All beings are fond of themselves, they like pleasure, they hate pain, they shun destruction, they like life and want to live long. To all, life is dear; hence their life should be protected.
Talk about Article 21 (in India) and it goes without saying it is one’s right to life being talked about. As a law, Article 21 has secured the personal liberty of an individual and gives its word that the flame of life would never ever douse except according to the procedure established by law. The right to life assures a man that he has a right to live, and particularly that he has the right not be killed by another human being. This right, everyone knows, is the pivotal hub of every other law that exists, not only in a country, but in the entire world and gets vested in a person even when he is not born. The very basic reason being that a life, no matter how big or small, is priceless. Its value is inestimable. Protection attached to one’s life is not only in the interest of the person whose life is being protected, but also to the ones who depend on him, who connect with him, to his near and dear ones.
The right to life has gained tremendous concern since its recognition in the late 1770’s, and is still gaining increasing weight around the globe. It is the basic right of an individual and is intrinsically worthwhile, and therefore, pressing demands for the protection of life have compelled the governments to adopt every possible step which may go to protect and secure the life of an individual. The taking of human life has been strongly condemned by most world religions and philosophies over the centuries so much so that the conventions world over permit the killing of human beings or awarding capital punishments only in extremely extraordinary and rare cases. In India, Bachan Singh’s case marked the transition in capital cases to make capital punishment an exception as a death sentence or a capital punishment extinguishes the flame of life forever and is plainly destructive of the right to life, the most precious rights of all, a right without which enjoyment of no other rights is possible. The life sentence was made the rule and death penalty an exception, as against the exact opposite. Stress was laid on a more compassionate and humane concern and to realize the value of human life.
Coming to the point of sharing, it is actually not sharing BUT recognizing, appreciating and becoming aware of the fact that it is not only human life which is priceless, but the animal life which also is of the same value. Maybe and very evidently not to us humans, but very definitely to the creatures belonging to the animal kingdom. Let’s take an example of a chicken, which, in platter, is very popular among the non-vegetarians in forms of butter chicken, stuffed chicken, roasted chicken, country chicken, chicken korma and the list is endless. Does it not amount to taking of a life of a being? It is not a human being, but it is surely an ‘animal’ being. If we are to establish relations among the animals, a chick is a hen’s ‘child’ and the hen, of course the ‘mother’ and the cock the ‘father’. A hen does not give birth to just one chick, it gives birth to several of them. Thus, the chick has ‘siblings’ as well. This is a ‘chicken’ family and there are blood relations in it, exactly like that of a human family. Then, how and why should it matter whether the “being” is a human being or an animal being? And why only human life be protected and not animal life, despite there being numerous legislations for the same? Why do the courts in every country hold that a human being’s life is priceless and his death brings in mental agony and traumas gone through by his family members which are considered the worst amongst human beings; while, on the other hand, licenses given, every now and then, to the abattoirs? Just like that of a human; isn’t a life of an animal precious to its mother, to its siblings (if they can be so called) or for that matter any relation that an animal has with others of its kind? They have everything we have. And they do everything we do. Then where is the difference? They see, touch, play, hear, love, feel, feel and avoid pain and suffering and do every other action that a human can do. Only in how they look and how we look!
And if we say that they lack rationality, as it is the distinguishing feature between an animal and a human, and therefore, they are objects and not subjects of law; then how is a person of unsound mind and a newly born child, who also lack rationality, different from animals. Yet, the former are protected. And also, if we say we humans are capable of bringing a constitution in force to protect our lives and animals are deprived of the very same ability, then that does not mean we give our lives protection through our constitution and animals give away their lives through OUR constitution. People trading in animal hides and products made therefrom and thus earning livelihood very readily have the answer as “lack of means of livelihood”, something which is imperative under and for Article 21, if ever they apprehend a ban on such trade or shutting down of slaughter houses. Through our constitution we have given ourselves the RIGHT to take away lives. The RIGHT to take away somebody’s child, somebody’s sibling, somebody’s loved one from someone, the very right which is protected under our constitution, but discriminatingly for us human beings. The writer does not wish that the Article 21 be extended to animals, which in no circumstance, can be; but atleast should not be used as a tool to deprive the non-possessors of a constitution of their lives.
‘“Mere paas ma hai”, an ordinary dialogue of a Bollywood movie aptly describes the magnitude of the word ‘mother’ or ‘ma’ as we all call her. To a child, she is the first human touch, his first connection, his first love and his first guide into the journey of this world. For a mother, her child becomes her whole world. Just gaze into your mother’s eyes and you will know the true meaning of ‘unconditional love’. A mother does not only take care of her child but can also transform him into a mighty warrior to protect her child from any crisis.’ These are the lines that are taken from the Times of India on the occasion of mother’s day (dated 08.05.2011). It is certain from these lines that we humans do acknowledge the importance of our mother in our lives. And so do our mothers of us in their lives. Now, it is not that only ‘human’ children have mothers and animals do not and therefore, we reserve one day out of the 365 days to celebrate mother’s day and tell her how special or important she is for us in our lives. The writer does not vouch for animals celebrating mother’s day, which they obviously do not do, but presses for the fact, which needs to be realized, that the mute animals also have mothers, who are also capable of giving ‘unconditional and motherly love’ to their young ones, to whom also their young ones are the whole world. The very popular adage that goes around the globe that ‘to a child, his mother is the first human touch’, is not only applicable to us humans; but a mother IS also the first ‘animal’ touch, if we talk in regard to animals.
Human right is certainly to live and also to let live. We exercise this ‘let live’ duty against other human beings because, in a way, we are forced to let others live, by our constitution; but where we are not forced, or where it is not incumbent upon us, we start out on a slaughter spree, as in the case of animals. It is to be noted that a female animal does not give birth to its young ones for us humans to either gobble them down our throats, or to use them for leather or for cloth, or to be used in fighting competitions. It gives birth, for the very same purpose as humans, to have a child of its own and to see it grow and live. Every being on this planet wants to live the life it has been given, and to live it fearlessly, and without pain and suffering.
Those whose minds are at peace and who are free from passions do not desire to live at the expense of others.
Student, Amity Law School, Delhi GGS IPU), Noida
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]