President Droupadi Murmu on Wednesday urged not to treat the human rights issue in isolation and sought "equal attention" to nursing the natural environment, lamenting that Mother Nature has been "deeply wounded" by human indiscretions.
Addressing a gathering at the biennial conference of national human rights institutions of the Asia Pacific at Vigyan Bhawan, she also said the love for nature should be rekindled to conserve and enrich it "before it is too late".
The event is being organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India, in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) from September 20-21.
Murmu said she looked at the list of conferences the forum previously held and expressed her happiness that this is the first in-person sitting in the post-Covid phase.
"I am told that the conference is being attended by nearly 100 foreign delegates," she said.
Murmu also underlined the degradation the natural environment is facing.
"Human beings are as good a creator as a destroyer. According to scientific studies, this planet has entered the phase of sixth extinction where man-made destruction, if not stopped, will be the undoing of not only the human race but also the other lives on the earth," Murmu said.
"In this context, I would urge you to not to treat the issue of human rights in isolation and pay equal attention to nursing Mother Nature, which is deeply wounded by the indiscretions of human beings," she added.
In India, the president added, "We believe that every particle of the universe is a manifestation of divinity. Let us rekindle our love for nature to conserve and enrich it before it is too late."
Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions Secretary Amina Bouayach, APF Chairperson Doo-Hwan Song and NHRC Chairperson Justice (Retd) Arun Kumar Mishra shared the dais with Murmu.
The APF is also holding its 28th annual general meeting at Vigyan Bhawan on Wednesday to discuss the issues of common interest to member countries.
Representatives of national human rights institutions from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Phillipines, Jordan and Australia, among other countries, are taking part in the conference.
Murmu said, "Let us ponder for a moment the causes of the pandemic and natural disasters that have been taking place all around us. Let us also ponder over the challenges of climate change that have been threatening the very existence of the planet."
The concept of human rights is ever-evolving, dynamic and "quite close to my heart" in public life. As humankind grows morally and spiritually, the definition of human rights gets further evolved, she asserted.
"What gives me immense satisfaction is the fact that this concept is deeply rooted in Indian civilisation. The world saw the first glimpse of it when, after massive destruction caused by the two successive World Wars, the United Nations General Assembly came up with a formulation 'all men are born free and equal' as the beginning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," she said.
"It was then India's representative, Hansaben Mehta, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and freedom fighter, who suggested changing it to 'all human beings are born free and equal'. Her change of one word expanded the notion of rights," the president said.
Gandhi's life and thoughts were also critical in shaping the draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He influenced the human rights discourse. It was under his influence that the "notion of human rights came to be expanded from basic necessities of life to dignity of life as well", Murmu said.
"As many of you know, on June 7, 1893, Gandhi was robbed of his dignity when he was thrown out of a first-class compartment of a train at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa on account of racial discrimination. He was a changed man then and went on to inspire millions to fight for their rights and dignity," the president recalled.
Similarly, Dr BR Ambedkar was an ardent champion of human rights. He taught the depressed classes to stand for their rights and live with dignity, she said.
"He (Ambedkar) also led from the front in shaping the Constitution of India, which is not only aligned with the modern concept of rights, liberty and justice but also deeply rooted in the Indian ethos that sees the world as one family -- 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' -- the echo of which resonated during the recently-concluded G20 Summit," she said.
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