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  • Shreya Tiwari


Updated: Feb 2, 2022

The word human rights evoke an inherent definition of ‘man’ as a distinct entity. What exactly is a man in terms of human rights? The concept of human rights says that a person is entitled to some rights just because he was born as a man, his existence is real and substantive. Whatever he is supposed to have, he will have in his life.

The generally accepted thumb rule is - Rights that are fundamental, are not awarded by human power, and cannot be surrendered are called human rights. The concept of Human rights dates back to about 4000 years ago. Its first evidence was found in a tablet created by the Sumerian king Hammurabi about 4000 years ago. It contained 282 laws on legal rights of humans. The model, though considered barbaric in today's world, served as a basis for human rights laws today.

Greek philosophers have constantly argued about human rights, it’s intermingling with concepts of individualism and nationalism, the constant tussle between such rights and the authority of the state.

The Greek philosophers believed that there was a natural moral order, which should provide the basis for all truly rational systems of justice.

As mankind progressed, so did its views on human rights. The 14th century saw the beginning of one of the darkest eras in mankind’s history- the era of slavery. Several attacks were made on the life and liberty of man during the era of slavery. Man as an individual surrendered his freedom, women had to give up their most important ornament, their dignity.


The worst was yet to come - the world saw the rise of one called “Hitler”. What followed was the extermination of Jews in Germany and the widespread subjugation of human rights. To counter such base behaviour and a reprisal of basic human rights, mankind responded with - “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December 1948 that enshrined the rights and freedoms of individuals.

Today, as we enter into an era besotted by technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and much more, it becomes even more important that we don’t lose sight of the bedrock, the beacon of hope on which the humanity as we know now has thrived upon – “HUMAN RIGHTS''. It is easy to forget about these rights in the blinding pace of development and the ensuing razzmatazz. Ignoring incidents like the treatment of Rohingya, the harsh attitude of Chinese administration towards the Uighur community is very easy because it doesn’t affect us directly. However, we must always remember the prose by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller–

First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Cover Image: Getty Images/

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