IS ITS TRUE THAT THE IDEA OF HUMAN RIGHTS SPREAD FROM BABYLON TO INDIA?
Sunil Babu Pant/Kathmandu (Pahichan) July 2 – Recently an article was in circulation, titled: LEGENDARY ACTIVISTS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV. They have compiled a remarkable list of activists but guess what? All 13 activists listed were Americans.
Then I Google-d: A Brief History of Human Rights. My disappointment, as it contains only ‘western’ historical events, stories and dates.
The history of human rights I read has been written, as the only facts, as something like: ‘Cyrus the Great, in 539 BC after conquering the city of Babylon, who freed all slaves to return home’. And they also claim that ‘from Babylon, the idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and eventually Rome’. Is it really true? Then off course, they also talk about the Magna Carta of 1215, …..more ‘historical events and dates from the ‘West’….. and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
But they never talk about how other regions, cultures and traditions might have been championing human rights far earlier and/or at far greater extent. For example, The Buddha, who was born in 624 BC in Lumbini of Kapilabastu, which is now in Nepal, southern border to India; after enlightenment, not only propagate that the caste based untouchability was wrong and discouraged caste based discrimination but also allowed the Dalits(untouchables) to join religious and monastic life. During the Buddhist period of India, during and after the Emperor Asoka (from 300BC-1000AD), caste based discriminations were not practiced (was largely abandoned) in Indian subcontinent. Buddha also allowed a sex worker, Ambapali, to be ordained and became a nun, which was so revolutionary and unthinkable even today to many ‘western’ societies. He also allowed a serial killer, Angulimal, to be transformed from a heinous criminal to a compassionate monk, who otherwise would have faced the death penalty by the ruler then (and is not this far beyond of today’s habeas corpus?).
Both the Buddha (founder of Buddhism) and the Mhavira (founder of Jainism) condemned ritual-animal-sacrifices and championed animal rights too, not just limiting to human rights. Both Buddhism and Jainism condemned and discouraged human-slave-trade much before Cyrus the Great conquering Babylon and freed the slaves in 539 BC.
I am sure there are similar historical events, dates and stories related to human rights championing from other regions, cultures and traditions like Indigenous, Tribal, Africans, Japanese, Chinese, and so on.
So is ‘the written’ human rights history is fair to all regions, cultures and traditions?