minority community is undesirable to them. They would be satisfied if minority religious communities are subservient to their whims and fancies. The enlightenment needs to take place is that the time for domination and monopoly is over and that this is the time for mutual respect.
 There is also a common vision and common purpose between human rights and human development.  This commonality is stated as “Human rights and human development share a common vision and a common purpose-to secure the freedom, well-being and dignity of all people everywhere.”[63] This is a well-said point. It is concerned with a high quality of life without discriminations. Unity should mark the quality of life. Unfortunately the Hindu fundamental forces want that disunity and hatred should reign and not harmony, good will and well being. Freedom is the special mark of human development. In other words “Human freedom is the common purpose and common motivation of human rights and human development.”[64] Thus it is correctly declared, “Human rights and human development are both about securing basic freedoms.”[65] A life without freedom specifically without freedom of religion is the sign of external and internal suppression of basic human rights or fundamental rights.
The burden of the argument that religious freedom is a basic human right and it precedes other rights; in no way encroach on the sovereignty of the nation. This is succinctly stated as “rights are essential but they are not unlimited.”[66] This is a warning that no individual or community is above the interest of the nation. And hence expected to claim freedom, including religious, within the parameters of the sovereignty of the nation.
Not just development alone even the mark of progress of a society is symbolized by the amount of freedom that particular society or individual enjoys. The progress of any society depends upon the extent of freedom that it allows to individuals.[67]
The clear connection between human rights, democracy and development is well stated as, “many in the international community believe that human rights, democracy and development are intertwined.  Unless human rights are respected, the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of economic and social development cannot be achieved.”[68] It is again significant that unless human rights are respected other higher ideals will look remote.
Denial of basic human rights including religious freedom is a sign of backwardness in many aspects. Jurgen Moltmann writes, “a society in which fundamental human rights are not acknowledged as civil rights of the people, is an inhuman and intolerable society.”[69]  It may be presumed that if communal forces are unchecked there is a possibility of turning a developing society into a traditional one.
Any political organization that device such divisive and slavish ideology is disastrous to the society. In other words “politics which do not follow the standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is an amoral and often murderous politics.”[70] This is again substantiation for the argument that freedom of religion is a crucial human rights concern. Denial of freedom of religion amounts to violation of human rights.
            A society bereft of freedom of religion is a slavish society. Parties who are inclined to promote age-old slavery or caste discriminations alone shall be able to propagate ideologies that go against the freedom of religion. Expecting the religiously minority communities to subject to religiously majority community reflects this notion. This has been rightly pointed as “for without freedom of belief and the liberty to express oneself on questions of belief with due regard for the feelings of one’s neighbours, the individual cannot perfect himself or make an effective contribution to thought and action.  A society in which undue restraints exist on freedom of thought and expression, is a society not of free men but of slaves.”[71]
Humanity cannot be denied fundamental rights; prime among them is freedom of religion. A systematic effort to reject freedom of religion to minority communities amounts to human right violation and also denial of full life with dignity. Sanjay Gupta maintains “all human rights are basic rights in the fundamental sense that systematic violation of any human right precludes realizing a life of full human dignity and prevents one from enjoying the minimum conditions necessary for a life worthy of a human being.”[72] It is impressive to conclude that any violation of freedom of religion which is one of the fundamental rights and human rights and which precedes all other rights is against civilization. Otherwise the developing society will become uncivilized one. 

 7.8 Issues in Human Rights

One of the issues commonly raised while discussing human rights is “is there any agreement on the meaning of human rights in an international context which would allow the establishment of priorities?”[73] A research focused on this issue came up with the conclusion that “perhaps not surprisingly, our study revealed that no such agreement exists on the order of priorities among conflicting “Human rights”. However, there is profound interest in discovering a path to such an agreement.”[74] Although there is not a universally accepted priority of human rights, it is time to strengthen human rights initiatives and to move forward towards wider and acceptable directions.
Another issue emerging from the Human rights studies is that whether human rights perspectives differ in first, second and third world countries?[75]  The well-researched answer was for the first or capitalist world countries “Civil and political rights become the standards of liberty.”[76]  In the second world countries “the socialist democratic republic focuses on the rights of social participation in the benefits of society.”[77]  And in the third world countries ‘the basic human rights are survival and liberation’.[78] So it is certain that there are differences in human rights perspectives on the basis of the economic strength of the nations.
A further issue raised in human rights studies is about the difference between eastern and western persuasion of human rights. It is commonly argued, “the Western countries tend to ‘individualize’ human rights, often neglecting in the process, the importance of fundamental communitarian rights. For them, human rights basically entails freedom from the state. Maximum individual liberty is the be-all and the end-all of human rights with liberal democracy seen as the best means to achieve this goal.”[79] It is necessary to strike a balance between the individual and group rights. Without individual rights the group rights will become parochial and without group rights the individuals become more carefree.
An additional note is that “the West emphasized civil and political rights, pointing the finger at socialist countries for denying these rights. The socialist (and many developing) countries emphasized economic and social rights, criticizing the richest Western countries for their failure to secure these rights for all citizens. In the 1960s this led to two separate covenants-one for civil and political rights, and the other for economic, social and cultural rights.”[80]
In support of the western notion of human rights it is stated “underlying the concept of human rights is the western liberal tradition with its unambiguous affirmation of the freedom of the individual against systems and traditions that curtail it.  The right of the individual is sacred.”[81] Depriving individual rights for the sake of community rights may not be good sign of freedom, particularly freedom of religion.
In spite of the above fact “in the Third World countries, however, human rights is understood primarily in terms of survival and liberation of the oppressed communities.”[82] It may be suggested that individual human rights are as important as community rights. One cannot overrule the other. One cannot be neglected for the preference of the other. Unless the individuals in a society enjoy considerable rights that society is not a free society. The society might try to impose traditional and worn out ideologies on the younger generation. In the matter of religious freedom individual is more crucial than the community rights.
 Nevertheless the collective human rights also find meaning. For example “today there is a wider recognition of the rights of groups of people, especially those who were denied of their rights in the past.”[83] This remark is made keeping in mind the Dalits, tribals, women etc. But the fact remains intact that individual freedom is essential from the point of freedom of religion.
The advocates of collective human rights hold “in the current scenario and the emergent situation, there is a need to find new terrain; to explore new paths, to seek new insights, which would unravel new horizons of human rights thereby furthering the discourse and praxis from the notion of individual human rights of this liberal Enlightenment Period to an understanding of the collective rights of the people.”[84]
 In spite of all the theories and arguments it is said with the spirit to uphold the human rights values that “if we have to build up a culture of human rights, we need to justify them by reference to morally relevant considerations, such as the need to value human beings because there are very good reasons to doing so.  But if we reject the status that has been ascribed to persons by political theories, we reject the idea that in a society we treat people in a certain way and do not treat them in other ways.”[85] In short societies need to mature to recognize the individual rights so that there shall not be any conflict between the individual rights and collective rights.
It is remarkably necessary that we cannot sacrifice human rights for the sake of some political ideologies. It is truer in a situation where the religious minorities are forced and threatened to forgo their human rights or fundamental rights in the name of majority politics and false nationalisms and tailored theories of national security.
Now it is very clear that the freedom of religion for the religious minorities is a fundamental right and also a pertinent human right. The freedom of religion is the basis and it paves the way for the other freedoms and rights. It is also a sign of civilizing and developing society. Since freedom of religion is a human rights issue denial of freedom of religion means human rights violation. And hence freedom of religion is a human rights issue as well.





[1]M.B. Dube, “Perspectives on Human Rights,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributers (P) LTD., 2000), 9.
[2] B.S. Bisht, “Human Rights: An Overview,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributers (P) LTD., 2000), 44.
[3] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century( New Delhi:
Diamond Pocket Books, 2002), 1.
[4]Manoj Dixit and Trigun Bisen, “Human Rights in India,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) LTD., 2000), 91.
[5] C.P. Barthwal, “Human Rights and India,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) LTD., 2000), 78.
[6] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 2.
[7] Ibid., 3.
[8] M.B. Dube, “Perspectives on Human Rights,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 10.
[9] B.S. Bisht, “Human Rights: An Overview,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 45.
[10] Sanjay Gupta, “Conceptual Controversies and the Crisis of Promotion,” in Perspectives on
 Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) LTD., 2000), 23.
[11]Manoj Dixit and Trigun Bisen, “Human Rights in India,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 91. [Magna Carta (Latin, “Great Charter”), document sealed by King John of England on June 15, 1215, in which he made a series of promises to his subjects that he would govern England and deal with his vassals according to the customs of feudal law. Over the course of centuries, these promises have required governments in England (and in countries influenced by English tradition) to follow the law in dealing with their citizens. Many English legal traditions, including the right to trial by jury and equal access to courts for all citizens, had their origins in the Magna Carta. (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004)]
[12] Ibid.
[13] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 1. 
[14] Ibid., 8.
[15] M.B. Dube, “Perspectives on Human Rights,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 11.              
[16] Sanjay Gupta, “Conceptual Controversies and the Crisis of Promotion,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 29.                                                  
[17] B.S. Bisht, “Human Rights: An Overview,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 45.
[18] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 9.
[19] Ibid.,), 8.
[20] Shimreingam Shimray, Theology of Human Rights: A Critique on Politics (Assam: Ruth
Shimray, 2002), 16.
[21]M.B. Dube, “Perspectives on Human Rights,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 13.


[22] South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Introducing Human Rights: An Overview Including Issues of Gender Justice, Environmental, and Consumer Law ( New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), 5.
[23] M.B. Dube, “Perspectives on Human Rights,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 13.
[24]James Massey, “Human Rights and Minorities,” in Free to Choose: Issues in Conversion,
Freedom of Religion and Social Engagement, edited by Howell, Richard (New Delhi: Evangelical Fellowship of India, 2002), 117.
[25] N.S. Gehlot, “The Human Rights Movement in India: Problems and Prospects ,” in
Perspectives on Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) LTD., 2000), 63.
[26] Ibid.
[27] I. John Mohan Razu and D. Samuel Jesupatham, “Religious Rights as Part of Human Rights  when the Lives of the Minorities are at Stake,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, edited by I. John Mohan Razu ( Nagpur: National Council of Churches in India, 2001),160.
[28] Ninan Koshy, Religious Freedom in a Changing World, Risk Book Series No 54, ( Geneva: WCC Publications, 1992), 22.
[29] Ibid., 23.
[30] Ibid.
[31]M.B. Dube, “Perspectives on Human Rights,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 9.        
[32]Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century  20.
[33] Ibid., 21.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid., 3.
[36] James Massey, Minorities and Religious Freedom in a Democracy (New Delhi: Manohar
Publishers& Distributors, 2003) 9.
[37] South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Introducing Human Rights: An Overview Including Issues of Gender Justice, Environmental, and Consumer Law, 66.
[38] S.S. Tiwana, “National Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Violations in India,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, edited by M. B. Dube and Neeta Bora (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) LTD., 2000), 80.
[39] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 4. 
[40] South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Introducing Human Rights: An Overview Including Issues of Gender Justice, Environmental, and Consumer Law, 138.
[41] Ibid.
[42] N.S. Gehlot, “The Human Rights Movement in India: Problems and Prospects ,” in
Perspectives on  Human Rights, 63.
[43] Ibid.
[44]Mathai Zachariah, “Introduction,” in. Freedom of Religion in India, edited by Mathai Zacharia, (Nagpur: NCCI, 1979), 5.
[45] C. Raj Kumar, “India and the U.N. Human Rights Council,” The Hindu (Vijayawada), 19 June 2006, 10.
[46] Manoj Dixit and Trigun Bisen, “Human Rights in India,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 92.
[47] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 3.
[48] Ibid., 3-4.
[49] Ibid., 3.
[50]Ibid., 2.
[51] Ibid., 2.
[52] N.S. Gehlot, “The Human Rights Movement in India: Problems and Prospects ,” in
Perspectives on Human Rights, 63.   
[53] Ibid.
[54] I. John Mohan Razu and D. Samuel Jesupatham, “Religious Rights as Part of Human Rights when the Lives of the Minorities are at Stake,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, 160.   
[55] Ibid. 
[56] James Massey, “Human Rights and Minorities,” in Free to Choose: Issues in Conversion, Freedom of Religion and Social Engagement, 118.  
[57] Ibid., 123- 124.
[58] N.S. Gehlot, “The Human Rights Movement in India: Problems and Prospects,” in
Perspectives on Human Rights, 63.
[59] P.D. Mathew, “Human Rights of Minorities,” Indian Currents XI/1
(January 4-10, 1999): 40.
[60] N.S. Gehlot, “The Human Rights Movement in India: Problems and Prospects ,” in
Perspectives on Human Rights, 63.
[61]James Massey, Minorities and Religious Freedom in a Democracy, 9.
[62] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 2.  
[63]No Author, “Human Rights and Human Development-For Freedom and Solidarity,” “Religious Rights as Part of Human Rights when the Lives of the Minorities are at Stake,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, edited by I. John Mohan Razu ( Nagpur: National Council of Churches in India, 2001),202.
[64] Ibid., 204.
[65] Ibid.
[66] Giriraj Shah & K.N. Gupta, Human Rights: Perspective Plan for 21st Century, 2.
[67] Ibid., 3.
[68] Ibid., 11.
[69] Jurgen Moltmann, “Christian Faith and Human Rights,” in Adventurous Faith and Transforming Vision,  edited by Arvind P. Nirmal  (Madras: Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, 1989), 62.
[70] Ibid.
[71] P.N. Sapru, “Religious Freedom and Civil Liberties,” in Religious Freedom, 2.  
[72] Sanjay Gupta, “Conceptual Controversies and the Crisis of Promotion,” in Perspectives on Human Rights, 29.

[73] Robert A. Evans and Alice Frazer Evans, Human Rights: A Dialogue Between the First and Third Worlds (Meryknoll, New York. ORBIS Books, 1983), 4.
[74] Ibid.,
[75] Ibid., 8-12.
[76] Ibid., 8.
[77] Ibid., 9.
[78] Ibid., 12.
[79] George Mathew Nalunnakkal, “Human Rights: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, edited by I. John Mohan Razu ( Nagpur: National Council of Churches in India, 2001),1.
[80] No Author, “Human Rights and Human Development-For Freedom and Solidarity,” “Religious Rights as Part of Human Rights when the Lives of the Minorities are at Stake,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, 206-207.
[81] K.C.Abraham, “Human Rights: Some Theological Reflections,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards  a New Humanity, edited by I. John Mohan Razu ( Nagpur: National Council of Churches in India, 2001),16.
[82] George Mathew Nalunnakkal, “Human Rights: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, 1.  
[83] K.C.Abraham, “Human Rights: Some Theological Reflections,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, 16.
[84] I. John Mohan Razu and D. Samuel Jesupatham, “Religious Rights as Part of Human Rights when the Lives of the Minorities are at Stake,” in Struggle for Human Rights: Towards a New Humanity, 159.
[85] Neera Chandhoke, Beyond Secularism, the rights of Religious Minorities (New Delhi:
Oxford University Press, 1999), 185.


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