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A Vital Voice For Human Rights

If one keeps aside the memory of the Cold War from the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, then the person can concentrate only on an important need… the need of a strong and ethical voice at the interface between the terms State and People. This is a fact not only in case of the current geopolitical situation in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, but also in India, Turkey and the US. Of course, there exist lots of theoretical discussions and disagreements about the exact nature of Civil Society and the extent of its duties. Interestingly, the first paragraph of the statement issued by the Nobel Committee contains the main duties of a Civil Society. Those are to promote the Right to Criticise Power, and to Protect the Fundamental Rights of citizens. The importance of these two duties have always been there in Democracy. However, the role of Civil Society has become crucial in recent times, with the power of autocratic rulers increasing gradually in different parts of the globe.

Efforts to suppress the voice of Civil Society (especially if it opposes the Regime) are global phenomena. Belarusian Pro-Democracy Activist Ales Viktaravich Bialiatski, one of the three recipients of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, is still behind bars, without standing a trial. One may recall that Jesuit priest and Indian Tribal Rights Activist Father Stan Swamy perished in custody, at the age of 84, in July 2021. Although Varavara Rao, the 81-year-old Indian activist, poet, teacher and writer, was released on bail in August 2022 after being imprisoned for several months; many others are still in different jails in the South Asian country. While some of them are accused of sedition, others are accused of involvement in the conspiracy. Like Belarus and Russia, the Indian State, too, is so strict against Civil Society.

All these representatives of Civil Society, who have come under the surveillance of the mighty State, have opposed the discriminatory and undemocratic behaviour of their respective Governments. In a sense, the wrath of the ruler is an acknowledgment of the fact that these people are responsible representatives of Civil Society. Those, who fulfill this responsibility, choose their path mainly because of their conscience. The initial reward for them is torture by the State Power, but the long-term reward is the proper restoration of Democracy. Their main aim is to leave the society liveable for future generations.

In India, the ruling class has developed a give-and-take relation with the Civil Society. As a result, the democratic institutions have started losing their relevance. Hence, they are struggling to safeguard the Civil Society. However, it would be a mistake to consider the democratic institutions as the only form of Civil Society. Civil Society is not a static entity, as its form keeps changing. In recent times, resistance has taken place in different countries through the formation of new social alliances.

Responsible members of the Civil Society, like Bialiatski, know that this resistance is the heartbeat of society.

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