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Posted Online on Sunday 02, October 2005 14:11 IST

Workshop on the Condition of Minorities in SAARC Countries 

The Milli Gazette Online

2 October 2005

South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) formed to bring together human rights activists of South Asia to manifest the issues of the minorities of the region

See also: Minorities in South Asia (Keynote address delivered to the workshop)

A three day Workshop on the Condition of Minorities in South Asia was held in New Delhi from 16-18 September 2005, at Parliament House Annex. 

Mr. Jaipal Reddy, Honorable Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, inaugurated the Workshop and Prof. K.N. Pannikar gave a keynote address at the Inaugural Session. Mr. Navaid Hamid, Convenor of the Workshop presented introductory remarks in the session. Renowned Gandhian Dr. Nirmala Deshpande presided over the session.

Mr. Arjun Singh, Honorable Union Minister for Human Resource Development gave a Valedictory Address and Smt. Shiela Dikshit, Honorable Chief Minister of Delhi presided over the Valedictory Session.

Around forty foreign participants from different SAARC member countries participated in the workshop. The notables include Mr. Douglas Devananda, Honorable Minister of Sri Lanka; Mr. Justice Saleem Marsoof, Honorable Judge of Supreme Court of Sri Lanka; Mr. Sihabuddin Nizamuddin, M.P. of Sri Lanka; Mr. Dev Das, Member of Parliament, Pakistan, Mr. Akram Masih, Member of Parliament, Pakistan; Dr. A Qader Khanzada, Member of Parliament of Pakistan; Dr. Robina Saigol, Director, Action Aid Pakistan; Mr. Ronchi Ram, renowned Minority Rights Activists of Pakistan, Mr. M. Parkash, Chairman Minorites Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; Mr. Jai Parkash Seetal, Minister for Minorites Affairs, Governement of Balochistan; Mr. Hasan ul Haq Inu, President Jatiyo Samjtantrik Dal, Bangladesh; Mr. Pankaj Choudhury, Advocate, Supreme Court, Bangladesh, Mr. Pankaj Bhattachary, Minorities Rights Activists of Bangladesh; Prof. N. C. Bhowmik, General Secretary, Bangladesh Hindu Boudha Christian Okiya Parishad.

The participants of the workshop deliberated on the following issues:
1. Legal & Constitutional Rights of Minorities.
2. Educational Status of Minorities and Representation of Minorities in textbooks.
3. Socio-Economic Status & rights of Minorities.
4. Ethnic violence, State Violence & security of the minorities.
5. Representation of Minorities in Public Services & Law Enforcement Agencies.
6. Media and the Minorities.

Around 100 delegates form India also participated in different sessions of the Workshop. Among the Indian notable who addressed the participants of the Workshop includes Mr. Subodh Kant Sahay, Union Minister for Food Processing; Mr. Parkash Karat, Secretary General, CPM; Dr. Nirmala Deshpande, Member of Parliament; Prof. Amrik Singh, Former Vice Chancellor, Justice A. M Ahmedi, Former Chief Justice of India; Mr. Salman Khursheed, Former Union Minister; Prof. B. Mungrekar, Member Planning Commission, Government of India, Mr. Syed Shahabuddin, Former Ambassador & former M.P.; Mr. Kuldip Nayar, Former Member of Parliament; Mr. V. N Rai, I.P.S.; Mr. Udit Raj, President Justice Party; Mr. Paul Divakar, Dalit Rights Activist; Dr. J. K. Jain, Former Member of Parliament & Director, Jain T.V.; Mrs. Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, Ms. Madhu Kishwar, editor Manushi, Dr. Kavita Sharma of Delhi University and Dr. Rakesh Batabyal of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The other notable participants includes Mr. Ahmed Patel, Political Advisor to Hon'ble Congress President, Mr. Nilotpal Basu M.P., Mr. Iqbal Saradgi M.P., Mr. Hannan Mollah M.P., Mr. Saifuddin Soz M.P., Mr. Shahid Siddiqui M.P., Mr. Abdul Rasheed Shaheen M.P., Justice Ranganathan Mishra, Chairman National Commission for Linguistic and Religious Minorities Mr. Lama Lobzang, Member Schedule Tribes Commission, , Mr. O.P. Shah, Dr. Mani Jacob, Chancellor, Allahabad Agricultural University, Mr. Shahid Mehdi, former Vice Chancellor Jamia Millia Islamia and Dr. Mohinder Singh, Member National Commission for Linguistic and Religious Minorities.

Messages of Support and blessings were received from Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson United Progressive Alliance & Hon'ble Congress President, Smt. Sheikh Hasina Wajid, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Mr. E. Ahmed, Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India & from the office of Mayor of London.

The participants adopted a joint declaration and floated South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) to manifest the issues of the minorities of the region. 


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 oppression.

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 country. 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 Natioanl Comision for Scheduled Tribes, Government of India.
27. Mr. Navaid Hamid, Convenor, SACM

Following foreign delegates from South Asian Countries participated in the deliberation: 

1. Mr. Zafar Malik 
Secretary General,National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL)
Lahore, Pakistan

2. Mrs. Naeema Zafar
Secretary, Ehsas
Lahore, Pakistan

3. Mr. Akram Maish
Member of National Assembly of Pakistan
Govt. of Pakistan

4. Mr. Mohammed Aslam Khan
Trustee, Pakistan Social Institute
Lahore, Pakistan

5. Mr. Ronchi Ram
Council Member, HRCP
Karachi, Pakistan

6. Mr. M. Prakash
Chairman, Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan
Sindh, Pakistan

7. Mr. Munawwar Chand
Central General Secretary, Krishna Mandir (PBS)
Pakistan Balmik Saba, Lahore, Pakistan 

8. Mr. Jai Parkash Sheetal
Minister for Minorities,
Government of Balochistan,

9. Mr. Devdas
Member, National Assembly of Pakistan
Sindh, Pakistan

10. Dr. Robina Saigol
Country Director, Action Aid Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan

11. Dr. Abdul Kadir Khanzada
Member National Assembly of Pakistan
Karachi, Pakistan

12. Mr. James Francis
Activist, PILER
Karachi, Pakistan

13. Mrs. Saeeda Diep
Chairperson, Institute of Peace and Secular Studies,
Lahore, Pakistan

14. Saima Naheed
Human Right Activist
Lahore, Pakistan

15. Miss Saba Wallace
Director, Zoya Consultants
Lahore, Pakistan

16. Mr. Mahar Safdar Ali
General Secretary, Anjuman Asiaye Awam
& Member, Association of People's of Asia-Pakistan Chapter,
Lahore, Pakistan

17. Mr. Pribhu Lal
Programme Officer Minority Right Programme
ASR Resource Centre

18. Mr. Shahid Fiaz 
Executive Director, South Asia Forum for Human Rights 
Lahore, Pakistan

19. Mr. William Yousaf
General Secretary, WE HELP YOU

20. Mrs. Shakeela Shehla Anjum
Social Activist, Karachi, Pakistan

1. Mr. K.N. Douglas Devananda
Honorable Minister for Agricultural Marketing
Development & Hindu Affairs &
Sri Lanka 

2. Mr. Saleem Marsoof
Honorable Judge of the Supreme Court
Colombo, Sri Lanka

3. Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran
Attorney at Law
Colombo, Sri Lanka

4. Mr. S.M. Rafique
Executive Secretary
Puttalam, Sri Lanka

5. Mr. M. Riza Yehiya
Director Research
Serendib Institute for Research and Development
Wellampitiya, Sri Lanka

6. Mrs. T.R. Riza
Serendib Institute for Research and Development
Wellampitiya, Sri Lanka

7. Dr. M. Ameer Zainudeen
Human Right Commission 
Colombo, Sri Lanka

8. Mr. Sihabuddin Nijamuddin
Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka
Kotte, Sri Lanka

9. Mr A. S. Khan
Minister Counsellor
Sri Lanka High Commission
New Delhi

1. Prof. Dr. N. C. Bhowmik
General Secretary
Bangladesh Hindu Boudha Christian Organistaion
Dhaka, Bangladesh

2. Mr. Pankaj Bhattacharya
Member, Presidium Gono Forum
Dhaka, Bangladesh 

3. Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu
Jatio Samaj Tantrik Dal
Dhaka, Bangladesh

4. Mr. Fazle Hossain Badsha
Member of Polit Bureau
Worker's Party of Bangladesh
Dhaka, Bangladesh

5. Mr. John

6. Mr. Subrata Chowdhury
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Dhaka, Bangladesh

7. Mr. Shipra Chowdhury
Council For Communal Harmony in Bangladesh
Dhaka, Bangladesh

8. Mr. Faruq Hasan
Program Officer
Dhaka, Bangladesh

1. Mr. Chitrakhla Yadav
Deputy Speaker
House of Representatives
Singha Durbar, Nepal

1. Mr. Jigme Tenzin
Third Secretary, Press,
Royal Bhutanese Embassy
New Delhi

See also: Minorities in South Asia (Keynote address delivered to the workshop)

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