NCERT Polity

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    OOOOOVERVERVERVERVERVIEVIEVIEVIEVIEWWWWWIn the previous two chapters we have looked at two major elements of ademocratic government. In Chapter Four we saw how a democraticgovernment has to be periodically elected by the people in a free and fairmanner. In Chapter Five we learnt that a democracy must be based oninstitutions that follow certain rules and procedures. These elements arenecessary but not sufficient for a democracy. Elections and institutionsneed to be combined with a third element enjoyment of rights to makea government democratic. Even the most properly elected rulers workingthrough the established institutional process must learn not to cross somelimits. Citizens democratic rights set those limits in a democracy.

    This is what we take up in this final chapter of the book. We begin bydiscussing some real life cases to imagine what it means to live withoutrights. This leads to a discussion on what we mean by rights and why dowe need them. As in the previous chapters, the general discussion isfollowed by a focus on India. We discuss one by one the FundamentalRights in the Indian Constitution. Then we turn to how these rights canbe used by ordinary citizens. Who will protect and enforce them? Finallywe take a look at how the scope of rights has been expanding.

    CHAPTER 6

    DEMOCRATICRIGHTS

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    Dear Mr Tony Blair,

    Firstly, how are you? I sent aletter two years ago, why didntyou reply?!? I was waiting for along time but you did not reply.Please can you give me an answerto my question? Why is my dad inprison? Why is he far away inthat Guantnamo Bay?! I miss mydad so much. I have not seen mydad for three years. I know mydad has not done anything,because he is a good man. I heareverybody speak about my dad ina nice way. Your children spendChristmas with you, but me andmy brothers, and sisters havespent Eid alone without our dadfor 3 years. What do you thinkabout that?I hope you will answer me thistime.Thank you,

    From: Anas Jamil El-Banna,9 years old.7/12/2005

    6. 16. 16. 16. 16. 1 LLLLLIFEIFEIFEIFEIFE WITHWITHWITHWITHWITHOUTOUTOUTOUTOUT RIRIRIRIRIGHTGHTGHTGHTGHTSSSSSChapter Three: Our Constitutionmakers believed that fundamentalrights were quite central to theConstitution because Chapter Four: Every adult citizen ofIndia has the right to ... and to be ...Chapter Five: If a law is against theConstitution, every citizen has theright to approach Let us now begin with threeexamples of what it means to live inthe absence of rights.

    PPPPPrrrrr ison in Gison in Gison in Gison in Gison in Guanuanuanuanuantanamo Btanamo Btanamo Btanamo Btanamo BaaaaayyyyyAbout 600 people were secretlypicked up by the US forces from allover the world and put in a prisonin Guantanamo Bay, an area nearCuba controlled by Amercian Navy.Anass father, Jamil El-Banna, wasamong them. The Americangovernment said that they wereenemies of the US and linked to theattack on New York on 11September 2001. In most cases thegovernments of their countries werenot asked or even informed abouttheir imprisonment. Like otherprisoners, El-Bannas family got toknow that he was in that prison onlythrough the media. Families ofprisoners, media or even UNrepresentatives were not allowed tomeet them. The US army arrestedthem, interrogated them anddecided whether to keep them thereor not. There was no trial before anymagistrate in the US. Nor couldthese prisoners approach courts intheir own country.

    Amnesty International, aninternational human rightsorganisation, collected informationon the condition of the prisoners inGuantanamo Bay and reported thatthe prisoners were being tortured inways that violated the US laws. They

    In this book we have mentionedrights again and again. If youremember, we have discussed rightsin each of the five precedingchapters. Can you fill in the blanksby recalling the rights dimension ineach chapter?Chapter One: Chile under Pinochetand Poland under Jaruzelsky werenot democratic because Chapter Two: A comprehensivedefinition of democracy includes

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    were being denied the treatment thateven prisoners of war must get as perinternational treaties. Many prisonershad tried protesting against theseconditions by going on a hunger fast.Prisoners were not released even afterthey were officially declared not guilty.An independent inquiry by the UNsupported these findings. The UNSecretary General said the prison inGuantanamo Bay should be closeddown. The US government refused toaccept these pleas.

    CCCCCitizitizitizitizitizensensensensens R R R R Righighighighights ints ints ints ints inSSSSSaudi Aaudi Aaudi Aaudi Aaudi ArrrrrabiaabiaabiaabiaabiaThe case of Guantanamo Bay lookslike an exception, for it involves thegovernment of one country denyingrights to citizens of another country.Let us therefore look at the case ofSaudi Arabia and the position of thecitizens with regard to theirgovernment. Consider these facts: The country is ruled by a

    hereditary king and the peoplehave no role in electing orchanging their rulers.

    The king selects the legislature aswell as the executive. He appointsthe judges and can change any oftheir decisions.

    Citizens cannot form political par-ties or any political organisations.Media cannot report anything thatthe monarch does not like.

    There is no freedom of religion.Every citizen is required to beMuslim. Non-Muslim residentscan follow their religion in private,but not in public.

    Women are subjected to manypublic restrictions. The testimonyof one man is considered equal tothat of two women.This is true not just of Saudi

    Arabia. There are many countries inthe world where several of theseconditions exist.

    EEEEEthnic massacrthnic massacrthnic massacrthnic massacrthnic massacre in Ke in Ke in Ke in Ke in KosoosoosoosoosovvvvvoooooYou might think that this is possiblein an absolute monarchy but notin countries which choose theirrulers. Just consider this story fromKosovo. This was a province ofYugoslavia before its split. In thisprovince the population wasoverwhelmingly ethnic Albanian.But in the entire country, Serbswere in majority. A narrow mindedSerb nationalist Milosevic(pronounced Miloshevich) had wonthe election. His government wasvery hostile to the KosovoAlbanians. He wanted the Serbs todominate the country. Many Serbleaders thought that Ethnicminorities like Albanians shouldeither leave the country or acceptthe dominance of the Serbs.

    This is what happened to anAlbanian family in a town in Kosovoin April 1999:

    74-year-old Batisha Hoxha wassitting in her kitchen with her 77-yearold husband Izet, staying warmby the stove. They had heardexplosions but did not realise thatSerbian troops had already enteredthe town. The next thing she knew,five or six soldiers had burst throughthe front door and were demanding

    Where are your children? they shot Izet three times in the chest

    recalls Batisha. With her husbanddying before her, the soldiers pulledthe wedding ring off her finger andtold her to get out. I was not evenoutside the gate when they burnt thehouse She was standing on thestreet in the rain with no house, nohusband, no possessions but theclothes she was wearing.

    This news report was typical ofwhat happened to thousands ofAlbanians in that period. Do

    If you were a Serb,would you supportwhat Milosevic didin Kosovo? Do youthink his project ofestablishing Serbdominance wasgood for theSerbs?

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    remember that this massacre wasbeing carried out by the army oftheir own country, working underthe direction of a leader who cameto power through democraticelections. This was one of the worstinstances of killings based on ethnicprejudices in recent times. Finallyseveral other countries intervenedto stop this massacre. Milosevic lostpower and was tried by anInternational Court of Justice forcrimes against humanity.

    For each of the three cases of life without rights, mention an example from India. These could includethe following: Newspaper reports on custodial violence. Newspaper Reports on force-feeding of prisoners who go on huger strike. Ethnic massacre in any part of our country. Reports regarding unequal treatment of women.

    List the similarities and differences between the earlier case and the Indian example. It is not necessarythat for each of these cases you must find an exact Indian parallel.

    CHECKYOUR

    PROGRESS

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    A C T I V I T Y

    Write a letter to Anas Jamil in UK, describingyour reactions after reading his letter to TonyBlair.

    Write a letter from Batisha in Kosovo to awoman who faced a similar situation inIndia.

    Write a memorandum on behalf of women inSaudi Arabia to the Secretary General of theUnited Nations.

    Think of all the examples that wehave discussed so far. Think of thevictims in each example: theprisoners in Guantanamo Bay,women in Saudi Arabia, Albaniansin Kosovo. If you were in theirposition, what would you havewished? If you could, what wouldyou do to ensure that such thingsdo not happen to anyone?

    You would perhaps desire asystem where security, dignity andfair play are assured to everyone.You might want, for example, thatno one should be arrested withoutproper reason and information. Andif someone is arrested, he or sheshould have a fai