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74 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In the previous two chapters we have looked at two major elements of a
democratic government. In Chapter 3 we saw how a democratic
government has to be periodically elected by the people in a free and fair
manner. In Chapter 4 we learnt that a democracy must be based on
institutions that follow certain rules and procedures. These elements are
necessary but not sufficient for a democracy. Elections and institutions
need to be combined with a third element – enjoyment of rights – to make
a government democratic. Even the most properly elected rulers working
through the established institutional process must learn not to cross some
limits. Citizens’ democratic rights set those limits in a democracy.
This is what we take up in this final chapter of the book. We begin by
discussing some real life cases to imagine what it means to live without
rights. This leads to a discussion on what we mean by rights and why do
we need them. As in the previous chapters, the general discussion is
followed by a focus on India. We discuss one by one the Fundamental
Rights in the Indian Constitution. Then we turn to how these rights can
be used by ordinary citizens. Who will protect and enforce them? Finally
we take a look at how the scope of rights has been expanding.
CHAPTER 5
DEMOCRATIC
RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


74 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In the previous two chapters we have looked at two major elements of a
democratic government. In Chapter 3 we saw how a democratic
government has to be periodically elected by the people in a free and fair
manner. In Chapter 4 we learnt that a democracy must be based on
institutions that follow certain rules and procedures. These elements are
necessary but not sufficient for a democracy. Elections and institutions
need to be combined with a third element – enjoyment of rights – to make
a government democratic. Even the most properly elected rulers working
through the established institutional process must learn not to cross some
limits. Citizens’ democratic rights set those limits in a democracy.
This is what we take up in this final chapter of the book. We begin by
discussing some real life cases to imagine what it means to live without
rights. This leads to a discussion on what we mean by rights and why do
we need them. As in the previous chapters, the general discussion is
followed by a focus on India. We discuss one by one the Fundamental
Rights in the Indian Constitution. Then we turn to how these rights can
be used by ordinary citizens. Who will protect and enforce them? Finally
we take a look at how the scope of rights has been expanding.
CHAPTER 5
DEMOCRATIC
RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
75
Dear Mr Tony Blair,
Firstly, how are you? I sent a
letter two years ago, why didn’t
you reply?!? I was waiting for a
long time but you did not reply.
Please can you give me an answer
to my question? Why is my dad in
prison? Why is he far away in
that Guantánamo Bay?! I miss my
dad so much. I have not seen my
dad for three years. I know my
dad has not done anything,
because he is a good man. I hear
everybody speak about my dad in
a nice way. Your children spend
Christmas with you, but me and
my brothers, and sisters have
spent Eid alone without our dad
for 3 years. What do you think
about that?
I hope you will answer me this
time.
Thank you,
From: Anas Jamil El-Banna,
9 years old.
7/12/2005
5.1 LIFE WITHOUT RIGHTS
were quite central to the
Constitution because …
Chapter 3: Every adult citizen of
India has the right to ... and to be ...
Chapter 4: If a law is against the
Constitution, every citizen has the
right to approach …
Let us now begin with three
examples of what it means to live in
the absence of rights.
P P P P Pr r r r rison in G ison in G ison in G ison in G ison in Guan uan uan uan uantanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo Ba a a a ay y y y y
About 600 people were secretly
picked up by the US forces from all
over the world and put in a prison
in Guantanamo Bay, an area near
Cuba controlled by Amercian Navy.
Anas’s father, Jamil El-Banna, was
among them. The American
government said that they were
enemies of the US and linked to the
attack on New York on 11
September 2001. In most cases the
governments of their countries were
not asked or even informed about
their imprisonment. Like other
prisoners, El-Banna’s family got to
know that he was in that prison only
through the media. Families of
prisoners, media or even UN
representatives were not allowed to
meet them. The US army arrested
them, interrogated them and
decided whether to keep them there
or not. There was no trial before any
magistrate in the US. Nor could
these prisoners approach courts in
their own country.
Amnesty International, an
international human rights
organisation, collected information
on the condition of the prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay and reported that
the prisoners were being tortured in
ways that violated the US laws. They
In this book we have mentioned
rights again and again. If you
remember, we have discussed rights
in each of the four preceding
chapters. Can you fill in the blanks
by recalling the rights dimension in
each chapter?
Chapter 1: A comprehensive
definition of democracy includes …
Chapter 2: Our Constitution makers
believed that fundamental rights
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


74 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In the previous two chapters we have looked at two major elements of a
democratic government. In Chapter 3 we saw how a democratic
government has to be periodically elected by the people in a free and fair
manner. In Chapter 4 we learnt that a democracy must be based on
institutions that follow certain rules and procedures. These elements are
necessary but not sufficient for a democracy. Elections and institutions
need to be combined with a third element – enjoyment of rights – to make
a government democratic. Even the most properly elected rulers working
through the established institutional process must learn not to cross some
limits. Citizens’ democratic rights set those limits in a democracy.
This is what we take up in this final chapter of the book. We begin by
discussing some real life cases to imagine what it means to live without
rights. This leads to a discussion on what we mean by rights and why do
we need them. As in the previous chapters, the general discussion is
followed by a focus on India. We discuss one by one the Fundamental
Rights in the Indian Constitution. Then we turn to how these rights can
be used by ordinary citizens. Who will protect and enforce them? Finally
we take a look at how the scope of rights has been expanding.
CHAPTER 5
DEMOCRATIC
RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
75
Dear Mr Tony Blair,
Firstly, how are you? I sent a
letter two years ago, why didn’t
you reply?!? I was waiting for a
long time but you did not reply.
Please can you give me an answer
to my question? Why is my dad in
prison? Why is he far away in
that Guantánamo Bay?! I miss my
dad so much. I have not seen my
dad for three years. I know my
dad has not done anything,
because he is a good man. I hear
everybody speak about my dad in
a nice way. Your children spend
Christmas with you, but me and
my brothers, and sisters have
spent Eid alone without our dad
for 3 years. What do you think
about that?
I hope you will answer me this
time.
Thank you,
From: Anas Jamil El-Banna,
9 years old.
7/12/2005
5.1 LIFE WITHOUT RIGHTS
were quite central to the
Constitution because …
Chapter 3: Every adult citizen of
India has the right to ... and to be ...
Chapter 4: If a law is against the
Constitution, every citizen has the
right to approach …
Let us now begin with three
examples of what it means to live in
the absence of rights.
P P P P Pr r r r rison in G ison in G ison in G ison in G ison in Guan uan uan uan uantanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo Ba a a a ay y y y y
About 600 people were secretly
picked up by the US forces from all
over the world and put in a prison
in Guantanamo Bay, an area near
Cuba controlled by Amercian Navy.
Anas’s father, Jamil El-Banna, was
among them. The American
government said that they were
enemies of the US and linked to the
attack on New York on 11
September 2001. In most cases the
governments of their countries were
not asked or even informed about
their imprisonment. Like other
prisoners, El-Banna’s family got to
know that he was in that prison only
through the media. Families of
prisoners, media or even UN
representatives were not allowed to
meet them. The US army arrested
them, interrogated them and
decided whether to keep them there
or not. There was no trial before any
magistrate in the US. Nor could
these prisoners approach courts in
their own country.
Amnesty International, an
international human rights
organisation, collected information
on the condition of the prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay and reported that
the prisoners were being tortured in
ways that violated the US laws. They
In this book we have mentioned
rights again and again. If you
remember, we have discussed rights
in each of the four preceding
chapters. Can you fill in the blanks
by recalling the rights dimension in
each chapter?
Chapter 1: A comprehensive
definition of democracy includes …
Chapter 2: Our Constitution makers
believed that fundamental rights
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
76 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
were being denied the treatment
that even prisoners of war must get
as per international treaties. Many
prisoners had tried protesting against
these conditions by going on a hunger
strike. Prisoners were not released
even after they were officially declared
not guilty. An independent inquiry
by the UN supported these findings.
The UN Secretary General said the
prison in Guantanamo Bay should be
closed down. The US government
refused to accept these pleas.
C C C C Citiz itiz itiz itiz itizens ens ens ens ens’ ’ ’ ’ ’ R R R R Righ igh igh igh ights in ts in ts in ts in ts in
S S S S Saudi A audi A audi A audi A audi Ar r r r rabia abia abia abia abia
The case of Guantanamo Bay looks
like an exception, for it involves the
government of one country denying
rights to citizens of another country.
Let us therefore look at the case of
Saudi Arabia and the position of the
citizens with regard to their
government. Consider these facts:
<The country is ruled by a
hereditary king and the people
have no role in electing or
changing their rulers.
< The king selects the legislature as
well as the executive. He appoints
the judges and can change any of
their decisions.
< Citizens cannot form political par-
ties or any political organisations.
Media cannot report anything that
the monarch does not like.
<There is no freedom of religion.
Every citizen is required to be
Muslim. Non-Muslim residents
can follow their religion in private,
but not in public.
<Women are subjected to many
public restrictions. The testimony
of one man is considered equal to
that of two women.
This is true not just of Saudi
Arabia. There are many countries in
the world where several of these
conditions exist.
E E E E Ethnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacre in K e in K e in K e in K e in Koso oso oso oso osov v v v vo o o o o
You might think that this is possible
in an absolute monarchy but not
in countries which choose their
rulers. Just consider this story from
Kosovo. This was a province of
Yugoslavia before its split. In this
province the population was
overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian.
But in the entire country, Serbs
were in majority. A narrow minded
Serb nationalist Milosevic
(pronounced Miloshevich) had won
the election. His government was
very hostile to the Kosovo
Albanians. He wanted the Serbs to
dominate the country. Many Serb
leaders thought that Ethnic
minorities like Albanians should
either leave the country or accept
the dominance of the Serbs.
This is what happened to an
Albanian family in a town in Kosovo
in April 1999:
“74-year-old Batisha Hoxha was
sitting in her kitchen with her 77-
year–old husband, Izet, staying
warm by the stove. They had heard
explosions but did not realise that
Serbian troops had already entered
the town. The next thing she knew,
five or six soldiers had burst through
the front door and were demanding
“Where are your children?”
“… they shot Izet three times in the
chest” recalled Batisha. With her
husband dying before her, the
soldiers pulled the wedding ring off
her finger and told her to get out. “I
was not even outside the gate when they
burned the house” … She was standing
on the street in the rain with no
house, no husband, no possessions
but the clothes she was wearing.”
This news report was typical of
what happened to thousands of
Albanians in that period. Do
If you were a Serb,
would you support
what Milosevic did
in Kosovo? Do you
think his project of
establishing Serb
dominance was
good for the
Serbs?
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


74 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In the previous two chapters we have looked at two major elements of a
democratic government. In Chapter 3 we saw how a democratic
government has to be periodically elected by the people in a free and fair
manner. In Chapter 4 we learnt that a democracy must be based on
institutions that follow certain rules and procedures. These elements are
necessary but not sufficient for a democracy. Elections and institutions
need to be combined with a third element – enjoyment of rights – to make
a government democratic. Even the most properly elected rulers working
through the established institutional process must learn not to cross some
limits. Citizens’ democratic rights set those limits in a democracy.
This is what we take up in this final chapter of the book. We begin by
discussing some real life cases to imagine what it means to live without
rights. This leads to a discussion on what we mean by rights and why do
we need them. As in the previous chapters, the general discussion is
followed by a focus on India. We discuss one by one the Fundamental
Rights in the Indian Constitution. Then we turn to how these rights can
be used by ordinary citizens. Who will protect and enforce them? Finally
we take a look at how the scope of rights has been expanding.
CHAPTER 5
DEMOCRATIC
RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
75
Dear Mr Tony Blair,
Firstly, how are you? I sent a
letter two years ago, why didn’t
you reply?!? I was waiting for a
long time but you did not reply.
Please can you give me an answer
to my question? Why is my dad in
prison? Why is he far away in
that Guantánamo Bay?! I miss my
dad so much. I have not seen my
dad for three years. I know my
dad has not done anything,
because he is a good man. I hear
everybody speak about my dad in
a nice way. Your children spend
Christmas with you, but me and
my brothers, and sisters have
spent Eid alone without our dad
for 3 years. What do you think
about that?
I hope you will answer me this
time.
Thank you,
From: Anas Jamil El-Banna,
9 years old.
7/12/2005
5.1 LIFE WITHOUT RIGHTS
were quite central to the
Constitution because …
Chapter 3: Every adult citizen of
India has the right to ... and to be ...
Chapter 4: If a law is against the
Constitution, every citizen has the
right to approach …
Let us now begin with three
examples of what it means to live in
the absence of rights.
P P P P Pr r r r rison in G ison in G ison in G ison in G ison in Guan uan uan uan uantanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo Ba a a a ay y y y y
About 600 people were secretly
picked up by the US forces from all
over the world and put in a prison
in Guantanamo Bay, an area near
Cuba controlled by Amercian Navy.
Anas’s father, Jamil El-Banna, was
among them. The American
government said that they were
enemies of the US and linked to the
attack on New York on 11
September 2001. In most cases the
governments of their countries were
not asked or even informed about
their imprisonment. Like other
prisoners, El-Banna’s family got to
know that he was in that prison only
through the media. Families of
prisoners, media or even UN
representatives were not allowed to
meet them. The US army arrested
them, interrogated them and
decided whether to keep them there
or not. There was no trial before any
magistrate in the US. Nor could
these prisoners approach courts in
their own country.
Amnesty International, an
international human rights
organisation, collected information
on the condition of the prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay and reported that
the prisoners were being tortured in
ways that violated the US laws. They
In this book we have mentioned
rights again and again. If you
remember, we have discussed rights
in each of the four preceding
chapters. Can you fill in the blanks
by recalling the rights dimension in
each chapter?
Chapter 1: A comprehensive
definition of democracy includes …
Chapter 2: Our Constitution makers
believed that fundamental rights
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
76 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
were being denied the treatment
that even prisoners of war must get
as per international treaties. Many
prisoners had tried protesting against
these conditions by going on a hunger
strike. Prisoners were not released
even after they were officially declared
not guilty. An independent inquiry
by the UN supported these findings.
The UN Secretary General said the
prison in Guantanamo Bay should be
closed down. The US government
refused to accept these pleas.
C C C C Citiz itiz itiz itiz itizens ens ens ens ens’ ’ ’ ’ ’ R R R R Righ igh igh igh ights in ts in ts in ts in ts in
S S S S Saudi A audi A audi A audi A audi Ar r r r rabia abia abia abia abia
The case of Guantanamo Bay looks
like an exception, for it involves the
government of one country denying
rights to citizens of another country.
Let us therefore look at the case of
Saudi Arabia and the position of the
citizens with regard to their
government. Consider these facts:
<The country is ruled by a
hereditary king and the people
have no role in electing or
changing their rulers.
< The king selects the legislature as
well as the executive. He appoints
the judges and can change any of
their decisions.
< Citizens cannot form political par-
ties or any political organisations.
Media cannot report anything that
the monarch does not like.
<There is no freedom of religion.
Every citizen is required to be
Muslim. Non-Muslim residents
can follow their religion in private,
but not in public.
<Women are subjected to many
public restrictions. The testimony
of one man is considered equal to
that of two women.
This is true not just of Saudi
Arabia. There are many countries in
the world where several of these
conditions exist.
E E E E Ethnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacre in K e in K e in K e in K e in Koso oso oso oso osov v v v vo o o o o
You might think that this is possible
in an absolute monarchy but not
in countries which choose their
rulers. Just consider this story from
Kosovo. This was a province of
Yugoslavia before its split. In this
province the population was
overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian.
But in the entire country, Serbs
were in majority. A narrow minded
Serb nationalist Milosevic
(pronounced Miloshevich) had won
the election. His government was
very hostile to the Kosovo
Albanians. He wanted the Serbs to
dominate the country. Many Serb
leaders thought that Ethnic
minorities like Albanians should
either leave the country or accept
the dominance of the Serbs.
This is what happened to an
Albanian family in a town in Kosovo
in April 1999:
“74-year-old Batisha Hoxha was
sitting in her kitchen with her 77-
year–old husband, Izet, staying
warm by the stove. They had heard
explosions but did not realise that
Serbian troops had already entered
the town. The next thing she knew,
five or six soldiers had burst through
the front door and were demanding
“Where are your children?”
“… they shot Izet three times in the
chest” recalled Batisha. With her
husband dying before her, the
soldiers pulled the wedding ring off
her finger and told her to get out. “I
was not even outside the gate when they
burned the house” … She was standing
on the street in the rain with no
house, no husband, no possessions
but the clothes she was wearing.”
This news report was typical of
what happened to thousands of
Albanians in that period. Do
If you were a Serb,
would you support
what Milosevic did
in Kosovo? Do you
think his project of
establishing Serb
dominance was
good for the
Serbs?
Rationalised 2023-24
77
remember that this massacre was
being carried out by the army of
their own country, working under
the direction of a leader who came
to power through democratic
elections. This was one of the worst
instances of killings based on ethnic
prejudices in recent times. Finally
several other countries intervened
to stop this massacre. Milosevic lost
power and was tried by the
International Court of Justice for
crimes against humanity.
For each of the three cases of life without rights, mention an example from India. These could include the
following:
< Newspaper reports on custodial violence.
< Newspaper repor ts on force-feeding of prisoners who go on hunger 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 necessary
that for each of these cases you must find an exact Indian parallel.
CHECK
YOUR
PROGRESS
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
ACTIVITY
< Write a letter to Anas Jamil in UK, describing
your reactions after reading his letter to Tony
Blair.
< Write a letter from Batisha in Kosovo to a
woman who faced a similar situation in
India.
< Write a memorandum on behalf of women in
Saudi Arabia to the Secretary General of the
United Nations.
Think of all the examples that we
have discussed so far. Think of the
victims in each example: the
prisoners in Guantanamo Bay,
women in Saudi Arabia, Albanians
in Kosovo. If you were in their
position, what would you have
wished? If you could, what would
you do to ensure that such things
do not happen to anyone?
You would perhaps desire a
system where security, dignity and
fair play are assured to everyone.
You might want, for example, that
no one should be arrested without
proper reason and information. And
if someone is arrested, he or she
should have a fair chance to defend
themselves. You might agree that
such assurance cannot apply to
everything. One has to be reasonable
in what one expects and demands of
everyone else, for one has to grant
the same to everyone. But you might
insist that the assurance does not
remain on paper, that there is
someone to enforce these
assurances, that those who violate
these are punished. In other words,
you might want a system where at
least a minimum is guaranteed to
everyone – powerful or weak, rich
or poor, majority or minority. This
is the spirit behind thinking about
rights.
What are rights? What are rights? What are rights? What are rights? What are rights?
Rights are claims of a person over
other fellow beings, over the society
and over the government. All of us
5.2 RIGHTS IN A DEMOCRACY
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


74 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In the previous two chapters we have looked at two major elements of a
democratic government. In Chapter 3 we saw how a democratic
government has to be periodically elected by the people in a free and fair
manner. In Chapter 4 we learnt that a democracy must be based on
institutions that follow certain rules and procedures. These elements are
necessary but not sufficient for a democracy. Elections and institutions
need to be combined with a third element – enjoyment of rights – to make
a government democratic. Even the most properly elected rulers working
through the established institutional process must learn not to cross some
limits. Citizens’ democratic rights set those limits in a democracy.
This is what we take up in this final chapter of the book. We begin by
discussing some real life cases to imagine what it means to live without
rights. This leads to a discussion on what we mean by rights and why do
we need them. As in the previous chapters, the general discussion is
followed by a focus on India. We discuss one by one the Fundamental
Rights in the Indian Constitution. Then we turn to how these rights can
be used by ordinary citizens. Who will protect and enforce them? Finally
we take a look at how the scope of rights has been expanding.
CHAPTER 5
DEMOCRATIC
RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
75
Dear Mr Tony Blair,
Firstly, how are you? I sent a
letter two years ago, why didn’t
you reply?!? I was waiting for a
long time but you did not reply.
Please can you give me an answer
to my question? Why is my dad in
prison? Why is he far away in
that Guantánamo Bay?! I miss my
dad so much. I have not seen my
dad for three years. I know my
dad has not done anything,
because he is a good man. I hear
everybody speak about my dad in
a nice way. Your children spend
Christmas with you, but me and
my brothers, and sisters have
spent Eid alone without our dad
for 3 years. What do you think
about that?
I hope you will answer me this
time.
Thank you,
From: Anas Jamil El-Banna,
9 years old.
7/12/2005
5.1 LIFE WITHOUT RIGHTS
were quite central to the
Constitution because …
Chapter 3: Every adult citizen of
India has the right to ... and to be ...
Chapter 4: If a law is against the
Constitution, every citizen has the
right to approach …
Let us now begin with three
examples of what it means to live in
the absence of rights.
P P P P Pr r r r rison in G ison in G ison in G ison in G ison in Guan uan uan uan uantanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo B tanamo Ba a a a ay y y y y
About 600 people were secretly
picked up by the US forces from all
over the world and put in a prison
in Guantanamo Bay, an area near
Cuba controlled by Amercian Navy.
Anas’s father, Jamil El-Banna, was
among them. The American
government said that they were
enemies of the US and linked to the
attack on New York on 11
September 2001. In most cases the
governments of their countries were
not asked or even informed about
their imprisonment. Like other
prisoners, El-Banna’s family got to
know that he was in that prison only
through the media. Families of
prisoners, media or even UN
representatives were not allowed to
meet them. The US army arrested
them, interrogated them and
decided whether to keep them there
or not. There was no trial before any
magistrate in the US. Nor could
these prisoners approach courts in
their own country.
Amnesty International, an
international human rights
organisation, collected information
on the condition of the prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay and reported that
the prisoners were being tortured in
ways that violated the US laws. They
In this book we have mentioned
rights again and again. If you
remember, we have discussed rights
in each of the four preceding
chapters. Can you fill in the blanks
by recalling the rights dimension in
each chapter?
Chapter 1: A comprehensive
definition of democracy includes …
Chapter 2: Our Constitution makers
believed that fundamental rights
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Rationalised 2023-24
76 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
were being denied the treatment
that even prisoners of war must get
as per international treaties. Many
prisoners had tried protesting against
these conditions by going on a hunger
strike. Prisoners were not released
even after they were officially declared
not guilty. An independent inquiry
by the UN supported these findings.
The UN Secretary General said the
prison in Guantanamo Bay should be
closed down. The US government
refused to accept these pleas.
C C C C Citiz itiz itiz itiz itizens ens ens ens ens’ ’ ’ ’ ’ R R R R Righ igh igh igh ights in ts in ts in ts in ts in
S S S S Saudi A audi A audi A audi A audi Ar r r r rabia abia abia abia abia
The case of Guantanamo Bay looks
like an exception, for it involves the
government of one country denying
rights to citizens of another country.
Let us therefore look at the case of
Saudi Arabia and the position of the
citizens with regard to their
government. Consider these facts:
<The country is ruled by a
hereditary king and the people
have no role in electing or
changing their rulers.
< The king selects the legislature as
well as the executive. He appoints
the judges and can change any of
their decisions.
< Citizens cannot form political par-
ties or any political organisations.
Media cannot report anything that
the monarch does not like.
<There is no freedom of religion.
Every citizen is required to be
Muslim. Non-Muslim residents
can follow their religion in private,
but not in public.
<Women are subjected to many
public restrictions. The testimony
of one man is considered equal to
that of two women.
This is true not just of Saudi
Arabia. There are many countries in
the world where several of these
conditions exist.
E E E E Ethnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacr thnic massacre in K e in K e in K e in K e in Koso oso oso oso osov v v v vo o o o o
You might think that this is possible
in an absolute monarchy but not
in countries which choose their
rulers. Just consider this story from
Kosovo. This was a province of
Yugoslavia before its split. In this
province the population was
overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian.
But in the entire country, Serbs
were in majority. A narrow minded
Serb nationalist Milosevic
(pronounced Miloshevich) had won
the election. His government was
very hostile to the Kosovo
Albanians. He wanted the Serbs to
dominate the country. Many Serb
leaders thought that Ethnic
minorities like Albanians should
either leave the country or accept
the dominance of the Serbs.
This is what happened to an
Albanian family in a town in Kosovo
in April 1999:
“74-year-old Batisha Hoxha was
sitting in her kitchen with her 77-
year–old husband, Izet, staying
warm by the stove. They had heard
explosions but did not realise that
Serbian troops had already entered
the town. The next thing she knew,
five or six soldiers had burst through
the front door and were demanding
“Where are your children?”
“… they shot Izet three times in the
chest” recalled Batisha. With her
husband dying before her, the
soldiers pulled the wedding ring off
her finger and told her to get out. “I
was not even outside the gate when they
burned the house” … She was standing
on the street in the rain with no
house, no husband, no possessions
but the clothes she was wearing.”
This news report was typical of
what happened to thousands of
Albanians in that period. Do
If you were a Serb,
would you support
what Milosevic did
in Kosovo? Do you
think his project of
establishing Serb
dominance was
good for the
Serbs?
Rationalised 2023-24
77
remember that this massacre was
being carried out by the army of
their own country, working under
the direction of a leader who came
to power through democratic
elections. This was one of the worst
instances of killings based on ethnic
prejudices in recent times. Finally
several other countries intervened
to stop this massacre. Milosevic lost
power and was tried by the
International Court of Justice for
crimes against humanity.
For each of the three cases of life without rights, mention an example from India. These could include the
following:
< Newspaper reports on custodial violence.
< Newspaper repor ts on force-feeding of prisoners who go on hunger 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 necessary
that for each of these cases you must find an exact Indian parallel.
CHECK
YOUR
PROGRESS
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
ACTIVITY
< Write a letter to Anas Jamil in UK, describing
your reactions after reading his letter to Tony
Blair.
< Write a letter from Batisha in Kosovo to a
woman who faced a similar situation in
India.
< Write a memorandum on behalf of women in
Saudi Arabia to the Secretary General of the
United Nations.
Think of all the examples that we
have discussed so far. Think of the
victims in each example: the
prisoners in Guantanamo Bay,
women in Saudi Arabia, Albanians
in Kosovo. If you were in their
position, what would you have
wished? If you could, what would
you do to ensure that such things
do not happen to anyone?
You would perhaps desire a
system where security, dignity and
fair play are assured to everyone.
You might want, for example, that
no one should be arrested without
proper reason and information. And
if someone is arrested, he or she
should have a fair chance to defend
themselves. You might agree that
such assurance cannot apply to
everything. One has to be reasonable
in what one expects and demands of
everyone else, for one has to grant
the same to everyone. But you might
insist that the assurance does not
remain on paper, that there is
someone to enforce these
assurances, that those who violate
these are punished. In other words,
you might want a system where at
least a minimum is guaranteed to
everyone – powerful or weak, rich
or poor, majority or minority. This
is the spirit behind thinking about
rights.
What are rights? What are rights? What are rights? What are rights? What are rights?
Rights are claims of a person over
other fellow beings, over the society
and over the government. All of us
5.2 RIGHTS IN A DEMOCRACY
Rationalised 2023-24
78 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
want to live happily, without fear
and without being subjected to
degraded treatment. For this we
expect others to behave in such a
way that does not harm us or hurt
us. Equally, our actions should not
also harm or hurt others. So a right
is possible when you make a claim
that is equally possible for others.
You cannot have a right that harms
or hurts others. You cannot have a
right to play a game in such a way
that it breaks the neighbour’s
window. The Serbs in Yugoslavia
could not have claimed the whole
country for themselves. The claims
we make should be reasonable.
They should be such that can be
made available to others in an equal
measure. Thus, a right comes with
an obligation to respect other rights.
Just because we claim some thing
it does not become our right. It has
to be recognised by the society we
live in. Rights acquire meaning only
in society. Every society makes
certain rules to regulate our
conduct. They tell us what is right
and what is wrong. What is
recognised by the society as rightful
becomes the basis of rights. That is
why the notion of rights changes
from time to time and society to
society. Two hundred years ago
anyone who said that women should
have right to vote would have
sounded strange. Today not granting
them vote in Saudi Arabia appears
strange.
When the socially recognised
claims are written into law they
acquire real force. Otherwise they
remain merely as natural or moral
rights. The prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay had a moral claim
not to be tortured or humiliated. But
they could not go to anyone to
enforce this claim. When law
recognises some claims they become
enforceable. We can then demand
their application. When fellow
citizens or the government do not
respect these rights we call it
violation or infringement of our
rights. In such circumstances
citizens can approach courts to
protect their rights. So, if we want
to call any claim a right, it has to
have these three qualities. Rights
are reasonable claims of persons
recognised by society and
sanctioned by law.
W W W W Wh h h h hy do w y do w y do w y do w y do we nee e nee e nee e nee e need r d r d r d r d righ igh igh igh ights in a ts in a ts in a ts in a ts in a
democr democr democr democr democrac ac ac ac acy? y? y? y? y?
Rights are necessary for the very
sustenance of a democracy. In a
democracy every citizen has to have
the right to vote and the right to
be elected to government. For
democratic elections to take place, it
is necessary that citizens should
have the right to express their
opinion, form political parties and
take part in political activities.
Rights also perform a very special
role in a democracy. Rights protect
minorities from the oppression of
majority. They ensure that the
majority cannot do whatever it likes.
Rights are guarantees which can be
used when things go wrong. Things
may go wrong when some citizens
may wish to take away the rights of
others. This usually happens when
those in majority want to dominate
those in minority. The government
should protect the citizens’ rights in
such a situation. But sometimes
elected governments may not
protect or may even attack the rights
of their own citizens. That is why
some rights need to be placed higher
than the government, so that the
government cannot violate them. In
most democracies the basic rights
of the citizen are written down in the
constitution.
What are the
examples of
elected
governments not
protecting or even
attacking the rights
of their own
citizens? Why do
they do that?
Rationalised 2023-24
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook: Democratic Rights - Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

1. What are democratic rights?
Ans. Democratic rights refer to the fundamental rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every citizen in a democratic society. These rights include the right to equality, right to freedom of speech and expression, right to vote, right to information, and right to participate in the decision-making process.
2. How are democratic rights protected in a democracy?
Ans. Democratic rights are protected in a democracy through various mechanisms. Firstly, they are enshrined in the constitution of the country, which acts as a legal document and provides the framework for protecting these rights. Additionally, an independent judiciary ensures that these rights are upheld and any violation is addressed. Furthermore, citizens can exercise their democratic rights through participation in elections, peaceful protests, and engaging in public discourse.
3. Can democratic rights be restricted or limited?
Ans. Yes, democratic rights can be restricted or limited in certain circumstances. These limitations are usually imposed to protect the larger interests of society or to maintain law and order. For example, the right to freedom of speech and expression can be limited if it incites violence or poses a threat to national security. However, any restriction on democratic rights should be reasonable, proportionate, and in accordance with the principles of a democratic society.
4. What is the significance of the right to vote in a democracy?
Ans. The right to vote is one of the most significant democratic rights as it empowers citizens to choose their representatives in the government. It ensures that every citizen has an equal say in shaping the policies and decisions that affect their lives. By exercising their right to vote, individuals can actively participate in the democratic process and hold their elected representatives accountable.
5. How can citizens assert their democratic rights?
Ans. Citizens can assert their democratic rights in various ways. Firstly, they can actively participate in elections by casting their votes for the candidates of their choice. Secondly, citizens can engage in peaceful protests, demonstrations, and public forums to raise their concerns and demand action from the government. Additionally, citizens can also seek legal remedies by approaching the courts if their democratic rights are violated. Overall, citizen participation and active engagement are crucial in asserting and safeguarding democratic rights.
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