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Can There Be Human Rights Without Communal Harmony? A Case-Study Of The Tripura Violence of 2021

Every year on 10 December, the world celebrates Human Rights Day. Way back in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration consists of a preamble and 30 articles that set out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all of us, everywhere around the world, are entitled. It guarantees our rights without distinction of nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, religion, language, or any other status

Opposition protest in Agartala. Photo: Eastmojo.

Human Rights Day is celebrated across the globe including Tripura, a northeastern state in India by formally organising exhibitions, political conferences, meetings, cultural events and many other programs to advocate for human rights' awareness. However, there is always a struggle between the egalitarianism of the declaration and the reality of an unequal and unjust society.

In 2021, Tripura faced an inquiry on human rights based on incidents of alleged communal unrest. It is alleged that the communal unrest happened as a response to attacks on Hindus in nearby Bangladesh. According to media reports, Several Durga Puja pandals and temples in Bangladesh were vandalised on October 15 after social media posts showing a copy of the Quran placed at the feet of an idol went viral. In response to it, a protest rally in Tripura turned violent as the protestors vandalized a mosque on October 26.

Taking cognizance, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on November 3 asked the Tripura government for a report on the recent instances of political and communal violence in the State.

It is alleged that apart from the vandalism against mosques, the state had harassed journalists and lawyers who were covering the case. Some reports say that Tripura Police booked 102 people, including journalists and lawyers, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Calling it an attack basic human rights, the opposition Congress and CPI(M), as well as human rights bodies, criticized the state government. Meanwhile, Tripura Minister for Information and Culture, Sushanta Chowdhury said that there was no vandalism against the mosque and that groups from outside with vested interests had hatched a conspiracy against the administration to create unrest in Tripura and malign its image. He claimed that the photos of vandalism are fake.

Last week on December 22, The Editors Guild of India (EGI) released a report of its fact-finding mission on “attacks on media freedom in Tripura”, in which it said the state police and the government were complicit in the “growth of muscular majoritarianism that subverts democratic institutions”.

The three-member fact-finding team, which included independent journalist Bharat Bhushan, EGI general secretary Sanjay Kapoor and Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Review of Arts and Politics, visited the state from 28 November to 1 December to investigate the alleged attacks on the media in particular. During this time, the team met journalists, representatives of the state government including the chief minister and the director general of police (DGP), and civil society activists.

The members were especially concerned with the treatment meted to media houses that are not toeing the official line. They alleged that several media houses had to be shut as the government stopped giving them ads.

Human rights are a set of rights which every human is entitled to. They are essential for a good standard of living in the world. As long as there is no safety for people of all religion and worldviews there cannot be proper fulfilment of the tenets of Human Rights.

This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.

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