In the game of cricket, the primary task of the opening batsmen is to stay at the crease long enough to allow the shine of the new ball to wear off, score some or many runs, and set the stage for the star performers to follow. This perhaps might have been intended in the listed order of speakers, and rightly so.
Allow me therefore to say my piece as succinctly as possible.
• Human dignity is a universal concept, figures high in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been considered a basic right in innumerable judgements of our Supreme Court. Despite this, it is often violated with immunity by the state and its agent.
• There is a certain sequencing in the principles listed in the Preamble of our Constitution – Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – and within each of them. Thus political justice is unachievable without economic justice that in turn necessitates social justice. The same holds for other values to be secured for all citizens.
• Dignity for the individual is achieved through Fraternity that in turn is achieved through the rights listed before it. Fraternity between those who are not equal in status and rights are at best charity which is voluntary and not a right.
• We take pride in the instrumentalities that the Constitution has created for the dispensation of justice. The citizen however is baffled when these instrumentalities are deactivated by delay. This gap has to be closed. Considerations of statecraft of the day are best kept away from administration of justice.
• India is undergoing a transformation and the younger generation has its own vocabulary for seeking dignity in the structuring of their future. We need to understand it and accommodate it. An eminent academic wrote last week that ‘over time, governments everywhere have learnt that the anger or wrath of students is something that even authoritarian regimes cannot afford. India is a vibrant political democracy.’
Dr. Ashwani Kumar’s collection of papers and op-eds is a timely reminder that an essential human value must continue to be high on the agenda of all those who care for human rights.