Chapter 10: The Politics of Human Rights in India
Ranabir Samaddar The Indian human rights movement is now asking ‘are we at the crossroads?’ In this chapter, we investigate this question through a set of interrelated issues. First, we consider the two comparative and distinct discourses of rights – the global and the local – and their interface. Second, we ask, in the post-colonial context where rights often face the paradigm of development, how exactly are we to consider the two theoretical formulations of ‘development as freedom’ and ‘development as right’? These interrelated perspectives allow us to see the dynamics in the expansion of the sense of rights in India, which now means more and more social and economic rights and implies a notion of justice. These areas of inquiry also help us to see the impact of this expansion on state institutions and popular politics, the double consequence of which is ‘governmentalisation’ and the ‘popularisation’ of rights. THE GLOBAL AND THE LOCAL Today, the global stage is marked by an intense discussion of globalisation, at many levels, in many contexts, and in many forms. The contestation over universality continues. Can our rights discourse de-link itself from this contentious scene? For several reasons, I suggest that it cannot – the primary reason being the direct impact of globalisation on the nation-state. Free flow of capital, US style electoral democracy, free trade in the form of the WTO regime, questions over immigration and the flow of labour, and the monopoly of nuclear weaponry are issues that have seriously impaired the nation-state as...
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