Association of Asia Scholars
Panel on Human Rights and Social Justice in South Asia
Conference by the Rajasthan Sociological Association and Department of Sociology, B.S.R.
Government College, Alwar from 14-16 December, 2012.
Acknowledgement: Support received from PD Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
The Panel was chaired by Professor Sangeeta Thapliyal .She spoke about a historical perspective on women and their human rights, stating much about gender issues and how these issues became complex in male dominated societies.
Dr. Sharad Kumar Soni, whilst talking about “Human Rights in Inner Asia” began his presentation by defiing Inner Mongolia. He briefly went over the history of this region. He then elaborated on certain examples of human rights violations in various areas of Inner Asia, like in Tibet, where the most striking, was the violation of the Rights to Life (Article 21). He concluded by stating that there is a need to look at this issue with greater seriousness, so that such violations, especially in remote areas of Inner Asia, are kept at bay.
Dr. Reena Marwah, presented on gender equality issues and human rights. She introduced herself be stating that she had attended several Human Rights Commission meetings, right from 1995 onwards. She then elaborated on the fact that there are different types of rights, social, economic, human and so on. She however, focused on gender equality issues, while citing the example of women in South Asia, being 50% of the population; they still face unequal treatment, on the basis of just their gender. She also spoke about feticide and other girl child issues and concluded by emphasizing that participation and appropriate policy implementation, is a must, to ensure that gender discrimination can be eventually eliminated.
Thereafter, Dr. Sanjay Bhardwaj, spoke about human rights violation in the State. He elaborated on the three main tiers in society, the political, the civil and the sub-altern society. Largely, he said that it is the duty of the civil society, to mobilize people and the State in the process, is always looked at, as the violator of human rights. He also said that conflict between these three societies, was a matter of power. He ended his presentation by stating that we try to look for solutions by the process of democratization, but when the minorities demand rights, the State opts for violent movements and thus the State becomes a perpetrator.
Mr. Tarun Mathur, spoke on the issue of “Human Rights of the Religious Minorities of Pakistan: A Case of Sindh”, where he emphasized on the face that religious minorities in Pakistan have always suffered from certain institutionalized barriers. The question of minorities v/s minorities becomes pertinent in the case of Sindh. When Muslims became the majority in Pakistan, after the Indo-Pak separation (1947), the state was responsible to reassure its ethnic and religious minorities that they will be a part of mainstream national politics. He spoke about how there are several forms of violence against religious minorities and the impact of that, on human rights.
Dr. Monirul Mohammed Islam, from the Bangladesh High Commission, articulated his delight at being welcomed so warmly at Alwar. He stated that as a practitioner, he could not theorize the topic of human rights, but his experience at the High Commission made him formulate some views about the subject. After giving a clear disclaimer that these were his personal views and not those of the High Commission, he went on to state that there is a thin line between fundamental and human rights. He explored a rather cyclical perspective to human rights, from birthrights to death rites. When a baby is born, much of what he actually requires is motherly love, allied to that is also the issue of maternity leave so that the baby may be fed well and his needs may be looked after by the mother in the initial stages. He expressed his grief about the fact that maternity leave in most South Asian nations, like Bangladesh was six months. In his view, it should be two years in fact. He then spoke about how several lakhs of people feel stateless, especially in the context of many Bangladeshis being on Indian territory and vice versa.
He then switched to how primary education is important as the child grows and that you can mould a child well, only in that stage. Also, he emphasized that nation building rests on this block, of primary education, which is rather neglected. He then went on to talk about the dignity, or the right to have a decent job, also, that every type of job/profession, from a sweeper till a CEO, is important, we should not view it in a hierarchical fashion. Last, to complete the cycle, he referred to the question of burial and the right to death with dignity to wrap up his discussion.
Thus, he stated how human rights was a complete package and that several academicians, government and non-governmental organizations should put on their thinking caps and join their hands to help eliminate human rights violations.
The panelists responded to questions from the floor.
Report prepared by: Zitin Munshi (Research Associate, Association of Asia Scholars).