Ahiṁsā (Non-Violence) & Human Rights In Indian Culture: With Special Reference To Jainism (1)

Published: 05.07.2008
Updated: 30.07.2015

The rights of all human and living beings get born with the birth on this earth. That is why every activity of a human being is associated with human rights. Basis of the human civilization and culture is the human values and human rights. In the absence of human rights, an individual cannot live with honour.

Indian philosophies are based on contemplation of liberation of the soul and non violence. All religions, philosophies or communities of the world, whether Vedic / Jewish / Christianity / Islām / Pārsi / Sikhism / Buddhism or Jainism, have some form or the other discussions on non violence and accepted its importance. No religion talks of exploitation of human beings, rather they always talk of human rights along with betterment of human life itself.

Discussions and thoughts on non violence had never been limited to a specified town, state, country, language, community or a philosophical tradition. Neither it is the property of an individual. It is the universal principle and the finest state of humanism.

Non violence is the heart of a culture and foundation of a religion and philosophy. Therefore all noble thinkers have accepted the benefits and essentiality of non violence and discussed its nature as well.

True knowledge is that which enables the human beings in eliminating their pains and sorrows. What is the use of that knowledge which is not capable of doing so? Freedom does not give the right to be selfish.

The focus of Indian culture and religions had been non-violence. It had been accepted that our mother land, i.e. India, had been the holy place to contemplate / analyze and implement non-violence completely. The doctrine of non-violence appears to be the basis of the cultural division of the four time eras /epochs i.e. Satyug, Dwāpar, Tretā and Kaliyug sequentially. Satyug is considered to be the era of complete non-violence while Kaliyug is considered to the time with maximum violence. Birth of any great saint or God is also considered as the basis to establish the regime of non-violence again by punishing or eliminating the violent or destructive personalities. Even the bhakti tradition claims empowerment from devotion to God. In fact there is empowerment from non violence as it is essential to be a non violent individual to qualify as a devotee or one who is dear to God. Paṇḍit Tārā Cand Patni Jyotiṣācārya in his book ‘āiye sac ko jāne’ has given several examples to prove this from the religious texts. Let us look at some of them.

Non violence in Vedic religion:

Veda is the fundamental text of this tradition. It is the unique compilation of the sermons of ascetics/ seers with high spiritual attainment and well versed with mantras. They have used the word Ahiṁsā in the form of a prayer. Ahiṁsā is extremely beneficial. It establishes friendly relations with all and provides a sound basis of equality of all living beings. These seers say ‘We sing/pray that we tread the path shown by a friend whether live or dead. May our home be blessed with the company and comfort of a non violent friend? Complete details for this can be seen in Ṛgveda 5/64/3. People should protect others as a duty ‘pariyatu vishvatah’ Ṛgveda 6/75/14. May the world be blessed with complete peace. Brhamā and all Gods may bless everyone on the earth, heaven and hell including vegetation kingdom. May the world be completely at peace? Yajurveda 36/17. O God! I may maintain equanimity and good feelings towards all, whether they are known to me or not. AtharvaVeda 17/1/7.

This amply clarifies that the great sages (Ṛṣis) have not limited the vows of non violence just towards human beings but extended the same to all living beings. To emphasize the concept of friendship, they have indicated that non violence and friendship are two sides of the same coin. Without specifically mentioning the word non violence in the four Vedas, they have described the importance of non violence. After Vedas, Upaniṣadas were written and compiled. The subjects / topics which could not be included or just described briefly in Vedas, were included in details in Upaniṣadas. The person, who studies Vedas, maintains control over all his senses in the heart / mind, obeying the instructions given in the scriptures, and does not kill the living beings till he dies, will definitely attain the life in heavens and is never reborn in this world. ‘Chhāndogyopaniṣada 80,8, 15,1’. Sanātan Dharma also emphasized the importance of non violence. Similarly in Gītā, Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārat also speak of the benefits of non violence for the welfare of mankind. They further say that realization of spiritual beneficiation is not possible without the practice of non violence as existence of violence in the activities of mind body and speech prevents self realization.  

Ahiṁsā in Smṛti literature:
After Upaniṣadas we find smṛti literature. Ahiṁsā- hiṁsā had been analyzed at great depth in manusmṛti. ‘Do not do anything for others which you do not want to be done to you’ had been clearly mentioned in manusmṛti. ‘Ātmanaḥ pratikūlāni pareşāń na samāchareta

Ahiṁsā satyamasteyaṁ śocaminindriya nigrahḥ
Dānaṁ dayā damakshhāntiḥ sarveṣāṁ dharma sādhanam

Historically Smṛti literature is followed by Sūtra literature. Gautam Ṛṣi has indicated eight virtues of the soul namely compassion towards living beings, tolerance, not getting angry, purity, peace, non greediness etc. and those who practice these attains the Bṛhmā or is born in the heavens. (Gautam sūtra 70,22,25)

Ahiṁsā in Mahākāvya:

After Sūtra literature, comes the great poems in Sanskṛit literature, especially description of the life of supreme human being Rāma in Bālmiki’s Rāmāyaṇa. Through his conduct they have indicated those virtues. In Rāmcaritmānas we find many examples of these virtues. Rāma asks his brother Lakshamaṇ to go and acquire knowledge from Rāvaṇ (at the time he was killed by Rāma and prior to Rāvaṇa’s death) who had stolen Rām’s wife earlier and both the brothers circumambulated his body after death. In this war Rāmcaritmānas has stressed ahiṁsā, speaking the truth, self restraint, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, helping the enemies, purification of the mind, body and speech.

Ved Vyās in Mahābhārat also has classified Ahiṁsā as supreme in both dharma and artha purūṣārthas and has said Ahiṁsā as the supreme and only human religion.

Ideal human beings as per chapter XII of Bhāgavad Gītā which has a great importance in this chapter, Lord Kṛṣṇa comes out in details as to how an ideal human being should conduct himself throughout the life. The qualities of human beings mentioned by Lord Kṛṣṇa can be regarded as human duties charter, which is going to protect all human rights leading to happiness of all and as per chapter- XVI, Lord Kṛṣṇa specified what divine qualities which every human being should cultivate.

Ahiṁsā inGītā:

Śrimad Bhāgavat Gītā is a part of Mahābhārat. Invocation of Arjun by Lord Kṛṣṇa during the battle of Kurūkshetra is contained in Gītā.

Abhayaṁ sattvasaṁśuddhirñānayogavyavasthitiḥ
Dānaṁ damśca yajñaśca svādhyāyastapa ārjavam
Ahiṁsā satyamkrodhastyāgaḥ śāntirapaiśunam
Dayā bhuteṣvaloluptvaṁ mārdavaṁ hiracāpalam
Tejaḥ kshamā ghṛtiḥ śaucamdroho nātimānitā
Bhavinta saµpadaµ daivimabhijātasya bhārat.
(Gītā 16/1-3)  

1. Complete annihilation of fear. 2. Purity of the heart. 3. Persistent meditation to acquire metaphysical knowledge. 4. Charity without expectation. 5. Self restraint. 6. Devotional ritual / Yajña. 7. Penance. 8. Simplicity and straight-forwardness of the heart. 9. Not to cause pain anyone by activities of mind, body and speech. 10. Speak the sweet and as it is truth. 11. Not to get angry on your enemy. 12. Giving up pride. 13. Annihilation of the wandering nature of the mind. 14. Not to speak foul of others. 15. Compassion towards all living being without any expectation. 16. To exercise restraint when presented with sensual pleasure. 17. To feel ashamed in the conduct not as per the tradition or the holy texts. 18. Softness. 19. Annihilation of uneasiness. 20. Radiate energy. 21. Cleanliness of the external body. 22. Forgiveness. 23. Patience. 24. Not to maintain or create animosity with any one. 25. Pride of being honoured by others. These are the characteristics of Ahiṁsā which are found in a human being born with divine grace.

ahiṁsā kī Sthāpanā ke līye īśvarāvatāra
yadā-yadā hi dharmasya glānirbhavati Bhārata
abhyutthānamadharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmyaham
daityā himsānuraktāśca avadhyāḥ surattmaiḥ
Gītā - 4/7-9

Whenever the respect for religion gets ignored or set aside and the immoral and non-religious tendencies gain ground, then the demons get busy in violent activities to the extent that even the vunerable Gods are unable to get rid of them; then I in the form of a supreme being, get born on this earth.

yasmānnodvijate loko lokannodvijate c yḥ
harṣāmarṣbhayodvegairmukto yḥ sa c me priyaḥ
Gīiā - 12/15

The one who is neither incited by any one nor incites any one else and is always happy, free of incitement, fear is also loved by God.

adveṣṭā sarvabhūtānāṁ maitrḥ karūṇ ava c
nirmamo nirhṁkārḥ samduḥkhsukhḥ kshmī
saṅtuṣṭa satataṁ yogi yatātanā dṛḍhniścayaḥ
mayayarpitamanobuddhiryo maddhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ
Gītā - 12/13-14

That person who is free from aversion towards all evils, self less, loves all beings and is compassionate towards them, maintains equanimity in pains and pleasures and is always forgiving i.e. even donates or extends favours even to those who commit wrong acts towards him, and is free from disease and is always contented, has full control over mind, body and speech, has surrendered himself to the God, is in fact the true ahiṁsak / non violent and is a favourite of the God.

samaṁ paśyanhi sarvatra samvasthitmīśvaram
na hinstyātmanānaṁ tato yāti parāṁ gatim
Gītā 13/29

That person, who sees God as having equanimity towards all living beings, neither commits violence on himself (i.e. does not allow his peace of mind to be disturbed by anything) nor on any one else attains the supreme state.

Ahiṁsā in Purāṇas / stories literature

Purāṇas come after Bhāgvat Gītā. Ahiṁsā had been mentioned at different places in the Purāṇas literature which is as follows:

Vāyu Purāṇas:

One should practice Ahiṁsā by activities of mind, body and speech towards all living beings. It is detailed at 8/13 in it.

Vishnu Purāṇas:

Hiṁsā / violence is the wife of immorality. It is the root of all evils. Its son is Lying and daughter is immoral acts. These are the fore runners to the gates of hell i.e. they take the sinner/ violent to hell.

Agri Purāṇas:

Ahiṁsā, speaking the truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non possessiveness are the five rules /vows which result in both liberation and auspicious life. Matsya Purāṇas: Ahiṁsā is one of he vows / ethical rule of the monks. Practice of Ahiṁsā generates many times more merit /puṇya than the serious study of all the four Veda or speaking cultured language. Author of Brhamapurāṇa says that the person who does not commit hiṁsā on any one is definitely goes to heavens.

Nārad Purāṇa:

Those are the true words which do not condemn any one and does not harm any living being. This is the true representation of ahiṁsā. By contemplating and practicing this ahiṁsā, the wishes of the practitioner all become real. In Nārad Purāṇa ahiṁsā is the first vow (yama). Śiv Purāṇas counts Ahiṁsā as a puṇya/ meritorious act and hiṁsā as a sinful / de-meritorious act. The person who is engaged in de-meritorious acts is destined to hell. Brhaddha Purāṁa says that faith /surrender to God, serving the guest, treating everyone like one treats oneself, purification of the soul are different ways to be Ahiṁsā. Karma Purāṇa also considers affable speech, non-cruelty as Ahiṁsā and worthy of practice by all the four classes of human beings. In Bhāgvata Purāṇa, Nārad says to Dharma Rāj that Ahiṁsā is the foremost characteristic of the twenty characteristics of religion. (Bhāgvata Purāṇa chapter I) ‘jo Ahiṁsā brhamacarya ca tyagaḥ svādhyāya ārjavama, trillaksana vānrajnsarvātma yena tuṣyāti’ Thus Ahiṁsā had been discussed at different palces in the Purāṇa literature.

Besides these, in India three other religions which were based on prayers primarily viz. Jews (Judaism), Christianity and Islam, all preached and practiced Ahiṁsā.

Ahiṁsā in Judaism:

It is one of the main religions of the world. Their doctrine preaches ‘Do not hurt the self respect of any one. Do not insult anyone in front of others. To insult one is as bad as killing of that person.’ They emphasize more on brotherhood and humane-ness. To enhance humane-ness, they stress righteousness, celibacy, speaking the truth, devotion to God. They consider love and compassion as God. They encourage destruction of anger, indulgence in sensual pleasures, cruelty etc.

Ahiṁsā in Christianity:

Founder of Christianity is Jesus Christ. This religion is spread in different parts of the world. Jesus said ‘Tit for tat cannot produce the solution to the problem. It cannot generate peace, Therefore encourage love towards him and pray that his mind /thinking changes or the good. He says ‘One whose heart is not bestowed with and ruled by love; his entire knowledge is dry and fruitless’. Jesus encouraged love, compassion, service etc good acts as essential for life. This way the concept of Ahiṁsā was propagated in the form of love and compassion. Jesus actually painted God in the form of love. ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’.

Ahiṁsā in Islām:

The main centre of Islām was Arab but it prospered in India also and we have large number of its followers in India also. Islām believes that Allah /God is the father of all living beings in this world i.e. all living beings are the sons and off springs of Allah. In Qurān ‘Bismillarrarimarmanirrahim’ is the address given to Allah. It means ‘Allah is full of compassion. Compassion is an essential part of Him. ‘Prophet Mohammad’ heir, Hazrat Alī while addressing the mankind said ‘O man! Don’t make you stomach the burial ground of animals and birds etc. i.e. do not eat meat or kill for food.’ This implies that Islām also gives main importance to non violence. It further tells its followers not to consume alcohol, or harbour jealousy, greed, tell lies, pride, go to war etc as they are all worth giving up. Qurān sharif also emphasizes at many places about virtues like developing brotherhood, charity, forgiveness, friendship, compassion, love, kindness, self restraint etc. These virtues enhance development of the person. Practicing these virtues cause a flow of non violence run through the person’s mind and heart. Thus it becomes amply clear that Islam also kept on developing and enhancing the virtues of Ahiṁsā.

Ahiṁsā in Sūfism:

It has grown as branch within Islām. They consider that Hazrat Mohammad was blessed with two types of divine knowledge, one which he described in Qurān and the other which he kept in his heart and gave to a few of his close and privileged disciples. The knowledge in Qurān was for the mankind in general to improve their life and live happily while the other knowledge was deeply mystical and became known as Sūfism. The book knowledge contained in Qurān was called ‘ Ilma-i-sāfina’ while the other was called ‘Ilma-i- sin’ followed by Sūfis.

Sūfis emphasize more on love. They consider God as worthy of greatest love and wish to be near him. Human love is the way of spiritual love. Love is the essence o God. Love is the supreme and best way of offering service and devotion to him.  

Ahiṁsā in Pārsi religion:

Founder of this religion is Jarasthu. Their main holy text is called Avestā. Avestā talks of three primary duties of all mankind namely: 1. to make your enemy your friend. 2. To convert a devil into to a man. 3. To make an ignorant knowledgeable.

Indisputably it is true that only non violence, good will and love can turn an enemy into a friend. If we harbour ill will towards our enemy or indulge in violent acts towards him, then we cannot generate friendship in his heart. Only Ahiṁsā can cultivate goodwill. Therefore keep the good thoughts coming to your mind. Pārsis emphasize charity and other similar virtues which are in some form Ahiṁsā only.

Ahiṁsā in Buddhism:

Buddhism had been an important religion of India. It originated from India and spread in different parts of the world. Buddhism stresses Ahiṁsā primarily. Most of the holy texts of Buddhism emphasize Ahiṁsā. They define Ahiṁsā as neither to cause himself pain to any other living being by activities of mind, body and speech nor by asking others to cause pain to anyone. This is stated in Dhamma Pada (25, 9-10). Not only to gross living beings, has it even prohibited causing pain to vegetation kingdom. This is stated in Vinay Piṭak and Rāhul Sāṅstṛtyāyan (P 200).

While delivering sermons to his monks, Buddha talks about three types of moral ethical practices namely for beginners, for medium category and for serious and advanced practitioners of religion. These are important and essential for all monks. Ahiṁsā, non-stealing, celibacy, not telling the lies, and not to consume toxic substances are included in these moral ethical practices.

Ahiṁsā in Sikhism:

This religion also originated in India. Extracting the important doctrines of all Indian religions, Gurū Nānak Dev established Sikhism. He said ‘One who causes good of all is great. Practicing this is impossible without being ahiṁsāk. Practice of Ahiṁsā results in growth and extension of love to all. Without love one cannot achieve access to God’ After the remaining gurūs of Sikhs also propagated the same doctrine which is enshrined in their holy text ‘Gurūvāni’. Sikhism talks of four old moral-ethical practices namely karma mārg, yoga mārga, jñāna mārga and bhakti mārga. Further Sikhism considers tolerating cruelty as hiṁsā also. Therefore they are always ready to take revenge on cruelty committed. Thus their readiness to go to war is against cruelty and not just for the sake of war only.

Ācārya Patañjali, while defining the nature or ‘yamas’ or the vows for life for the practitioners of religious-moral ethics in Yoga-darśana says ‘Ahiṁsā styāsteya brhmacarya parigraḥ yamāḥ’. He then proceeds to emphasize the importance of Ahiṁsā and says ‘the one who is a firm believer of Ahiṁsā does not harbour animosity from any one and even lethal animals also forget cruelty against them; e.g. Ahiṁsā prtatṣthāyatatsannidhyau vaira tyāgah’. There are many part / limbs /aṅga in Yoga and Ahiṁsā is the first one amongst them. Sages say that Ahiṁsā is the supreme religion and it is the supreme penance and charity also. If a householder practices Ahiṁsā, then his family life also becomes pleasant. One who does not have Ahiṁsā in his heart is said to be heartless. An Urdu poet has expressed this in the following couplet.

agar tere dil mein dayā hī nahīṁ
samajha le tujhe dil milā hī nahīṁ

Ahiṁsā means absence of hiṁsā i.e. absence of violence, absence of violent feelings and activities. Ahiṁsā makes all beings free from pains. Besides these Saint Kabīr gave importance to Ahiṁsā in his thoughts and doctrines as is evident in the following verses:

jihiṅ ghaṭi prīti na premaras, puni rasnā nahiṁ Rāma
te nar is saṁsāra meṁ, upaji bhaye bekām

The one who does have love in his heart, nor have tasted love and does not recite the name of Rāma; he is born without any meaning and gets destroyed ultimately.

Kabīr prem na cāṣiyā na līyā sāva
Sune ghar kā pāhunā jyūṅ āyā tyūṅ jāna
Kabīrā soī pīra hai, jo jānai par pīr
jo par pīr na jānaī, so kāfir bepīr
durbal ko na satāiye jāke moti hāya
mare jīva ki hāya se, lohā bhasma ho jāya

The media of practicing religion are: not to cause pain to other living beings, always speaking the truth, not to take things which are not given by their rightful owner, purity of mind and body, exercise restraint on sensual activities, maintain control over mind, charity as per the capacity, to protect one who are in distress and not to get angry when provoked etc.

Father of the nation Mahātmā Gāndhī also emphasized Ahiṁsā and persuaded other fellow patriots to practice and adopt it against the freedom struggle of India against the British Empire. Mahātmā Gāndhī spoke a lot about Ahiṁsā which is clear from a few following statements.

‘I do not want to teach anything new to this world. Truth and Ahiṁsā have been there since eternity. There is no other way to gain our freedom other than Ahiṁsā and truth’. Mahātmā Gāndhī.

Gandhi organized many movements for non violence and disarmament. The one international seminar on ‘Non-violence movement continued in San Francisco for six months. Besides this, Gandhi went to Noukhali in 1946-47 to preach Ahiṁsā. Further he practices Ahiṁsā in all his struggles like Non cooperation movement, Quit India movement etc against British empire in India. Even after being hit by sticks from the British army, he did not resort to violence. In his autobiography, he says ‘There is no God different from the Truth, this is what I have experienced. If every page of this text does not bring out clearly that Ahiṁsā is the only way to adopt Truth, then I will consider my effort as in vain. Effort can be useless and the speech cannot be useless Even though my Ahiṁsā is true yet it is not complete. Like the light of thousands of suns shining brightly are not the true measure of the power and light of Truth; my expression o the truth is like a ay of such a sun. Based on experiments till date, I can definitely say that doctrine of truth is impossible without Ahiṁsā. ’ (Autobiography page 431) The practice of Ahiṁsā from eternity to date and Mahātmā Gāndhī’s these statements indicate that it not as important just to erect a statue of Mahātmā Gāndhī as to the practice of Ahiṁsā in our daily life.

Here I will like to add that what we understand of Hindu religion, is in fact the oldest religion as it is a collection of all the religions. The above religions have emphasized Ahiṁsā. Our soul is by nature pure and endowed with bliss. Nature of soul is eternal, knowledge and immortal. People have understood Ahiṁsā wrongly and hence described it as a sign of weakness. In fact Ahiṁsā is a very potent arm /weapon and can never be a possession of weak.

A man is born as a human being due to his auspicious deeds /karma in the previous life. Religion is perhaps a faith which every individual adopts according to his own beliefs and personality. It is but natural to have different ways of performing devotion based on individual’s capabilities, situation, inclination, rights etc. In fact the true religion is one which, based on Ahiṁsā teaches us to love and serve not only every human being but all the living beings also as well as tolerance for those who are against our religion or our opponents also. Besides these, it should also teach us about our soul, body, reality of existence of this world and the path which frees us from pains and pleasures of this world of trans-migratory world and thus endow us with eternal happiness.

From earlier time in India, holy teachers, monks and ascetics, preceptors, thinkers and philosophers, social reformists and scholars have shown us the path of Ahiṁsā to remove social evils, discrimination amongst individuals and extend love, compassion, forgiveness and universal brotherhood. Even during modern times, social reformers and holy teachers like Rām Kṛṣṇa Paramhaṁs, Svāmī Vivekānand, Svāmī Dayā Nand Sarasvatī, Sāīṁ Bābā of Śhirḍī, Gurudev Tagore, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Rājā Rāma Mohan Rai, Nelson Mandella, Desmond Tutu, Mohd.Yunus, Kenneth Kaunda etc. have all tried to reemphasize Ahiṁsā in their own ways.

Even today all scholars and holy teachers have tried to show the path of human welfare in all religions of the world. Similarly preachers and saints and great persons like Śri Sudhānśū jī Maharāj, Śri Śri Ravi Śankar jī, āsā Rāma Bāpu, Murārī Bāpu, Ammā, Bābā Jaygurūdev, Ośo, Svāmī Śraddhā Nandjī, Kiriṭ Bhāi and other eloquent speakers are establishing the path of human welfare through their preaching and religious discourses.

Foundation of all cultures is that one should understand the good of other human beings and without any selfish motives, respect their feelings and understand the importance of their feelings. It is these feelings of human welfare that gives rise to different religions. Aim of all religions is to establish the human rights. The path that is benefactor or the cause of welfare of all living beings in this world is called religion. If the people start becoming selfish and not respecting the wishes and welfare of fellow beings, then there will be no difference between them and animals. Feeling to be humane is the only discriminator between animals and human beings. Human beings are born with their rights.

The question arises ‘If a man is born with certain rights, then from where and how the question of their suppression does come into being? History is full of the existence of people who are in power and those who are ruled for a long time. The concept of human rights came as a medium to restrict the use of free will of those in power. In the beginning their use was restricted to within the state / provincial boundaries but they were not applicable at international levels. Even within the state they were restricted to officials in high position.

It took a long time to implement the concept of human rights to people of all castes /creeds and economic levels. ‘Charter of liberty of 13th century (called pact between King (Magnacarta) and its advisors), ‘Bill of rights’ of 1689 in USA, ‘Declaration of non suppressible rights’ of the American revolution and the ‘Declaration of human rights in the French revolution’ are the early stages of establishing human rights. The French declaration ‘Freedom of mankind to live, protection of his property and from suppression’ shows the development of the human rights movement.[1]

At the international level, the beginning was made by England, France and Denmark in the form of passing ‘Bill to end the slavery/ bonded labour’, in 1833.[2]

Under the auspices of The League of Nations, the human rights movement got encouragement and support. Freedom of the individual of ‘expression, forming associations /unions, practice their religion’ accompanied by banning unsubstantiated arrest and search or seizure of property by the state were implemented. These were all negative or punitive implementations of human rights movement. Slowly and slowly the positive implementations of human rights also came into being e.g. protection against unemployment, posting /employing at positions of profit, minimum education, medical care etc were included as human rights. At the level of United nation (UNO), formidable rules were implemented to stop child labour, cross border trading of women, increasing the minimum age of marriage, rehabilitation of political refugees. International Labour Organisation (ILO) further gave impetus to these implementations of human rights.

During the Second World War, President Roosevelt of USA made it announcements / proclamations namely Freedom of expression, Freedom of performing devotional rituals, Freedom from fear and poverty.

The primary objective to establish UNO was to authenticate and protect human rights and to enhance the individual freedom which is enshrined in San Francisco declaration of UN charter articles 1-30. This declaration provided legal and political power to the human rights movement. UNO on December 10th 1948 made a declaration of human rights in 30 articles, some of which are listed below.

  1. All human beings are free since the date they are born and are equal in their rights and respect. They have the power to think, analyse and be rational. They should cooperate with each other in a brotherly manner.
  2. Individual freedom and rights are free from barriers of caste, creed, colour, sex, language, religion, nationality, community, geographical location or state.
  3. Every human being has the freedom to live and get personal protection.
  4. Elimination of the traditions of slavery and unemployment.
  5. Ban the inhuman punishment, cruelty and coercion.
  6. To provide recognition of individual existence and equality in the court of law.
  7. Ban the wanton arrests.
  8. To provide legal support to individual to fight suppression of their human rights.
  9. Interference in the privacy of correspondence, personal, home and family existences.
  10. Freedom to live and move around within the country / state boundaries.
  11. Right to migrate to another country when politically victimized.
  12. Right to the nationality and citizenship of the country.
  13. Right to marry and make a family.
  14. Right to own property.
  15. Freedom to practice religion of choice.
  16. Freedom to express.
  17. Freedom to form associations /unions.
  18. Equal pay for equal work. Right to gainful employment and receive compensation thereof.
  19. Right to vote in the formation of the government.
  20. Right for social protection.
  21. Right to form trade unions.[3]
Foreword message given by Justice Shivarāj V. Pātil, Member, National Human Rights Commission, on 19th July 2006 in the booklet ‘Human rights and Jain religion’ written by Justice N.K.Jain, Chairman, Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission and published by Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission.[4]

‘According to above, universal declaration of Human rights 1948 declared, ‘all human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity.’ Human rights broadly constitute and cartograms of rights of rights (i) rights which are essential two cartograms of rights of rights. (ii). Rights which are essential for the dignified human existence viz. the right to have basic human needs like food, shelter and medical care, and (iii). rights which are essential for the adequate development of human personality such as right to education, right to freedom of culture, right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to free movement.’

In India also, according to the main paper of declarations and government announcements called Gazette of India, human rights have been included as a part of the Constitution of India. The Indian Constitution through its main constituent’s i.e. fundamental rights and the directive principles has given authentication and included the human rights. Sections 3 and 4 of the constitution are concerned with the fundamental and directive principles.

Articles 12-35 of section 3 of The Constitution of India[5] describe the fundamental rights. These rights are fundamental as they relate to and considered essential to the development of the personality of individuals. Hence the fundamental rights can be considered as similar to be natural rights of the individuals.

Articles 14-18 describe the rights about equality. Article 19 talks about the right for freedom which describe seven types of freedom including expression, peaceful demonstration, organizing functions and seminars, forming institutions and societies, live in India and roam freely within India, owning and spending property, right to earn but have been limited within the collective considerations of the defense of the country and its integrated existence and sovereignty so that freedom does not take the form of selfishness.

Article 21 talks about the freedom to live and be healthy, while article 20 provides constitutional protection to the individual against punishments. Articles 21-22 provide protection to people who have been deprived of personal freedom. Article 23 provides rights against exploitation by others. Illegal trade, providing employment without payment and bonded labour have been prohibited. Such trading is also prohibited to ensure trade does not become exploitation centric. Article 24 bans exploitation and employment of children below the age of 15. Articles 25-28 provide freedom of religion; article 29 and 30 provides protection to backward classes; article 32 provides legal protection for fundamental rights. Articles 14, 15(1), 16(1),19(1)a, 19(2)b, 20,21,25 provide recognition and protection to human rights. Part 4 of the Constitution dealing with directive principles also talk of human rights.

In general human rights can be divided in two groups namely i. rights of political and citizenship; and ii. rights of economic, social and cultural nature. The first deals with right to live, independence, protection, freedom from slavery and bonded labour, equality in the court of law, religious equality, independence to roam anywhere in the country, get entrance to civil services and participate I the government.

In the second category of rights fall freedom for belonging to a social group and the protection of the same, freedom to participate in social and cultural activities.

For implementation of all these rights, National Human Rights Commission and individual State human rights commissions have been organized. International human rights organization also monitors and oversees the situation of different countries concerning implementation of human rights by them. Human rights are now being discussed and reviewed at a large number of international platforms. Western countries like USA, France and Great Britain consider themselves as the originators and supporters of Human rights movement. At the international level initiative undertaken by UNO is nothing new. Various Indian philosophies and religions have talked and protected human welfare and human rights through detailed discussions on Ahiṁsā.

Earlier some nations believed tat power is obtained at the point of the gun. They have also changed their mentality now and accepted love, a four lettered word which means co-existence, tolerance and mutual discussions can solve most of the problems. USA and China practiced this principle and found solutions to their many outstanding problems. India is also eager and involved in resolving its conflicts with its neighbour Pakistan. All these go to sow that the concept of Ahiṁsā had been the basis of most of the Indian religions from beginningless times and the same is as relevant as it was thousand years ago.   


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Translated from Hindi to English by:

  • Shri S.C. Jain, Director, International Summer School for Jain Studies, New Delhi - 110017
  • Dr. P. C. Jain, Director, Centre for Jain Studies, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur;
  • Prof S. P. Jain Principle, Retd., D-2, Raman Marg, Tilak Nagar, Jaipur- 302 004
  • Smt. Saroj Jain, Retd. Prof. Bio-Chemistry, Medical Collage, 32, Surendra Pal Colony, Shyam Nagar, Jaipur

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