South Asia Collective Online Bulletin #6 Home Page Latest Developments in South Asia The Impact of COVID-19 South Asia's International Commitments

Greetings from the South Asia Collective! We are a group of human rights activists and organisations from across South Asia. We’ve been 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 sixth edition of our Online Bulletin, where we provide an overview of significant minority-related news developments that have transpired in the region. This edition covers developments since 1st February, 2021. Events till then were covered in previous editions of our Bulletin. We also continue our exploration of how the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed in South Asia, and how it has disproportionately impacted the region’s marginalised minority communities.

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 Afghanistan and Pakistan since their latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC). Bangladesh, India and Nepal were covered in our previous edition. Similar analyses from Bhutan and Sri Lanka will follow in subsequent editions.

The SAC Online Bulletin is put together by researchers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, 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.


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. Across all countries in the region, these acts have been followed by state failures to hold perpetrators to account and uphold the rule of law.

In Afghanistan, the ethnic Shia-Hazara minority faced multiple, major terrorist attacks. In Bangladesh, after a controversial visit by the Indian prime minister, Hindus faced heightened violence and targeting from far-right Islamists. In India, amidst a devastating second wave of the pandemic, the country's religious minorities —Muslims and Christians, particularly—faced a resurgence of communally motivated hate crimes and other forms of violence. Alongside, Indian states governed directly by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saw the rolling out of several state measures likely to further exacerbate the social and political exclusion of minorities. In Nepal, as in India, 'lower-caste' Dalits faced further social discrimination, even as families of the victims of previous violations await justice. In Pakistan, the abduction and forced conversion of minority girls continued, as did the abuse of the country's draconian blasphemy law. In Sri Lanka, even as it was pulled up yet again by the UN Human Rights Council and the European Parliament for failing to provide justice for wartime human rights abuses, the government continued with its attempts at ethnic profiling and anti-minority discrimination.

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

Since February, all South Asian countries have seen a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reported death toll has more than doubled in Afghanistan (to over 5,000), Pakistan (to over 22,000) and India (by far the highest, to over 400,000). It has more than tripled in Nepal (to over 9,000), and increased ten-fold in Sri Lanka (to over 3,000). And with vaccinations going slow across the region, largely due to India’s decision to halt vaccine exports to meet surging domestic demand, much of South Asia remains vulnerable to fresh surges. New and more potent variants of the virus continue to emerge.

In this edition, our researchers continue their exploration of how the pandemic has progressed in the region, and how it has disproportionately impacted marginalised minority communities.

For more detailed analysis, click the button below. (Previous updates are available here, here, here and here)

In this edition, SAC teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan report on the progress made – or lack of it – by respective countries in acting on past Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations in the lead-up to the Fourth Cycle of the UPR, commencing now. Our focus is on minority rights and the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), and broader civil and political rights, particularly as they apply to marginalised communities.

Similar analyses from Bangladesh, India and Nepal can be found in our previous bulletin, available here. Bhutan and Sri Lanka will be covered in the next edition. (Click here to subscribe)

Cover image credits: Mariam Zuhaib/AP (Kabul) | A.M. Ahad/AP (Dhaka) | Danish Siddiqui/Reuters (New Delhi)
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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