Human Rights violation in the midst of an Epidemic: Is it Justifiable?An Indian Perspective.

By Widaphi Lyngdoh

In recent years, India has been witnessing a chain of Human Right Violation, police brutality and discrimination being two of the most pertinent. With COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, the Indian government decided to impose a country-wise lock-down. In the midst of this pandemic, the citizens of India are yet again victims of gruesome Human Rights Violation. . 

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. However the current circumstances in India are pointing towards the exact direction that the Law prohibits. 

An example of such would be a man beaten to death by the police for going out to purchase essential commodities (milk). Another instance would be wage workers subjected to police violence and brutality while travelling home via and without any transport service.

Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch due to constant occurrence of such events requested the police forces to act with restraint while also trying to maintain law and order during this pandemic however to not resort to brutality. This showcases an inhumane and degrading treatment of citizens who already are lacking the basic amenities that they by right are entitled to. 

Another aspect is the discrimination and ill treatment of the lower strata of the community which violates Article 15 of The Indian Constitution. Reasonable restrictions can be imposed to protect public health however it raises a question as to why no adequate facility was provided either for transportation or shelter while other sections of the society who are in a better position are being evacuated from abroad even till date.

Despite not being provided with basic amenities and being stripped of their daily source of livelihood, the migrants and the lower strata of the society are still being subjected to brutality and discrimination. The dousing of bleach disinfectant used to clean busses on the migrants on a mass scale was not a commendable act, rather was an inhuman act and shows the attitude of the government towards the particular sect of the society. The most recent news to have been highly criticized is the charging of travelling fare from the migrants.

Another instance to have gained the media’s attention and attract criticism is the cancelling of  special trains to carry migrant workers to their homes due to prominent builder’s expression of their concerns over labor exodus by the Chief Minister of Karnataka. This is slavery manifested in a modern form and takes away the human right of choice from someone who fundamentally has a right to determine for themselves. This is also against the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of movement and livelihood. This showcases the states discrimination against the helpless migrants as against the one sitting in power.

The Supreme Court of India provided instructions which were welcomed by the High Commissioner. It stated that; 

The migrants should be treated in a humane manner, and should be provided with enough water, food, beds and supplies as well as psychological counseling in shelters that are run by volunteers and not security forces.

The government must not fail to recognize that untreated illness and undernourishment will worsen the problems and must ensure that sections which are marginalized will not be discriminated against and bear the weight of the lack of proper and essential supplies. 

Equality and Non – Discrimination are two of the most essential aspects of Human Rights and each and every human is to be treated with dignity under any circumstance and should not be subjected to torture and degraded treatment. India presently has failed to adhere to these principles. 

The government must keep in mind that it has a duty to protect and balance every citizen’s right in an event of a clash.  At the onset of protecting a citizen’s right to health, the government must not forsake the other duties it has been embedded with.

The protection of its citizens from the ongoing pandemic must not come at the cost of Human rights Violation.

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