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The South Asia Collective

We are a group of human rights activists and organisations that dream of a just, caring and peaceful South Asia. We came together in December 2015 to document the condition of the region’s minorities – religious, linguistic, ethnic, caste and gender, among others – hoping this would help in bettering out- comes for South Asia’s many marginalised groups. We call ourselves The South Asia Collective. We have since been able to rally other like-minded groups and platforms to our cause. Building on this initial success, we have also begun experimenting with small-scale practical support to minority groups across borders, to nurture their capacity for better outcomes for minority communities, working at local and regional levels. This coming together of like-minded groups is particularly gratifying given the otherwise fraught political environment in the region that militates against any serious regional effort by state parties on minority and human rights. It is then left to civil society initiatives to try to pave the way in the hope for more formal efforts, going forward. Eventually we want to see the establishment of a South Asia charter of minority and human rights, and regional and national mechanisms to enforce those.

The members of The South Asia Collective are:

Institutional

  • Books for Change, Bengaluru
  • Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Dhaka
  • Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi
  • Law and Society Trust, Colombo
  • Minority Rights Group International, London
  • Misaal Foundation, New Delhi
  • Women in Struggle for Empowerment, Lahore
  • National Commission for Justice and Peace, Lahore
  • Peoples’ SAARC, Kathmandu
  • Social Science Baha, Kathmandu
  • Women in Struggle for Empowerment, Lahore

Individual

  • Sahar Ahmed, Dublin
  • Dinushika Dissanayake, Colombo
  • Saroj K. Nepal, Thimpu
  • Omar Sadr, Kabul

South Asia Collective statement in support of Priya Saha

The South Asia Collective is a group of human rights activists and organisations that envisions a peaceful and progressive South Asia, where the rights of all human beings, particularly those belonging to minority communities, are fully protected and respected..

TThe SAC stands in solidarity with Ms. Priya Saha as she faces criticism from various quarters over the remarks she made during an interaction with US President Donald Trump on the 17th of July. We are appalled by suggestions from various parties in positions of power that Ms. Saha’s public airing of her personal concerns in an international setting is tantamount to sedition against the Bangladeshi state. We are also dismayed by the vicious nature of the personal attacks that have been made against Ms. Saha, and those that have been extended against the Bangladeshi Hindu community as a whole.

The use of state machinery to muzzle dissent and perpetuate an atmosphere of fear in which human rights defenders are unable or unwilling to speak up has become a disturbingly common phenomenon in countries across South Asia. The threat of sedition charges is becoming a particularly potent weapon in the region to silence critics and dissenters, and has played a significant role in the continued weakening of democratic values in the region. The raids at the offices of senior lawyers Indra Jaising and Anand Grover, the registering of First Information Reports against Muslim ‘Miya’ poets in Assam speaking out against systematic discrimination against the community, and the enhanced muzzling of press and registering of sedition charges against civil society groups in Kashmir, are all recent examples of this disturbing trend in India. These are a continuation of past trends with registering of cases against Teesta Setalvad and Kanhaiya Kumar among other activists. Likewise, in Pakistan, the family of human rights activist Gulalai Ismail has recently been hounded with cases of sedition, defaming state institutions, and terror finance. Gulalai herself has been forced into hiding. This is in addition to several Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement activists who have been booked for sedition. Similar cases have been reported from the rest of the region.

The people of Bangladesh gave to themselves a Constitution that declared democracy and secularism as two of the fundamental principles upon which the republic would be built. The freedom to speak out and hold the state accountable is one of the hallmarks of any functioning democracy, and this should be protected under all circumstances. It is deeply troubling to see Bangladesh potentially travelling further down the path of intolerance and repression.

Ms. Saha is a human rights activist whose concerted efforts to provide support to disempowered minorities in Bangladesh have touched many lives. Her critics are advised to listen to her concerns and engage her in constructive debate, instead of attempting to browbeat her into silence. The merits and demerits of her argument and evidence may be up for questioning, but it is the duty of the Bangladeshi state to ensure her physical and mental well-being in the face of targeted harassment. Her safety - and the safety of other human rights defenders like her across the region - is of paramount importance for the deepening of freedom and democracy in South Asia.

The SAC reiterates that religious persecution remains an everyday reality for minority groups across the region. Attempts to silence civil society actors are completely counterproductive to the efforts to build a fairer and more equitable South Asia, where human rights should be sacrosanct regardless of religion, caste, creed, gender or ethnicity.

On behalf of SAC members, including:

  • Civil Society & Human Rights Network (CSHRN), Kabul
  • Formation, Awareness & Community Empowerment Society (FACES) Pakistan, Lahore
  • Development & Justice Initiative (DAJI), New Delhi
  • Misaal Foundation, New Delhi
  • Law and Society Trust (LST), Colombo
  • John Dayal, New Delhi
  • Muhammed Haider Imtiaz, Islamabad
  • Sahar Ahmed, Dublin

South Asia State of Minorities Report, 2018

South Asia State of Minorities Report, 2018: Mapping the Terrain

South Asia’s minorities - religious and linguistic groups, especially women and those from Dalit backgrounds amongst them, and the many indigenous/adivasi communities, besides sexual minorities - make up disproportionate numbers of the poor and excluded in each country, suffering discrimination in the socio-economic sphere and denial of the most basic human rights. South Asia State of Minorities Report 2018: Exploring the Roots seeks to examine the reasons for the poor outcomes for minorities in South Asia, shining a light specifically on their socio-economic situation and their access to rights and opportunities. South Asia demonstrates amply how failures to prevent exclusion and discrimination against specific minorities have opened the way for graver abuse of human rights and violence against those groups.

Download Full Report
Download Executive Summary Download Introduction Events of 2017-18

Download Country Chapters

Afghanistan Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka

South Asia State of Minorities Report, 2016

South Asia State of Minorities Report, 2016: Mapping the Terrain

The inaugural edition of the South Asia State of Minorities Report series, seeks to create a baseline of minority groups and minority rights regimes, mechanisms and practices, by country, for the South Asia region. To do this, the report examines both the theory and the practice of minority rights protection in each country, looking at the range of rights guaranteed by national and international instruments.It also proposes a set of recommendations for the region, as well as for each country, separately. The current report covers six SAARC member countries, viz. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In our future editions, we plan to include Bhutan and Maldives, the other SAARC member-states, and Myanmar.

Download Full Report
Download Executive Summary Download Introduction

Download Country Chapters

Afghanistan Bangladesh India Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka

Regional Release 2018

The South Asia State of Minorities Report 2018 shall be released on 22nd February 2019 in Kathmandu at the annual regional network meeting of the South Asia Collective. Check this space for more on the release and the network meeting.



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