Outline: An awareness of rights is recent – agitation for all kinds of rights is harmful to a country – rights involve duties – conclusion.

The concept of the rights of man is recent and is associated with growth of democracy and belief in respect for the individual. In the ancient and medieval world an individual has no rights, but duties, obligations and loyalties. Consequently, there was much injustice and exploitation of the poorer and weaker sections of society by the rich and powerful. Though it cannot be claimed that there is adequate justice in the modern world, every citizen of a democratic country has certain rights and he can try to assert them and fight for them. The Indian constitution guarantees certain Fundamental Rights like the right to freedom of expression and the right to pursue any religion or culture to which one belongs.

One cannot help feeling that the emphasis on rights has been carried too far in the modern world. Some people seem to think that they have a right to do whatever they like. Industrial workers, Government employees, students and women insist on fantastic rights and adopt agitational methods to secure them. Hence the spate of strikes, morchas, gheraos that are a prominent feature of our public life. It should be realised that insistence on all kinds of rights and employing violent methods to obtain them hinders the progress of newly-independent countries like India which need stability and order. We should learn to distinguish between legitimate rights and spurious rights.

The best solution of the problem is to be aware that all rights are accompanied by obligations. Every rights has a duty corresponding to it. To take a simple example, you have a right to play your radio to any volume you like, but your right clashes with your neighbour’s right to have reasonable amount of peace and silence in his house. If the blare of your neighbour’s radio prevents you from sleeping at night you are annoyed, aren’t you? So your right to use your right in any manner is inseparable from your duty of not disturbing your neighbours. Similarly, the right to freedom of expression involves the duty of not making irresponsible statements and not hurting the feelings of others. A linguistic or cultural group has a right to advance its interests, but at the time it is its duty to see to it that its activities do not infringe the same right possessed by other groups.

Man is a social being. The progress of a society depends on the co-operation of its members and the respect they have for one another. The tendency to harp on one’s rights without remembering one’s duties leads to conflicts and social disruption. We should agitate for our legitimate rights, but, not for those rights that are likely to jeopardize national unity and development. This is ensured by an awareness that rights involve duties.

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