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South Asia's minorities - rough road to citizenship!

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Minority groups in South Asia face severe challenges. Rights and safeguards for minorities – religious, ethnic, caste and linguistic, among others – are limited across much of the region. These have been further degraded over the years, thanks in part to an increasingly majoritarian construction of national identities. And across the region, including in countries with strong minority rights frameworks, implementation of the laws and protective mechanisms, leaves much to be desired. Rule of law is poorly enforced, and rights provisions are followed, but selectively, with minority communities often denied those. There is also the regional dimension of rights violation, and the issue of ‘reciprocity’ – how a majority in one country is often the minority in another, and how fates of minorities across borders are intertwined, in part, reflecting the conflictual history of post-colonial South Asia.

A collective of research and advocacy groups from across the region, is seeking to highlight the issue of the weak safeguards for minorities, and the weaker enforcement of citizenship rights in their individual countries, through documenting and reporting the status of minorities, to engender debate and discussion. A South Asia State of Minorities Report is being put together, planned to periodically document and track the condition of minorities – and fill a big gap in systematic evidence-gathering on the subject. A regional approach and process, it is hoped, will perhaps work for minority rights, including through pushing for regional instruments and mechanisms for minority rights protection and promotion. The challenge for this civil society collective is to be able to create enough momentum, and the incentives, for state parties – the ultimate guarantor of rights – to take issues of human and minority rights seriously.

I look forward to speaking on and about the South Asia State of Minorities Report, 2016.

This talk is part of the Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars series.

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