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Greetings from the South Asia Collective (SAC). We are a group of human rights activists and organisations from across South Asia, working since 2015 to document the condition of the region’s minorities, and to help develop capacity among grassroots-level organisations focused on minority rights and the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

This is the fifth edition of our Online Bulletin, providing an overview of significant minority-related news developments that have transpired in the region since 1st October, 2020. Events till then were covered in previous editions of our Bulletin, available here.

Starting with this edition, we will also report on South Asian nations’ major international obligations, with a focus on minority rights and FoRB, and broader civil and political rights. In this edition, we review the progress made by Bangladesh, India and Nepal since their latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC). Similar analyses from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will follow in the next edition.

The SAC Online Bulletin is put together by researchers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It aims to be an informative update on the situation of minorities and minority rights in South Asia. Click the button below to subscribe to future editions.

South Asia State of Minorities Report 2020:
Minorities and Shrinking Civic Space

(full report)
(recording of release event)

During the period under review, South Asia’s various minority groups continued to face violent targeting and discrimination from non-state actors and, in some cases, from state actors. And across all countries, this has been followed by state failures to hold perpetrators to account and uphold the rule of law.

In Afghanistan, amid concerns about the accommodation of minority concerns in the peace process, a devastating bomb attack left 30 Shia-Hazaras dead. In Bangladesh, Hindus faced multiple mob attacks, and arrests under the draconian Digital Security Act for making 'derogatory' comments about religion. In India, new legislations targeting Muslims and Christians were rolled out in several states, while the Sikh farmers of Punjab rose up in protest against moves to corporatise agriculture, both developments resulting in minorities being further targeted. In Nepal, amid the chaos surrounding the dissolution of the House of Representatives, Dalits continued to face violent targeting. In Pakistan, Shia-Hazaras and Ahmadiyyas faced multiple violent attacks, and minority Christian and Hindu girls continued to face abduction, rape, forced conversions and marriages. In Sri Lanka, the practice of forcibly cremating Muslim victims of COVID-19 continued, and several Tamil commemoration events were scuttled by the state.

For more detailed reporting of these and many more developments, click the button below.

At the Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (2017-2022), Bangladesh, India and Nepal all received recommendations underlining the need to set in place adequate protection measures for vulnerable and marginalised groups, including religious and caste minorities. National governments opted to merely ‘note’ and not ‘support’ many important recommendations pertaining to issues considered politically sensitive in their respective countries. Even in cases where national governments officially recorded their ‘support’ for specific recommendations, state inertia and apathy have resulted in very little progress being made on several important fronts, such as India’s almost-25 year old failure to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture; Bangladesh’s almost-25 year old failure to follow through on commitments made to the indigenous tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts; and Nepal’s failure to adequately set up National Commissions for Dalits and Women despite the presence of new Constitutional provisions enabling the same. In some cases, such as India’s in particular, state policy since the Third Cycle has been openly hostile to specific vulnerable groups, with grave implications for minority rights and FoRB.

For more detailed analysis, click the button below.

Cover image credits: Amalini/Twitter (Colombo) | Indian Express (New Delhi) | Naseer Ahmed/Reuters (Quetta)

The contents of this Online Bulletin are the sole responsibility of The South Asia Collective and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or Norad.
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