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Minorities in India, Pakistan continue to suffer
By Web Desk
July 4th 2012



The state of minorities in India and Pakistan is no better than it was 30 years ago. In fact, it has worsened.

Alienated for a long time, Muslims in India are warming up to the idea of modern knowledge, yet equality is still a far-fetched idea for them.

In Pakistan too, minorities, in particular Hindus, continue to face alienation. They are constitutionally forbidden to become Prime Minister or President of the country, nor can they climb up the top slots in civil services.

These sentiments were shared on Tuesday by scholars and minorities’ representatives from Pakistan and India at day 1 of a regional conference on the “Rights of Religious Minorities in South Asia: Learning from Mutual Experiences” organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) of Germany.

“India’s secular constitution, which exhorts affirmative action to safeguard the minorities had all along struggled against the forces of Hindutva led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” said Indian scholar Prof. Dr Ram Puniyami.

He described the condition of Muslims in India as “dismal”, saying that the situation of minority rights in India have suffered over the past three decades.

Sangh Parivar, he said, typecasts Muslims as terrorists and emphasises their otherness to persecute them. Christians, too, are targeted by extremist Hindu elements over accusations that they forcefully convert low-caste Hindus.

The communalism in South Asia is of a competitive nature, as persecution of Muslims in India spurs negative sentiments in Pakistan and vice versa, said Puniyami.

“Violation of human rights anywhere should be treated as a violation everywhere,” said the Indian scholar, adding that there were many men and women in India who had devoted their lives to fighting the menace of communalism and evolving a polity that was truly secular.

Prof. Puniyami advocated reservations in jobs for Muslims to bring them up to a threshold of economic and social survival. But it will be a long and hard fight, he said.

Former federal minister and minority rights activist J Salik said that minorities in Pakistan do not enjoy equal rights as no member of the minority community could become the head of the state or the chief executive.

“Minorities should be safer in Pakistan than elsewhere as this was the only country which was created by a minority,” said Salik.

Pandit Channa Lal, a senior representative of the Hindu community in Pakistan, said his community faced no problems in the observance and celebration of religious rites and festivals. However the children do not feel as if they are a part of the mainstream, he added.

“Hindus can not climb to the top in service careers. There are no foreign office jobs for them and the doors of the presidency and the PM House are closed on them,” said Lal. He said the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is no longer a liberal party as it used to be in the times of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Professor Imtiaz Ahmad from Bangladesh said that the polity in Bengal is more tolerant as public reasoning there is enriched with the Sufi tradition and the influence of the Hanafi school of thought, which tends to separate religion from politics.

Ambassador Nihal Rodrigo from Sri Lanka spoke on his country’s war on terror and Muslims’ sufferings in it.

Dr Maqsudul Hassan Nuri, acting president of IPRI, said now is an “age of rage” and there has been marked rise in religiosity in South Asia over the years.

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan

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