For details of the planning activities leading to the final Conference , Click here
1. Programmes done under the Project
B) The three day workshop on the ‘EURASIA-Net Final Conference on Trans Regional Platform and Joint Research Agenda on Protection of Minority Rights’ took place on 18 March – 20 March, 2010 at Swabhumi, Rang durbar. The key objectives of the Conference were to bring together the outcomes of all project activities undertaken as part of the two year project and to work on the recommendations discussed during the course of the Conference, for effective implementation in future. The inaugural lecture was delivered by I.A. Rehman of Human Rights Commission, Pakistan and the Conference came to a close with the valedictory lecture presented by Justice Rajinder Sachar. The details of the event were published in print media. The Conference also witnessed the release of a set of publications including two reports and the release of a book titled ‘Minorities in South Asia and in Europe ; A New Agenda’ by Bharat Bhushan, editor , Mail Today.
Final report of the workshop click here
3. Some of the materials prepared for the Conference and circulated
4. Research Papers
B) Tolerance Established by Law: The Autonomy of South Tyrol in Italy by Eva Pföstl. Click here
Annexure 1 – Programme Schedule of the Conference.Annexure 2 – List of Participants.
While minorities as a modern category of government and administration emerged in South Asia with the evolution of census and the practice of enumerating diverse sections of population groups in the second half of the nineteenth century, minority politics acquires its importance insofar as they become an object of active discrimination. As the countries of South Asia grew into sovereign and independent nation-states - thanks to de-colonization and subsequent Partition of the region - ethnic and communal minorities became an inseparable part of their existence. The publication of Sachar Committee report has brought to light the nature and patterns of discrimination that the minorities continue to be subjected to. The recently held Parliamentary elections according to some commentators have only widened breach between the majority and the minority. The nation as it were is bursting on its seams. It is true that minority protection was promised in most the newly Independent states including a theocratic one like Pakistan. Yet their track record of protecting the minorities has been poor and dismal irrespective of the regime differences. India is no exception to this trend. Widespread alienation of minorities has turned into a major source of conflict particularly in postcolonial India. The forces and processes of globalization have only helped in reinforcing the trend. New policy responses are being advocated. Reservation of minorities is likely to have its ramifications for the landscape of minorities. The policy of reservation, it is feared, will bring in newer sources of differentiation within the minorities. It is in this background that the Dialogue proposes to review the status of minority protection in India and seeks to explore the following questions:
(a) Who is a minority? Should the women or the immigrants be categorized as a ‘minority’? Is it apt to call them the ‘new minority’?
(b) How, in a ‘democratic’ State like India, minorities are protected through some institutional means and practices (particularly with reference to the establishment and functioning of various Committees and Commissions) and in what way the issue of ‘protection’ is predicated on the larger question of governing a hugely diverse and heterogeneous society like India? What are could be the possible policy responses? Is reservation the answer?
(c) Given that minorities also constitute concrete social groups and communities, it is important to find out whether they can be permanently reified under the given order of administrative categories and divisions that have otherwise produced them. The emerging minority (like the women and the cross-border immigrants as well as the Internally Displaced Persons) solidarities are seen to increasingly cut across the existing political borders and boundaries. What are the implications of this process for the new profile of minority politics in South Asia? Can we think of regional instruments for minority protection?
A single-day Dialogue to be divided into three sessions is expected to revolve around these four sets of questions mentioned above. Each participant is requested to present a 500-word note in response to any of the three sets. Since the idea is to get the discussion circulated amongst the participants, each presentation should not be of more than 10-12 minutes’ duration. 2-3 participants will initiate discussion in each session. The notes should be in the nature of short and sharp responses to the questions framed for the relevant session. Each session is to be chaired by a moderator who is supposed to keep the discussion on track.
9.30 – 9.45
(a) The discussion will be in Bengali and English
Proceedings of Dialogue
A public dialogue on ‘Minorities and Their Alienation’ was organized by Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group at Rang Durbar, Swabhumi – The Heritage Plaza in Kolkata on 8 August 2009. The Programme was attended by about 30 participants drawn from diverse walks of life including academics and researchers, feminists and representatives of indigenous people, legal activists, minority and human rights activists from all over India. Besides the CRG members and its Research Team, the participants included: A. S. Narang – a professor from Indira Gandhi National Open University (New Delhi), Asghar Ali Engineer – an eminent writer and activist of Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism based in Mumbai, Dyutish Chakrabarty – a professor from North Bengal University, Miratun Nahar – a feminist activist from Suraha Sampriti, Abdur Rauf from Forum for People’s Initiative, Ahmad Hasan Imran – the editor of Qalam Weekly, Saba Tehseen – a researcher, Amites Mukhopadhyay – a professor of Sociology from Kalyani University, Prasanta Ray – professor of the Institute of Development Studies, Mrinal Kanti Chakma – an indigenous people’s rights activist, Kumar Rana – the research coordinator of Prateechi Trust, Debi Chatterjee – a Dalit (depressed classes) rights activist and a professor of Jadavpur University, Mandira Sen – a feminist publisher and many others. In the absence of Akhtar Majid – a professor from Jamia Hamdard and a member of Sachar Commission – who had to cancel his trip under unavoidable circumstances, Suha P. Chakaborty read out his brief note.
In the Inaugural Session chaired by Subhas R. Chakraborty, Ranabir Samaddar explained to the participants CRG’s research activities, while Samir Das made a brief statement about the objectives of the Dialogue organized in the framework of Eurasia-Net project. He also reminded that the organization of this Dialogue marks twentieth anniversary of the publication of late Prof. Myron Weiner’s provocatively titled essay on ‘Who are Minorities and What do They Want?’ in 1989. The state of minorities encapsulated in the essay has of course changed over the past twenty years and Das drew our attention to three such changes that occurred during this time: First, while it is true that minorities are those who ‘lack power’ and ‘who do not share what they regard as the central symbols of the society’, his essay does not tell us why or how such symbols acquire centrality and pride of place in the society. Such symbols playing a crucial role in the organization of the social whole are increasingly facing criticism in recent years. Secondly, his assumption that democratic institutions and processes are supposed to remain untainted by ethnicity and communalism is observed more in its violation as is evident from human and civil rights reports including those of the statutory bodies like the National Human rights Commission etc. Thirdly, his essay does not take into account how minority relations particularly in South Asia are being negotiated independently of the mediation of the states – which was not the case earlier.
A. S. Narang – a Professor of Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi – delivered the keynote address. In his address, he made a distinction between ‘pluralism’ – where ethnic plurality is negotiated within an essentially monistic culture? and ‘multiculturalism’ where the presupposed existence of a monistic culture is itself in question. He also showed how state institutions supposed to play a neutral role particularly in times of riots and violence become infamous for their ‘active inaction’.
The following points emerged in course of the three rounds of discussion that formed parts of the Dialogue:
(a) One may not call women a minority but that they are similarly marginalized like the other minorities is beyond any doubt.
(b) While legal and Constitutional protection may not be inadequate, the persons handling the state institutions suffer from a ‘bias’. Minority leaders are also alienated from their communities. There is need to reexamine the attitude of government officials and other concerned people.
(c) The question of linguistic and other cultural minorities cannot be overshadowed by the over-attention being paid to that of religious minorities.
(d) The Sachar Commission Report in India brings out clearly the discrimination against the minority Muslims. The Report also breaks the myth that the Muslims do not want education by demonstrating that there were not enough schools in Muslim areas.
(e) Minority protection is not only an issue to be solved by the minority people. The majority have a role to play in this regard. Sachar Commission made no comments on the issue of reservation as they felt that discriminatory feelings towards countrymen would be aggravated through reservation.
(f) There is acute need for dispelling the myths and misperceptions concerning the minorities.
(g) The way the minority issues are dealt with by the state seems to show that the Muslims are concerned only with issues of cultural identity. Mainstream issues of socio-economic status that are directly dependent on the educational status, have been neglected.
(h) The Sachar Commission Report has brought the issue of minorities particularly the Muslims under public glare and media attention.
(i) There are ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ whose very survival depends on continuation of conflicts.
(j) Nation-building efforts in South Asia have contributed to homogenization.
(k) NHRC or National Commission on Minorities are recommending bodies with no power of enforcement and should be invested with more effective power.
(l) Most trans-national initiatives are primarily mediated through governments; importance of civil society initiatives can no longer be doubted. SAARC is important but it has failed. National and state initiatives have their own limitations.
(m) Overt centralization will not serve the purpose.
(n) The history of majoritarianism grants individual rights but not their rights as groups. South Asia cannot be homogenous. The cultural diversity has to be taken into account. There is however a limit to the rights of groups. What happens when some groups practice human sacrifice or female genital mutilation? Minorities are certainly not homogeneous.
(o) Should a regional charter be signed by the nation-state or should it be treated as guidelines to be followed by them? Will it make sense to speak a model national law than regional charter? Regional charter derives its inspiration from the European experience. Europe has a history of the formation of the charters including people’s charters. Is there a need to go beyond this and see if we can have a charter of freedom? And the European way may not be advisable.
(p) Sovereignty needs to be reinterpreted as responsibility that the States owe to their citizens. The draft charter is not a panacea but can be a mechanism for bettering the conditions of the minorities.
(q) SAARC can learn a lot from the ASEAN in terms of inter-governmental approach.
(r) It must be noted that India is a nation of bewildering diversity. It can never be conceived as a nation in the classical European sense.
(s) In the present scenario only nations with diversity are possible. Thus the process of nation building cannot succeed without justice to all the sections of the people. The Muslims of India require three primary rights — economic, educational and political including security. Hence justice to all sections of the minority is required to make India a true working democracy.
(t) There is a need to relocate areas of enquiry with a new focus on how the market and economy reproduce/sustain inequalities towards the minority.
(u) What we require are a much wider database, a little more candour and rules of objectivity. The entire preoccupation with the minority stems from a moral position. Hence as a methodology, while delving into minority issues objectivity is required. There is need for an ethnographic exploration of these dialogues taking place (or whether at all) in everyday life.
The dialogue ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Samir Das. He particularly thanked the project partners and European Academy, Guenther Rautz and the distinguished participants.
Overall Concept and General Objectives of the
Human rights, and especially minority rights, have a clear
supranational dimension both in Europe and in South Asia. Europe has made
wide use of the mechanisms and soft law approaches developed and implemented
at regional level by the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union.
In South Asia there is a long tradition of study and robust experience in
the field of cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic management,
including the gender dimension, within national boundaries (India in
particular). However, it is only recently that some limited attempts have
been made to enhance regional cooperation on these very sensitive issues.
Studies carried out by South Asian scholars have created the knowledge base
underlying the first rudimentary attempts by the South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the foresight initiatives of human rights
NGOs and activists. Furthermore, the geopolitical context is now
particularly favourable to a supra-national discourse on human and minority
rights as a consequence of recently improved relations between India and
In addition, the process of including human rights, and
particularly minority rights, in the regional South Asian agenda deserves
the attention of the European research community. Their involvement will
contribute to the development EU and Member State (MS) policies that are
supportive of this process and that will eventually contribute to regional
stability and effective EU-South Asia cooperation. Scientific cooperation on
the issues of supra-national mechanisms for human and minority rights would
therefore be extremely topical and of strategic value for European and South
Asian relations. To lose momentum would mean missing an opportunity for
Europe to fully exercise its role as a global player in the area of regional
mechanisms for human and minority rights protection – a field in which
European experience is by far the longest and most elaborated in the world.
The overall objective of EURASIA-Net is therefore to
enhance the requisite knowledge-base for new policies and instruments to
reduce ethnic-religious conflicts and to foster stability and security in
South Asia. Achievements in this area are likely to create a favourable
environment for cooperation with Europe and to contribute to repositioning
Europe as a pro-active political interlocutor.
The importance of South Asia in a global perspective is many
folds. In demographic terms, the region is home to over one-fifth of the
world population, fragmented in a mosaic of ethnic, religious, cultural and
linguistic groups. Within South Asia, India is one of the most dynamic
engines of the world economy with a growth rate that is second only to China
and a major EU commercial and economic partner. At the same time intra and
inter-state conflicts and tensions, such as in Sri Lanka, Kashmir,
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal, are serious impediments to a lasting
stability in the region. The significant anarchy in many areas has created a
vacuum, which has attracted the evil forces of terrorism and is a permanent
threat to global peace and security worldwide. The almost totality of the
conflicts have their roots in a mismanagement of ethnic and religious
relations at local level which immediately has a consequence at state and/or
supra-state level and this is due to the fact that often we have a minority
community in a state which is in a majoritarian position in a neighbouring
country. The state of war and confrontation has created the conditions for
large scale human and minority rights violations and the state of insecurity
and fear has generated massive migration flows within South Asian and
towards other regions. South Asia is presently the largest provider of
immigrants and asylum-seekers to Europe. The United Kingdom provides a
striking illustration of the migratory patterns from South Asia. British
Asians constitute over 4% of the total population of the United Kingdom. In
2004, 27% (one in every four) of Londoners were either born in South Asia or
have one of their parents with a South Asian origin. Other large communities
of South Asian immigrants and refugees are present in Germany, France and
of EURASIA-Net Project
To develop a better understanding of regional
South Asian attempts to define (by the research community) and implement (by
decision-makers and activists) new supranational instruments for the
protection and promotion of human rights, with a particular focus on
cross-border minority issues.
To sustain Euro-Asiatic research cooperation
and exchange on those issues and to enlarge the discussion forum to
encompass politicians and human rights activists.
To create a
framework for future research cooperation between Europe and South Asia that
is twofold: (a) a Joint Research Agenda and (b) a modus operandi based on
mutual knowledge and understanding.
The success of the project with respect to its objectives will be
The scientific quality and functionality of a Joint Research Agenda for
European and South Asian studies on regional integration and supra-national
instruments for human and minority rights protection.
The level of engagement and consensus achieved among decision makers,
civil society and national and international institutions on the topics
addressed by the project and, more specifically, on the Joint Research
The establishment, within the life of the project, of concrete cases of
bilateral cooperation between the two regions involving the scholars, higher
education institutions and international organisations concerned.
List of Institutions Involved in the
the partners and the consortium contribute to the coordination of high
EURASIA-Net’s contribution to the coordination of high quality
research is provided, on one hand, by the participation of distinguished
scholars and the most representative institutions at the regional level; and
on the other, by the composition of the consortium as a whole. The project
has mobilised the most active researchers on this topic in Europe and South
Asia, and has gathered them in a consortium that will be supported and
assisted by a group of project Associates (see section 2.3) including the
Council of Europe and SAARC. The key features that will enable EURASIA-Net
consortium to enhance effective coordination of research are:
§ Focus on a specific topic. The interest of researchers involved in the specific topic of the
regionalisation of human and minority rights facilitates the organisation of
effective and structured cooperation. Broad topics could result in the
dispersion of resources and be less effective in aggregating researchers. In
our case, scholars such as Prof. Javaid Rehman, Prof. Joseph Marko, Prof.
Rainer Hofmann, Prof. Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka, Prof. Sonia Dayan Herzbrun,
Dr. Günther Rautz, Dr. Tapan Bose, Mr. Kamran Arif, Ms. Tanveer Jahan, Dr.
Ranabir Samaddar and Dr. Paula Banerjee, although coming from different
disciplines, share a common interest in studying the regional dimension of
human and minority rights protection and promotion in Europe and South Asia.
§ From national experiences to regional
coordination. The specific competences and interests of
our partners and associates have been exercised mainly in a national or
bilateral context, but is now time to combine the resources of five Member
States and four South Asian countries to coordinate efforts on a topic in
which European supra-national experience is remarkable.
§ There is a clear interest from both
parties (Europe and South Asia) in the contents of the project. On one
hand, South Asian researchers, civil society and institutions clearly
perceive the benefit of stronger regional integration as an important issue
for the development of the region (and Europe is seen by many as a
significant case study); on the other hand, European scholars and European
decision makers have a clear interest in understanding the pattern of
changes in South Asia and, as far as possible, in becoming useful partners
in the policy debate and process of regional integration.
§ Strong support and involvement of the most
representative regional international organisations. The project has
been discussed among, and has taken into full account the input given by,
experts and officials from the Council of Europe, and in particular
from the Secretariat of the Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities. The Secretariat is Associate to EURASIA-Net and has
formally expressed its will to engage in exchange and dialogue with South
Asian colleagues. On the Asian side, our natural interlocutor is the South
Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, where the European Union has
recently acquired the status of observer. The project and its modus operandi
have been discussed with the Human Resource Centre of SAARC, and having
received the full support of the Director – Mr Khan – are now at the
attention of the Secretary General of SAARC with a view to formalise the
association of the organisation to EURASIA-Net. In addition, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed
its appreciation for the initiative, and is willing to provide support.
§ Finally, we would like to highlight the role
that EURASIA-Net has accorded to civil society and in particular to South
Asian NGOs, both at the conceptual level for their role in the creation
of new knowledge in this field, and at the operational level through their
active involvement in our consortium.
The MCRG is responsible for coordinating Trans Regional Platform
in the policies and instruments for the promotion of Human Rights and
management of Minority Issues. Under
this task the MCRG will do the following things:
1. It will have a special programme of media sensitization on the
promotion of human rights and the significance of existing democratic values
in South Asian societies towards protection of minorities.
This task will include awarding three media fellows on this theme and
organizing a creative media workshop on the theme of human rights and
protection of minority rights in South Asia.
In this, suitable examples of how promotion of media activities has
helped protection of human rights and particularly minority rights in Europe
will be utilized.
2 MCRG will author a textbook on human rights with emphasis on
protection of minorities so that it can be used in higher educational
institutions. This textbook will be in both print and CD form.
3. There is need to create a platform between Europe and South
Asia involving experts and stakeholders with a view to promoting,
disseminating and sustaining research in the field of regional cooperation
and trans-regional cooperation of Human Rights and Minority Rights. Such a platform will serve the following purposes:
3.1 A joint study of appropriate South Asian and European
situation on these themes on a selected basis.
3.2 A study of how the Paris principles on the basis of which the
National Human Rights Commission and the Minority Commissions etc. have been
set up or are being implemented in relevant cases of Europe and South Asia.
3.3 This platform will under take and sustain research on two or
three key themes namely, the functioning of Rule of Law, Principles of
Autonomy and obligation to International Legal Principles of Human Rights.
4. There will be an Internet platform also for diffusion of all
the material on website.
5. Finally the MCRG will organize a final conference bringing
together the outcome of all these activities towards formulizing the
collections and recommendations.
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