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134. Rights and Duties

I learnt from my illiterate but wise mother that all rights to be deserved and preserved came from duty well done," wrote Gandhiji in a letter addressed to Dr. Julian Huxley, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. This letter, which was written while Gandhiji was traveling in a train to Delhi in May 1947, was in reply to an invitation to 60 leading personalities throughout the world to define what they thought would form the basis of a "World Charter of Human Rights".

"As I am constantly on the move I never get my post in time," Gandhiji explained. "But for your letter to Pandit Nehru in which you referred to your letter to me, I might have missed your letter."

Regretting that he had no time to give Dr. Huxley a statement at the length he desired, Gandhiji added : "But what is truer is that I am a poor reader of literature, past or present, much as I should like to read some of its gems. Living a stormy life since my early youth, I had no leisure to do the necessary readings."

Defining his view of human rights, Gandhiji said : "The very right to live accrues to us only when we do the duty of citizenship of the world. Every other right can be shown to be an usurpation hardly worth fighting for."

Further light on the subject is thrown by the cable which Gandhiji sent to the late Mr. H. G. Wells. Gandhiji's cable ran as follows :

"Received your cable. Have carefully read your five articles. You will permit me to say you are on the wrong track. I feel sure that I can draw up a better charter of rights than you have drawn up. But what good will it be? Who will become its guardian? If you mean propaganda or popular education you have begun at the wrong end. I suggest the right way.

"Begin with a charter of Duties of Man and I promise the rights will follow as spring follows winter. I Write from experience. As a young man I began life by seeking to assert my rights and I soon discovered I had noneónot even over my wife. So "I began by discovering and per≠forming my duty by my wife, my children, my friends, companions and society arid I find today that I have greater rights perhaps than any living man I know. If this is too tall a claim, then I say I do not know anyone who possesses greater rights than I."