Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas's Message Marking 75th Anniversary of International Human Rights Day

Dec 01, 2023
By Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas

The World remembers that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  adopted in 1946 and published in 1948 – marking 75 years! But today we mourn the deaths and condemn the continuing violence in Palestine.

I, Laxminarayan Ramdas, better known as ‘Ramu’, joined the Indian Navy in 1949 as a raw teenager, with fire in my belly, and a burning passion to serve my newly independent nation and her people. By a strange coincidence, my trajectory in the newly minted armed forces and that of a newly minted nation, were closely intertwined . I joined as a 15 year old cadet and I ended up heading the service I had served for over 40 years, as the Navy Chief – retiring at age 60 in Sept 1993.

One of the early lessons we learned from our teachers and mentors at the Joint Services Wing – the precursor of the National Defence Academy – was  loyalty to the newly adopted Constitution. We studied and discussed our inspiring Preamble, which summed up all the aspirations of a people who  won freedom from colonization. We resolved to build a just and fair society where we would eliminate poverty and hunger, caste and creed, and above all, establish a spirit of Fraternity. The idea of of Universal Human Rights for all mirrored the spirit of Vasudaiva Kuttumbakam – a powerful existing vision of our region, which saw the World as one Family.

As young leaders of a new India our thoughts and actions were anchored firmly in an unshakeable belief in something that I termed C3I …standing for

 Commitment, Courage and Compassion, with Integrity being the cementing force.

However, as I look back today, over these 75 years, many of the dreams and ideals we had hoped to see as reality, have been shattered. And the constant question in my mind is with regard to the extent to which the privileged like myself have been complicit because of our silence. 


As soon as I retired in 1993 we moved to a rural area where we have lived for the past 30 years. I have been Re-Learning Citizenship after a Lifetime on Ships!  This was a learning laboratory for people like us who had spent a life time in the privileged sanctuaries of the military and had little idea of the world outside…I was clear that we needed Peace in our neighbourhood if we were to bring millions out of poverty – hence my active work in building people to people dialogues between India and Pakistan.

 I became an activist – from a Man o’ war to a man o’ Peace.


Some of what has made me question deeply the pathway we have taken includes the experience of partition, emergency leading up to Babri masjid demolition and the Godhra riots. The fact that India has been falling on almost all Global Developmental Indices, makes me question the path we have taken. 

I am deeply concerned by the destruction of the institutions which are the base of a healthy polity as well as the growing move towards right wing extremism and fascism – targeting minorities. 

Admiral Ramdas served as the Chief of Naval Staff in the Indian Navy, and is currently involved in human rights activism.