The Powerful Mighty State versus the Human Rights Defenders: The Courage to Challenge the Unruly Authority

9 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019

Date Written: June 27, 2019


In December 2018, the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) across the globe pledge to bolster their support for human rights defenders amidst a growing climate of threats and reprisals. While adopting the Marrakech Declaration and reaffirming the principles of Paris Declaration, NHRIs recognized that "Human rights defenders have a positive, important and legitimate role in contributing to the realisation of all human rights, at the local, national, regional and international levels,". The National Human Rights Commission of India too, in its recent workshop organized in June 2019 observed that human rights defenders play a crucial role in a democracy and that the Commission is endeavored to create the enabling environment for the safeguard of human rights of defenders.

Yet, the situation in India is that human rights defenders have been targeted, attacked, harassed, threatened and have been charged in false cases by both the state and the non-state actors including police, armed groups and private actors. The mighty bureaucratic state apparatus abuses all its power to crush any resistance. More specifically, over the recent years, the role of the state has been transforming from the `welfare’ regime to the capitalist neoliberal order, therefore a situation is created where common people are forced to resist. But those ruling elite exploit all their might and resources to make sure that it sends the loud message that the dissent will not be tolerated. The elitist, caste-based, majority-linked misogynist hegemony oiled by inequality of division of capital is destroying the idea of the diverse plural country. The scale of violation and abuse of power by the state and not state actors is increasing over the years.

The situation is that those who have been advocating for the rights of the marginalized and indigenous communities are those who have been facing grave onslaught of threats. Some have been shot dead, others have been implicated in the false cases, facing censorship, physically assaulted, kidnapped, involved in the unjust prosecution, unlawful, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, unauthorized searches, financial threat of losing livelihoods or are being intimidated. Those working on the issues such as caste-based discrimination, environment, land rights, right to information, business and human rights are particularly vulnerable to undue arbitrary intimidation, arrest, threat, restriction and detention. Poets, journalists, artists, lawyers, activists, and many other such professionals are being specifically targeted because they are perceived as a threat by the ruling elite. These new forms of emerging challenges before the HRDs call for rigorous efforts to safeguard their rights. This write up looks at the emerging challenges and suggests that the institutions such as NHRC, the civil society and the international organizations should proactively act expeditiously to devise the measures to defend the HRDs.

Keywords: HRDs, NHRC, Human rights, defending HRDs, state

Suggested Citation

Nigam, Shalu, The Powerful Mighty State versus the Human Rights Defenders: The Courage to Challenge the Unruly Authority (June 27, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Shalu Nigam (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

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