Human rights violations by state need to be called out: Professor Kusumam Joseph
Human rights violations by the state and its agents shouldn’t go unnoticed, said academician-cum-activist Kusumam Joseph.
"Excesses done by the state and its agents, which undermines human rights standards need to be exposed. The people discerning such instances and red flagging such atrocities have to be supported ," she said.
Kusumam Joseph was sharing her perspectives on human rights issues in Kerala with mathrubhumi.com, at the juncture of UN's Human Rights Day on December 10.
"We need more activists who are not in the clutches of political parties. Because democracy, which is the keystone to human rights, is deteriorating. People are being manipulated by the elitist view set by rulers who wear a gown called democracy during elections. Once the elections are over, they will throw away the gown and become rulers. It is also strange that a large section of people are ok with that . The role of an activist is to illuminate them and brighten up their conscience," she said.
To detail more about the importance of democracy she cited the case of the K-Rail project. “CM says if K-Rail is not executed the next generation of citizens will blame the state government for missing the project with such high prospects. So my question is what about the plight of this generation and even the next generation who are forced to leave with constant fear of natural calamity. The regime belittled the need to reexamine the project. Various civic organisations and activists based on their studies have urged government to step back. However, the government is steamrolling the project without addressing their concerns. The paradox is that, the same state government which proactively stands against the Union government’s policy decisions including the latest farm laws that are bulldozed without consultation, fails to comply with democratic values” she pointed out.
She said that the state more often thinks that only it and its agent have sense and knowledge, but not citizens. The prospects pitched by the government about various projects might be fanciful for the government, but it may not be the same with a person with knowledge about that, she said. “There is also a tendency to cast whistle-blowers as anti-state like the normalisation of anti-national by the Union government,” she added.
According to her, "What happens in Kerala is that governments for decades are purely interested in delivering to the needs of people in the categories of middle-class and above. While the rights of dalits, adivasis and the poor are neglected. Paradoxically, to legitimize its pet projects the government uses these sections as a tool and claim projects are for their empowerment."
Kusumam further pipointed the fact that in a state where a hefty amount is spent on construction of waiting sheds, rehabilitation projects are poorly funded. “Interestingly with the Life Mission project, the government has downplayed the narrative of land rights with a smokescreen called housing for the poor. It is important to note that the poor, adivasis and dalits are not the people who should end up in colonies. They were fighting for land rights for doing activities like agriculture. Not just agriculture, but any dream they have with land. Despite having lands at its arms length, the government is not ready to dispense that. Nor is proactive in acquiring the land held by the elite class even when the lease period is over,” she said.
She highlighted that the though Kerala is in a progressive direction due to its renaissance values, there are issues like “patriarchy induced violence against women, nuns’ issue, police excess and Attapadi child deaths which pull us back”.
While sharing her reflections, Kusumam said that individuals should be sensitized about human rights and democracy from the home itself. “How can we expect human rights and democracy to flourish in society without practising it at our own homes? Most of the homes are governed by religious frameworks propagating hierarchy based values and patriarchy. Then from where we will instill democracy and human rights. Same is the case with politics. It is funny that giving one seat to a woman is projected as a big thing in a country that has been democratic for more than seven decades,” she said.
Kusumam also asserted that “the media should not act as the mouthpiece of the government, instead it should stand with whistleblowers to comply with its decorated fourth pillar status”. She added that atrocities against children are rampant in Kerala and such issues need to be brought into the attention of both the citizens and the government. “Many happen within the family itself, but fear of losing reputation tempts them to hush up such incidents,” she said.
She slammed the tendency of people who vilify people based on their community standing. “To gratify their elitist view some people cherry pick instances that put marginalised sections in bad light. They also initiate hate campaigns. They mock food habits, dressing and hygiene practices. They never see the good things of that community. Such tendencies need to be called out, ” she said.
Kusumam concluded by reclaiming the vision of Gandhi and Ambedkar and said it is necessary “or else this generation will be only interested in mere personal gains which is anti-thetical to human rights and democracy”.