ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNAL HARMONY IN ASIA (ACHA)
MINORITIES IN SOUTH ASIA
Pritam K. Rohila, Ph. D.
Most minorities in South Asia are relatively poor and quite marginalized. Situation in some nations has worsened since fundamentalists gained access to state power and influence over government policies.
Minority people are often demonized and persecuted in most South Asian countries. They face discrimination at workplaces, educational institutions and neighborhoods. They are denied equal protection of law, and some laws are used unfairly to humiliate and terrorize them.
In some South Asian nations, they have been subjected to communal riots from time to time. In others, they also get kidnapped for ransom, shot to death, or burnt alive; their places of worship are attacked, and their property usurped. And if that were not enough, their women are gang-raped, forcibly converted to the offenders' religion, and married to the perpetrators or sold away.
Plagued by a sense of uncertainty and insecurity, they are forced to live in ghettos, or seek refuge in other countries.
Governments are indifferent to the plight of minorities, and the civil society seems unwilling to intervene.
They fail to realize that, as some authorities have pointed out, "the struggle for the rights of the minorities should be integral to the struggle for democratization, secularization and for social justice."
No nation can realize its full potential, without also safeguarding the right of minorities to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.