Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

SACW | 03 Oct. 2005

Expand Messages
  • sacw
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 03 October, 2005 [1] Pakistan - India: Will the next summit succeed? (M B Naqvi) [2] Minorities In South Asia (K.N.Panikkar) +
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2005
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 03 October, 2005

      [1] Pakistan - India: Will the next summit succeed? (M B Naqvi)
      [2] Minorities In South Asia (K.N.Panikkar)
      + Declaration Adopted by the delegates to the
      workshop on the Condition of Minorities in SAARC
      Countries (New Delhi, 16-17-18 September, 2005)
      [3] India: Access Denied : a secular country
      with communal and sexist adoption laws?
      (Editorial, The Times of India)



      The News International
      September 21, 2005


      by M B Naqvi

      Indo-Pakistan Summit on Wednesday (Sept 14) only
      succeeded in continuing the talks and saying that
      terrorism and other impediments will not be
      allowed to derail the dialogue. There was no word
      about further agreements. President Pervez
      Musharraf has put a positive spin on this
      blankness. One hopes he is right. The Composite
      Dialogue has failed in its first two rounds. It
      was expected that this Summit would agree to
      inaugurate the Third Round. It has not done so.
      In a way, we are back to square one, if not
      further behind it.

      Let's enumerate the issues that require
      resolution. One puts them in six boxes. The first
      is about Kashmir. The second groups Siachin and
      Sir Creek problems. The third comprises issues
      connected with water, the offsprings of Kashmir
      problem that are growing up. The fourth is the
      nuclear issue all the implications of which are
      not yet recognised. The ramifications of these
      weapons are far reaching and if the problem is
      not defined, debated and resolved, no other
      settlement will work. It is linked to overall
      purposes of the two countries: whether they will
      be friends or enemies will hinge less on Kashmir
      and more on nuclear weapons. The fifth are
      questions of free trade, MFN status for India and
      the rights of Indian goods' to and fro transit
      through Pakistan. A lot of benefits for all are

      Finally, there is free travel and the visa regime
      between the two. Its importance is seminal.
      Unless there is free travel for common people of
      each country in the other's territories, there
      would be little progress on any issue. In that
      sense, all issues are inter-dependent though some
      are more important. Among these are four: free
      travel, free trade, nuclear issue and Kashmir.

      Indications were that the New York encounter
      would sort out Siachin and Sir Creek. Well, it
      didn't. Whether the next encounters will or will
      not resolve is the question. They are easiest to
      resolve. Everybody knows that a settlement on
      Siachin had been arrived at and a treaty had been
      initialed. Sir Creek is also not a grave issue.
      Would they settle these next time? Let's wait.

      As for Kashmir, the assessment is like half full
      or half empty glass. Pakistan wants a settlement
      that "satisfies the two countries", though for PR
      purposes Kashmiris' satisfaction is frequently
      mentioned. The jointly accepted formulation is
      "to the satisfaction of the two countries". For
      Pakistan, Kashmir is a litmus test; it is still
      for "Kashmir first and other things later". As
      for a possible Kashmir settlement, Mr. Manmohan
      Singh has again identified the Red Lines beyond
      which India will not go: this is redrawing of the
      present boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir state,
      i.e. India's sovereignty over the state's parts
      it controls, cannot be questioned. What may be
      left is a half-formal and half-informal
      settlement in separate regions that President
      Musharraf had indicated at one stage. That Indian
      Prime Minister has shown annoyance at President
      Musharraf's mention of Kashmir in his General
      Assembly speech throws a blindingly clear light
      on the problem's current status.

      Don't forget Kashmir has been a bone of
      contention for 58 years. Strong vested interests
      have grown up in both countries leading them to
      militarise and has set each against the other.
      The history of three wars and many quasi-wars is
      militarisation's result. These vested interests
      work against the India-Pakistan friendship, which
      would hurt them. Industrial-military lobbies
      comprise resourceful people with much influence,
      for they ride on the chariot of patriotism.
      Unless the common people on both sides
      determinedly pressurise the two governments to
      become close friends, the vested interests would
      always prevent a final settlement. That needs to
      sink in on both countries.

      Nuclear weapons are a misunderstood issue. Two
      hostile Nuclear Deterrents, confronting each
      other from such close quarters, cannot permit
      friendship between India and Pakistan. Period.
      Nuclear weapons being weapons of attack only,
      with no defence against them, two such states can
      never trust each other. So long as the issue is
      not resolved radically to either make the two
      deterrents disappear or the relationship should
      become so close that hostility between the two
      becomes unthinkable --- such as is the case of
      France and Britain. Probably, Indian and
      Pakistani hardliners still believe in the
      illusion that a dÈtente can possibly prevent the
      two from going to war and enable political
      agreements to work.

      Well, no such detente has emerged in two years. A
      certain number of CBMs have certainly been
      implemented; some more are likely to be. But are
      CBMs a solution? For the relationship to be so
      reoriented as to make hostility between the two
      unbelievable the two sets of Hostile Deterrents
      will have to disappear; nothing else will work.
      This issue needs far more debate to notionally
      define solutions. It is a big issue and surpasses
      Kashmir in importance.

      The fourth set of disputes are again easy if the
      political will to resolve them pre-exists. If
      not, they too become a major issue. For Pakistan,
      water is increasingly being recognised as its
      Achille's heel. It needs ever more water for
      irrigation and drinking for an exploding
      population. The hopeful factor in this is that
      both countries want to remain bound by the 1960
      treaty on Indus Waters. It provides a workable
      framework to sort out such issues, if necessary
      by arbitration. Baglihar issue has already been
      referred to the World Bank for arbitration. But
      given political will both issues can be resolved.

      As for free trade and transit, Pakistan has made
      Kashmir the fulcrum on which everything turns. If
      Kashmir is not resolved, Pakistan would not give
      India MFN status, shun free trade with it, nor
      grant it transit rights for its trade with
      Central Asia. This is inconsistent with the need
      to exploit all economic opportunities. If no
      trade and no transit for four decades have not
      forced India to accept the Pakistani viewpoint,
      another forty years can also be wasted. The
      question is should Pakistan continue to insist on
      "Kashmir or nothing"?

      This policy has produced no results. It is
      futile. India refuses to see it as a strong
      pressure; it is unlikely to submit to Pakistan's
      wishes. It is profitable for Pakistan to take
      what is available and feasible. This means mutual
      enrichment of trading classes. Economic
      cooperation flows out of free trade and
      development follows. Sky is the limit for
      economic cooperation between India and Pakistan,
      which can easily be extended to the whole of
      South Asia. Islamabad can unlock trade, economic
      cooperation and development by giving India the
      MFN Status and easy transit rights.

      Lastly, there is the question of free travel and
      cultural exchanges between the two peoples.
      Hitherto both states have restricted visas to
      only a few on compassionate grounds. The paranoia
      of intelligence agencies in the two countries
      needs to be curbed; free travel by people will
      not undermine either state. The states are well
      established and strong enough to bear the
      "threat" of free travel. All civilised countries
      permit free travel. The Subcontinentals talk of
      6000-year-old civilization. But their behaviour
      belies any respect for their inheritance. Ideally
      there should be no visas between India and
      Pakistan. If they become friends, economically
      cooperate and engage in free trade, free travel
      and free cultural exchanges nothing injurious can
      happen and much will be gained. Look at what
      Nepal and Sri Lanka do. Scope for useful
      cooperation in culture and media needs no




      sacw.net & communalism Watch - October 2, 2005

      by K.N.Panikkar

      The increasing infringement of the rights of
      minorities in the countries of South Asia during
      the last two decades has been a matter of
      considerable concern. The success of
      fundamentalist forces to gain access to state
      power in varying degrees of control and thus to
      exercise influence over the government have
      brought about a social and political climate
      inimical to the interest of the minorities. At
      the same time liberal support which is crucial
      for the well being of the minorities had become
      substantially weaker and uncertain. The partition
      of the subcontinent had already undermined the
      sense of security the minorities had enjoyed and
      had jeopardized the social peace which
      characterized the community relations. The
      momentum acquired by fundamentalism during the
      last two decades has worsened the situation. In
      fact, the history of minorities in South Asia is
      a history of increasing discrimination and
      deprivation and undermining in the process the
      historical tradition of living together, even if
      with differences. This experience naturally
      foregrounds the question about the rights of the
      minorities and the safeguards necessary to ensure

      The International Covenant on Civil and Political
      Rights adopted in 1966 had laid down that
      in those states in which ethnic, religious or
      linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to
      such minorities shall not be denied the right, in
      community with the other members of their group,
      to enjoy their own culture, to profess and
      practice their own religion, or to use their own
      language .

      The above prescription by the Covenant underlines
      the cultural rights of the minorities which is
      indeed critical, but not exhaustive in fully
      defining the South Asian experience. For the
      debilities from which the minorities in the
      countries of the region suffer from are not
      limited to the cultural; they are as much victims
      of social and economic discrimination. Whether
      minority as a category based on religion,
      language, ethnicity etc would fully encapsulate
      the problems faced by such groups, therefore,
      becomes doubtful. Moreover, the minorities,
      whatever their constitutive factor, are not
      homogenous entities, but highly differentiated
      groups, socially, culturally and economically. In
      other words the category of minority is a
      totalizing concept, reflective only of partial
      social reality. When the question of minority
      became a political issue during the national
      movement, although internal differences were
      sought to be erased, the limitations of the
      concept was not altogether overlooked . Yet,
      minority as a category became part of the
      political practice and discourse. It raises the
      question as to how a minority is constituted.

      Constitution of Minorities

      The numerical strength is a necessary, though not
      a sufficient condition for the constitution of a
      minority. A group with numerical disadvantage may
      exist without experiencing itself as a minority,
      either politically or socially or culturally. The
      constitution of a minority is primarily
      contingent upon two factors. First, the self
      perception of the group as a minority in relation
      to other groups in society on the basis of
      certain experienced disadvantages and second,
      discriminatory or hostile treatment meted out by
      the majority. In this context the role of the
      nation state becomes quite central. The minority
      consciousness develops and legitimized when
      discrimination, if not persecution, is
      experienced. A community ‘begins to perceive
      itself as a minority when it feels disadvantaged
      in the context of the nation state; and the claim
      for minority rights gets strengthened when a case
      of discrimination’ is convincingly made . The
      formation of the minority through such a process
      is integral to politics and the exercise of
      power, regardless of the system in which they are
      practiced. In the light of this it is arguable
      that minorities did not exist in pre-colonial
      South Asia . Surely, different religious groups
      did exist, but they were neither culturally nor
      politically disadvantaged nor victimized. For in
      matters of patronage discrimination on the basis
      of religion was not pursued by medieval
      governments, headed either by Hindu or Muslim
      rulers. Such a policy of non-discrimination was
      rooted in the social reality of commonly shared
      quotidian life experience anchored in mutual
      accommodation and respect. As a consequence,
      although different religious groups existed with
      different religious and cultural practices, there
      were no minorities. The minority was the creation
      of popular politics during the colonial period.

      The colonial manipulation of religious division
      in South Asia considerably contributed to the
      process by which the minorities came to be
      constituted as a distinct group. The infamous
      British policy of pitching one community against
      the other was at the root of the anxiety
      articulated by the minorities when the
      anti-colonial struggle gained momentum. Sir Syed
      Ahamad Khan’s call to the Muslims to keep away
      from the Indian National Congress led national
      movement was an expression of this anxiety. In a
      future political set up guided by democratic
      principles, it was feared, that the minorities
      would be deprived of power and privileges.
      However flawed such a perception of democracy
      might be the fact remains that it contributed to
      the internal consolidation of Muslims and also
      led to distancing themselves from other
      communities. In the name of allaying this
      apprehension, colonialism created safeguards in
      the form of separate electorates which only
      helped to increase the chasm between the
      communities. Every step for constitutional reform
      undertaken by colonialism reinforced community
      consciousness to such an extent that by the time
      the British decided to withdraw from India they
      left behind a society of warring communities.
      Hence the communal carnage at the time of
      independence which not only left permanent scar
      on the psyche of both the communities but also
      vitiated inter- community relations.

      The ways in which the interests of the minorities
      were to be safeguarded figured prominently in the
      debates over the constitution in both India and
      Pakistan. While political representation on the
      lines provided by the colonial rule was not
      favoured by the nationalist elite, the claim for
      cultural rights and religious freedom were
      considered necessary . Therefore, provision was
      made in articles 25 to 30 of the Indian
      Constitution for the protection of cultural
      rights and religious freedom of the minorities.
      Their political rights were assured by the
      secular- democratic character of the polity. In
      Pakistan, Mohamad Ali Jinnah declared in his
      speech to the Constituent Assembly that, ‘you may
      belong to any religion or caste or creed, there
      is no discrimination between one community and
      another, we are starting with this fundamental
      principle that we are citizens of one state.’
      Following this principle the 1973 constitution
      provided for religious freedom and protection of
      minorities . Thus both India and Pakistan pledged
      to respect cultural plurality, religious freedom
      and political equality. However, in practice
      these principles were often violated or even

      The distribution of minorities in South Asian
      states was such that the members of almost all
      religious denominations were present in one state
      or the other which created a peculiar chemistry
      of minority consciouness. The Muslims, Sikhs,
      Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsees in
      India; the Hindus and Christians in Pakistan and
      Bangladesh and Muslims and Christians in Sri
      Lanka have minority status. Such a situation led
      to reciprocity in the treatment of minorities and
      safeguarding of their rights. The idea of
      reciprocity had found articulation during the
      debate over minority rights in the Constituent
      Assembly in India. Participating in the debate
      Mahavir Tyagi who later became a member of the
      Nehru Cabinet, had suggested that consideration
      of minority rights should be postponed until
      Pakistan’s stand on this question became clear.
      Responding to it, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, the architect
      of the Indian Constitution, had asserted that the
      rights of the minorities should be absolute
      rights. They should not be subjected to any
      consideration as to what another party may like
      to do to the minorities within its jurisdiction .
      Nevertheless, after independence reciprocity has
      been the dominant principle which influenced the
      treatment of minorities in South Asian states.
      The way the minorities are treated in one country
      finds a resonance in another. The extra
      territorial identity attributed on the basis of
      religious belonging often leads to reprisals
      against minorities and their institutions. When
      the Hindu fanatics destroyed the Babri Masjid in
      1992 Hindu temples became targets of attack in
      both Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Pakistan one
      Hindu was killed and several others were injured
      and at least two dozen temples were destroyed in
      scattered incidents of violence against the
      community . In Bangladesh reprisals took place
      at a national scale .This in turn led to revenge
      against the Muslims in India. This extra
      –territorial identification has considerably
      vitiated the condition of the minorities. Most
      unfortunately the minorities are constantly
      called upon to prove their patriotism, be it at
      the time of war or at the time a cricket match.
      The extra- territorial identity has made the
      minorities extremely vulnerable in all South
      Asian states. A letter to the Editor in the
      widely read English newspaper Dawn, decried the
      popularly shared notion that by ‘virtue simply of
      being Hindu, they may be willing to work as
      Indian agents to the detriment of Pakistan. In
      other words, their patriotism is to be doubted.
      This way of thinking deserved to be discarded not
      only because of its validity is dubious, that its
      persistence invites fiction to become reality,
      but because Indian seduction is something which
      many Pakistani Muslims may also be susceptible.
      Pakistani Hindus pose much less of a threat to
      our national integrity than some Muslim forces
      currently operating in the country do.’ This
      statement is also true of the Hindus and Muslims
      of India. Despite the exemplary record of the
      Muslims in almost all walks of life the Hindu
      fundamentalists continue to question their
      patriotism and loyalty to the nation.

      Attitude of the State

      In all South Asian states minorities are
      relatively poor. One of the reasons for their
      plight is the indifference and neglect of the
      state. A good example of this attitude of the
      state is reflected in the minority’s share of
      government employment, which in almost all cases
      does not match their numerical strength.. It is
      possible that disabilities historically inherited
      like the relatively limited access to modern
      education and poorer social position might have
      contributed to it. But fifty-eight years is a
      sufficiently long period to overcome these
      disadvantages. In India the representation of
      Muslims in government administration is abysmally
      low. Among the central government employees the
      Muslims constitute only 4.41 per cent. The
      situation in the state governments is slightly
      better with the Muslims accounting for about six
      percent. But these percentages are drastically
      reduced in superior cadres. In class IV employees
      the Muslims constitute 5.12 percent, in class II
      three percent and class I only 1.61 percent.
      Muslims also suffer from similar disability in
      other fields of economic activities . The
      situation prevails in other South Asian
      countries is not substantially different. In
      Pakistan discrimination against non-Muslims is
      quite apparent. In the army, for instance,
      non-Muslims rarely rise above the rank of a
      colonel and even they are not assigned to
      sensitive positions. It is so in the civil
      service also .That state has not found a way to
      ensure their legitimate share in governmental
      opportunities is a matter which adversely affects
      social relations.

      Although the minorities are constitutionally
      entitled to equal rights, in actual practice this
      principle is not always respected. Both Pakistan
      and Bangladesh had begun as secular states where
      no discrimination on the basis of religion would
      be tolerated. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned
      Pakistan as a secular state where ‘Muslims will
      not be Muslims and Hindus will not be Hindus, not
      in a religious sense, but in a political sense,
      as citizens of a secular, democratic Pakistan’.
      Bangladesh when it came into being was fashioned
      as a secular republic. But both these countries
      soon changed track to adopt Islam as state
      religion which automatically placed the
      minorities in a disadvantageous position.
      Naturally what followed was discrimination
      against the minorities in political practice. In
      Pakistan, for instance, franchise rights are
      limited for the minorities. The non- Muslim
      voters can elect only ten members to the 217 seat
      lower house of parliament. Moreover, they can
      only vote for their co-religionists. In the
      upper house which is more powerful the minorities
      have no representation. The democratic rights of
      non-Muslims are thus severely restricted . The
      minorities have been protesting against this
      discrimination and restriction .

      The Pakistan government has enacted a series of
      laws which are particularly repressive for the
      minorities. For instance, the Blasphemy law
      enacted in Pakistan in 1986 which provides for
      punishing those who offend the Koran with life in
      prison and death penalty for those who insult the
      Prophet. Since its enactment, dozens of
      Christians have been killed for having slandered
      Islam, 560 people have been accused and 30 are
      awaiting trial. The law is often invoked by the
      fundamentalists in pursuit of their conservative
      agenda. Using it for settling personal vendetta
      and for appropriating property are also quite
      common . The religious affairs minister, Ejaz ul
      Haq admitted that in the last 18 years the law
      has been abused. From 1927 to 1986 there had been
      only 7 cases of blasphemy, but from 1986 to 2005,
      4000 cases have been reported. The Christians who
      indulge in theological debate and discussions
      have born the brunt. The death of John Joseph,
      the Bishop of Faislabad, who took his life to
      protest against the case of Ayub Masih’s death
      sentence for blasphemy, has sharply brought out
      the iniquity of the law . An unfortunate
      consequence of the law is that it discourages,
      even prevents, critical enquiries into
      theological matters. The protests organized by
      the minorities were of no avail.

      The laws enacted for the prevention of terrorism
      in India has been extensively used to terrorise
      the minorities. The majority of those who have
      been arrested and jailed under the Terrorist and
      Disruptive Activities ( Preventive) Act [ TADA],
      1985 and Prevention of Terrorism Act [ POTA],
      2001 belong to minorities. In Gujarat those
      arrested under POTA are almost entirely drawn
      from the Muslim community . They have been kept
      in jail without trial and subjected to inhuman
      treatment and severe torture.

      The Hindu fundamentalist organizations in India
      like the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh and the
      Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been trying to impose
      an unofficial blasphemy law in an effort to curb
      critical religious thought and secular cultural
      interpretation of tradition. Those who have been
      engaged in such efforts have been intimidated and
      even physically attacked. An exhibition based on
      multiple texts of Ramayana put up by a cultural
      organization of Delhi was attacked and
      dismantled, the paintings of M.F.Hussain was
      disfigured for attempting an unconventional
      interpretation of Goddess Saraswathi, Deepa
      Mehta, a film maker was not permitted to shoot a
      film on Hindu widows and a series of other
      incidents have taken place during the last few
      years. These incidents caught the public eye
      because prominent people were involved in them.
      But intimidation and coercion impinging upon the
      human rights of the minorities are fairly
      widespread. Such tendencies are manifest among
      the Muslims also. A liberal Muslim theologian in
      Kerala, Chekannur Maulavi, was abducted and
      murdered by fundamentalists.

      Attack on Minorities
      In all South Asian countries minorities have been
      subjected to physical intimidation and attack
      which over the years have become so well
      organized that they have assumed the character of
      a progromm. In India, the Sikhs, Muslims and
      Christians have been the targets of attack by the
      members of the majority community. As a sequel to
      the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984
      thousands of Sikhs were killed and their property
      was plundered all over the country. Even after
      twenty years and a dozen or so enquiries those
      who were responsible for the crime have not been
      brought to book. The attack on Muslims and
      Christians by the Hindu fundamentalist groups are
      far too many to recount. These attacks are
      characterized by two main features. First, overt
      and covert support of the government and
      secondly, popular participation cutting across
      caste and class lines. These tendencies clearly
      manifest in the carnage unleashed by the Hindu
      fundamentalists against the Muslims in Gujarat .

      The collusion of the government and
      fundamentalist forces have led to a near anarchic
      situation for the minorities in Bangladesh. In a
      submission before the Human Rights Commission
      Bina Rai Biswas, an activist from Bangladesh,
      gave a graphic account of the atrocities to which
      the minorities are subjected. According to her
      the violence against the minorities ranged from
      burning alive to death, gang rape of children and
      elderly women, attack on temples, churches and
      orphanages, looting, unlawful and forced land
      grabbing and eviction and forced conversion to
      Islam . Many of them were left with no other
      alternative but to migrate, mostly by using
      illegal means. In Sri Lanka too the Christian and
      Muslim minorities have been the targets of
      physical intimidation and attack .

      One of the strategies of fundamentalists to
      marginalize the minorities is to cast them in the
      role of the enemies of the nation. Several
      methods are adopted for this purpose. Among them
      their demonization through a reinterpretation of
      their role in history has had an abiding impact.
      The Hinduisation and Islamisation of history in
      India and Pakistan respectively undertaken with
      the connivance of the governments is a part of
      this agenda. The main purpose of the rewriting of
      history and the revision of textbooks promoted by
      fundamentalist forces in these countries has been
      to achieve this objective. In India it is a major
      project of Hindu fundamentalism which was sought
      to be implemented through the government agencies
      like the National Council for Educational
      Research and Training (NCERT) and the Indian
      Council for Historical Research (ICHR). By
      establishing through the reinterpretation of
      history on the lines of P.N. Oak and N.S.Rajaram
      the Hindu civilisational character of Indian past
      the minorities are located as outsiders whose
      presence is at best tolerated but not welcome. A
      series of historical events are invoked from the
      invasion of Mohamad Gazni to the rule of
      Aurangazeb to demonstrate the historical wrongs
      the minorities have done to the nation. The
      political sense the fundamentalists made out of
      the demolition of Babri Masjid was that it
      rectified a historical wrong committed by the
      Muslims. And many more are yet to be rectified.
      History thus serves as an ideology of Hindu
      fundamentalism to exorcise the minorities from
      the body politic. The carnage in Gujarat was
      preceded by a long process conscientisation of
      the Hindu Samaj about the wrong done to their
      ancestors by the minorities.

      The Islamic states of Pakistan and Bangladesh
      have also reordered their history which impinges
      upon the religious freedom of the minorities.
      Reviewing the textbooks prescribed in Pakistan
      the Institute for Sustainable Development Policy
      and the Human Development centre have examined
      the textbooks used in Pakistan. These reports
      point out how in the name of history 'students
      are forced to read a carefully crafted collection
      of falsehoods, fairy tales and plain lies'. The
      school curricula are clearly biased against and
      hostile to the minorities. The Hindu, for
      instance, 'rarely appears in a sentence without
      the adjectives 'conniving' or 'manipulative' .
      Moreover the textbooks are so designed that the
      Hindus are forced to learn about Islam and
      Islamic rites, even if they do not so desire .

      Given the discrimination and relative
      backwardness the minorities suffer, although in
      varying degrees in different states, a course of
      action from within which would ensure the
      well-being of the minorities is called for.
      Understandably the ongoing response is not
      univocal but polyphonic; it betrays a variety of
      tendencies. A powerful attraction is
      minoritarianism which promotes a genre of
      politics based on internal consolidation of the
      community. Another tendency, particularly when
      faced with the pressure of majoritarianism and
      the aggression associated with it, is to resort
      to militancy. Both these tendencies are
      reinforced by ghettoisation which is initially
      adopted as a means of self- defense.
      Ghettoisation, however, has very deleterious
      social, psychological and political consequences.
      What induces the minorities to congregate in
      Ghettos is a sense of uncertainty and fear which
      breeds communalism and violence. In states like
      Uttarpradesh and Gujarat in India Ghettoistion
      has taken place so extensively that internal
      ‘borders’ have come into being, demarcating
      residential areas of different communities. The
      fundamentalist forces which thrive on the
      religious obscurantism and cultural backwardness
      of the communities spare no effort to encourage
      these tendencies which keep them bound together
      and isolated. At the same time the state, because
      of political reasons, tends to compromise with
      the fundamentalist forces and thus help
      perpetuate the influence and leadership of
      obscurantist forces.

      In these circumstances the minorities in South
      Asia require a new deal, both from the state and
      civil society. The state should ensure equality,
      both in principle and in practice and should
      create conditions to enable their economic and
      cultural advancement. At the same time the civil
      society should realise the importance of
      recognizing the rights of minorities in a
      democracy and evolve methods for defending them.
      The minorities on their part have to chart out a
      path different from community consolidation,
      social obscurantism and political isolation. In
      such a course of action the emphasis should be on
      realizing the rights of citizenship through
      struggles for secularism and democracy. It would
      involve a rejection of religious leadership,
      without necessarily rejecting religious faith,
      and authoritarian and communal political
      ideologies and practices. The future of
      minorities in South Asia would depend upon the
      success of such a struggle.

      In conclusion, let me go back to where I had
      started. I had begun by referring to the
      importance of intervention for influencing the
      state and the civil society to protect the rights
      of the minorities. The state has not been the
      best guarantee of minority rights; instances of
      vacillation are not wanting, nor occasions when
      the intervention of the state went against the
      interests of the minorities. The rights of the
      minorities, be it in the field of education,
      employment or cultural freedom, can not be
      safeguarded without the active support of the
      state. If the state is indifferent or hostile the
      minorities can hardly progress, even survive.
      Therefore it is importance to ensure that the
      state remains secular.

      At the same time the consciousness of the civil
      society is a crucial factor in the well being of
      the minorities. Enough has happened in the
      countries of South Asia during the last two
      decades to suggest that the society is vulnerable
      to religion centered populist propaganda. A
      consequence of this has been the marginalization
      of the minorities in public space and the denial
      of civic opportunities to them as has happened
      and continue to happen in a state like Gujarat.
      This is an extremely grave matter which impinges
      upon democratic practice. The discrimination that
      minorities face is, therefore, not a problem of
      the minorities alone; it is a democratic problem.
      It is imperative that the struggle for the rights
      of the minorities should be integral to the
      struggle for democratization, secularization and
      for social justice.

      In conclusion, let me go back to where I had
      started. I had begun by referring to the
      importance of intervention for influencing the
      state and the civil society to protect the rights
      of the minorities. The state has not been the
      best guarantee of minority rights; instances of
      vacillation are not wanting, nor occasions when
      the intervention of the state went against the
      interests of the minorities. The rights of the
      minorities, be it in the field of education,
      employment or cultural freedom, can not be
      safeguarded without the active support of the
      state. If the state is indifferent or hostile the
      minorities can hardly progress, even survive.
      Therefore it is importance to ensure that the
      state remains secular.

      At the same time the consciousness of the civil
      society is a crucial factor in the well being of
      the minorities. Enough has happened in the
      countries of South Asia during the last two
      decades to suggest that the society is vulnerable
      to religion centered populist propaganda. A
      consequence of this has been the marginalization
      of the minorities in public space and the denial
      of civic opportunities to them as has happened
      and continue to happen in a state like Gujarat.
      This is an extremely grave matter which impinges
      upon democratic practice. The discrimination that
      minorities face is, therefore, not a problem of
      the minorities alone; it is a democratic problem.
      It is imperative that the struggle for the rights
      of the minorities should be integral to the
      struggle for democratization, secularization and
      for social justice.

      [This is the text of Keynote address delivered to
      the workshop on the Condition of Minorities in
      South Asia held at Delhi from 16 to 19 September

      o o o o


      SEPTEMBER, 2005 at Parliament House Annex, New

      Reaffirming our commitment to secure the right to
      life, freedom, dignity and equality of all human
      being under law and in reality.

      Recognizing that within each country there are
      minorities based on religion, language, ethnicity
      and nationality who are disadvantaged and
      vulnerable because of their inadequate share in
      power and decision making.

      Realising that owing to majoritarian character of
      states and polities and denial of right to
      equality to minorities in the common national
      domain and right to preserve their distinct
      identity, minorities have generally faced varying
      degrees of threat to their existence, and to
      their language, religion and culture everywhere.

      Noting that such situations of discrimination,
      exclusion and assimilation have been source of
      violent conflicts, secession and insurgencies and
      even wars.

      Realizing that there is a worldwide concern for
      equal rights of minorities as individual citizens
      and collective rights as identity based groups,
      which require adequate constitutional safeguards
      and machinery of implementation and redressal,
      and which also require promotion of understanding
      between communities and governments and mechanism
      of preservation and resolution of conflicts.

      1. We the delegates to the three-day Workshop
      took stock of the situation of minorities in the
      countries of the region under law and in reality,
      wherein we noted that

      a. Minorities based on religion, sect, language,
      ethnicity and nationality in each of the
      countries of the region faced varying degrees
      discrimination, exclusion assimilation and on
      occasions threat to life, property, dignity and
      freedom by organized majoritarian groups with one
      agenda of exclusion and hate with complicity of
      the State.

      b. The source of such a state of things lies in the following: -

      I. Inadequate protection of the rights of
      minorities under constitution, laws and machinery
      of implementation of existing provisions.
      II. In some countries there is no constitutional provisions are discriminatory
      III. In some others, there is no constitutional
      safeguards for rights of minorities
      IV. In countries where constitutional provisions
      on right to equality and to preservation of
      language and culture and freedom of religion
      appear to be adequate, in practice denial of
      these rights is rampant.

      V. Poor state of rule of law and non-observance
      of human rights where the law-enforcement system
      is partisan and justice system has given rise to
      pervasive impunity.

      VI. Even in democracies where periodic elections
      are held under multi-party system, the electoral
      systems are unfriendly to minorities making them
      unable to secure their due share in legislatures
      and other elected bodies.

      VII. Minorities are grossly under represented in
      all spheres of national life and especially in
      institutions of governance, e.g. the police,
      armed and Para-military forces, the judiciary and
      the civil services.

      VIII. The culture history and religion of
      minorities do not get appropriate representation
      in educational materials and in media on the
      contrary they are marginalized, excluded are
      distorted and negatively stereotyped.

      2. In view of the above, we recommend the
      following measures to be adopted by the
      Governments of each country is the SAARC:

      Adequate protection of the rights of minorities
      to equality, non-discrimination, non-exclusion
      and non-assimilation under Constitution, law,
      policies and programmes.

      2.1 Institutions to ensure enjoyment of these
      rights by minorities in reality, providing
      accessible mechanism of prompt redressal.
      2.2 Polities to conform to the norms of inclusive
      democracy, ensuring due share to minorities in
      legislatures and governance.
      2.3 Affirmative action programmes for
      equalization of opportunities for minorities,
      ensuring there due share in public employment and
      in socio-economic development.
      2.4 Giving adequate representation to minority
      language, history, culture and religion in the
      educational material and in media, while enabling
      the minority to acquire knowledge of the
      language, history and culture of the national
      life as a whole.

      3. Protection and promotion of pluralism and multi-culturalism

      4. Promotion of prevention and resolution of
      inter-community and minority versus State
      conflicts and disputes, providing peaceful and
      just solutions.

      5. Collectively adopting under a SAARC Human
      Rights Convention based on international human
      rights norms and accommodating regional
      particularities, instruments on the protection of
      minorities and institutional mechanism for
      monitoring and redressal of grievances.
      5.1. Under these instruments adopting
      multilateral/bilateral treaties on the treatment
      of non-citizens like members of divided families,
      migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers,
      prisoners and stateless persons.

      6. We recommend the following measures to be adopted by the civil society:

      1. Undertake active promotion of these norms and
      principles, especially of pluralism and
      multiculturalism and rule of law
      2. Undertake advocacy of their adoption by the government
      3. Promote inter community tolerance, mutual respect and accommodation
      4. Organise effective intervention in situations
      of denial of rights to minorities and their

      7. We appeal to the security forces of the States
      and armed opposition to strictly adhere to the
      ethical groups legal norms on the conduct of
      hostilities as codified in the Geneva Convention,
      1949 which require protection of life, dignity
      and freedom of non-combatant civilians,
      especially women, children, old and disabled
      persons and worshippers.

      7.1 We also appeal to religious leaders of all
      communities in the region to evolve and endorse
      such ethical norms on the protection of innocent
      civilians uninvolved in conflicts including
      communal and sectarian conflicts.

      8. We the delegates to the Workshop do hereby
      resolve to constitute a South Asia Council for
      Minorities (SACM), whose aims objectives will be
      the following: -

      a. Promoting equal human rights of all minorities in South Asian countries.
      b. Promoting adequate protection of rights of
      minorities to equality and non-discrimination and
      to their distinct religions, cultural and
      linguistic or national identifies under
      constitution, law, policy and programs of each
      c. Promoting norms of gender-justice in areas of
      cultural autonomy of minorities including
      community-based family laws.
      d. Promoting adoption of SAARC Human Rights
      Convention and SAARC Convention and Commission on
      Rights of Minorities and Non-Citizens.
      e. Promoting inter-community understanding,
      tolerance and conciliation through dialogue and
      peaceful resolution of disputes.
      f. Promoting strict observance of humanitarian norms.

      8.1.1 The Council shall have chapters in all the SAARC countries
      8.1.2 Initially each chapter will have a
      Convener and co-conveners and ad hoc Committees.
      8.1.3 Besides country-wise chapters. The SACM
      will have a Delhi-based Convener and Co-conveners
      and a Committee consisting of founder members
      from all countries.

      Resolved to nominate following members in the Council:

      1. Mr. K.N. Douglas Devananda, Honorable Minister of Sri Lanka
      2. Mr. Subodh Kant Sahay, Honorable Union Minister, Government of India.
      3. Mr Justice Saleem Marsoof, Honorable Supreme Court Judge, Sri Lanka
      5. Mrs Chitra Lekha Yadav, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Nepal
      5 Mr. Dev Das, Honorable Member of Parliament, Pakistan
      6. Mr. Akram Masih, Honorable Member of Parliament, Pakistan
      7. Mr. Sihabudeen Nijamuddin, Honorable Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka
      8. Dr. Nirmala Deshpande, Honorable Member of Parliament, India
      9. Mr. Hannan Mollah, Honorable Member of Parliament, India
      10. Mr. Iqbal Saradgi, Honorable Member of Parliament, India
      11. Prof Amrik Singh, Former Vice Chancellor, India
      12. Mr. Ronchi Ram, Karachi, Pakistan.
      13. Dr. Robina Saigol, Country Director, Action Aid, Pakistan
      14. Mr. M Parkash, Chairman, Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan
      15. Mr Hasan Ul Haq Inu, President, Jatiyo Samjtantrik Dal, Bangladesh
      16. Mr. Pankaj Bhattacharya, Minority Rights Activist, Bangladesh
      17. Mr. Riza Yehiya, Colombo, Sri Lanka
      18. Mr. M Rafique, Executive Secretary, Asian
      Federation of Muslim Youth, Sri Lanka
      19. Mr. Subroto Choudhury, Advocate, Supreme Court Bangladesh
      20. Dr. Udit Raj, President, Justice Party, India
      21. Dr. Mohinder Singh, Member, National
      Commission for Religious Linguistic Minorites,
      Govt.of India
      22. Mrs. Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, India
      23. Mr. Fazle Hossain Badshah, Bangladesh
      24. Mr. Paul Divaker, India
      25. Mr. B. M. Kutty, PILER, Karachi, Pakistan
      26. Mr. Lama Lobzang, Member National Commission
      for Scheduled Tribes, Government of India.
      27. Mr. Navaid Hamid, Convenor, SACM



      The Times of India
      September 30, 2005


      There are 12 million orphaned children who need
      parents. And 44 million destitute children who
      are denied the warmth of a family. Playing
      spoilsport is a 115-year-old Act -- the Guardians
      and Wards Act -- which does not allow Muslims,
      Christians, Jews and Parsis to adopt a child as a

      All you can be is a "guardian". Hindus including
      Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, on the other hand,
      are governed by the Hindu Adoption and
      Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA), which allows
      adoption only of Hindu children by Hindu parents.
      Why should a secular country have communal
      adoption laws? Or sexist laws for that matter?

      According to HAMA, a Hindu married woman cannot
      adopt, it's only her husband who can, though with
      her consent. However, if he has a non-Hindu wife,
      he doesn't need her consent to adopt. Clearly,
      there are many anomalies in our adoption laws,
      arising from gender bias and deference to
      personal laws of minorities, which need

      In this context the Supreme Court notice earlier
      this week, to the Union ministries of law as well
      as social justice and empowerment, to extend the
      adoption right to all communities is welcome.

      Article 39 of the Constitution, which states "The
      State shall direct its policies towards securing
      that childhood and youth are protected against
      exploitation and moral abandonment", formed the
      basis of HAMA. Given that, why should the state
      not ensure this protection to Muslim, Christian,
      Parsi and Jewish children?

      The government's reluctance to bring them under
      the ambit of this protection amounts to
      abdication of responsibility towards orphans and
      destitutes of the minorities. By giving in to the
      pressure of personal law lobbies the government
      is giving assent to their contention that it does
      not have the right to legislate for all citizens.

      The state must ensure that no religious group
      thrusts its views on any citizen. If a Muslim or
      Christian wants to marry in accordance with the
      Special Marriage Act, he is allowed to do so. He
      should be given the right in the case of adoption
      as well.

      In any case the right to adopt is an enabling
      provision, not a coercive one. No one should have
      any problems with it, as there's no compulsion to
      adopt. But for those who want to do so,
      irrespective of community or gender, the option
      should be provided under a universal adoption law.


      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
      citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
      Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
      SACW archive is available at: bridget.jatol.com/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/

      Sister initiatives :
      South Asia Counter Information Project : snipurl.com/sacip
      South Asians Against Nukes: www.s-asians-against-nukes.org
      Communalism Watch: communalism.blogspot.com/

      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.