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South Asia Research Institute for Minorities organizes video conference to discuss issues

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An international video conference “COVID-19: The Vulnerabilities of Minorities in South Asian Perspective” was held by South Asia Research Institute for Minorities (SARIM) in which Speakers from Canada, India, Maldives and Pakistan shared their researchers today.

Mr. Anwar Arakani, President Rohingya Association of Canada said, “In India, under the BJP government, the RSS and Hindutva have been unleashing their wraths on defenseless Rohingya refugees for years.

Young Rohingya refugee girls are often kidnapped in broad day light with full impunity. During the Covid-19, local and central government blame the ‘Muslims’ for spreading the virus and the Rohingyas are the weakest link.

Malaysia, once known for its generosity and ‘safe heaven’ for Rohingya refugees, exposed its ugly head by pushing back hundreds of Rohingya boat people into the sea where they adrift for weeks and died in hundreds.

Bangladesh has been pressured by India and China on many fronts not to support Rohingya refugees and not to engage in Rohingya case against Burma. During the Covid-19 pandemic where many boats loads of fleeing Rohingya refugees were dying in the Bay of Bengal and remain afloat for weeks, Bangladesh has come to rescue in fulfilling the calls made by many countries around the globe. However, those rescued Rohingya were sent to the Bhachan Char island, under the pretext of “isolating and quarantining” them of Covid-19 infection.

Unfortunately, this ‘perfect excuse’ has paved the way for Bangladeshi government to move Rohingya refugees onto that uninhabitable island permanently, thus implementing the anti-human plan of China which in turns lessening the pressure of genocidal crimes on Burma. ASEAN, SARC and EU need to work together to find a lasting solution to this unending crisis”.

Mr. Mukesh Kumar, President Pakistan Young Hindu Forum said, “During the COVID

crisis, the minority communities including Hindus have followed the regulations and all social distancing measures are also being taken by the community.

The Govt through its Ehsaas program has given Rs. 12,000 to each poor family including the minorities without any discrimination. All medical facilities are also being provided without any discrimination. Hindu community also boasts a high number of doctors contributing positively in this

medical crisis. The community has top businessmen in the field of Rice, Cotton, Wheat & Pulses who are all contributing positively in this crisis through donations all over the country”.

Cynthia Stephen, President Training, Editorial & Development Services Trust, Banglore, India said,

“the situation in India is causing some concern as many lives have already been lost. In the present context of the corona pandemic, it’s true that the people most affected would be the Muslim minorities and another large section of the Indian population – the migrant workers. They are walking back

home, thousands of kilometres away, under the most jkadverse conditions. It would be safe to say that these are the already vulnerable sections in India:

Dalits, Adivasis, women and children. These are the most enduring images one sees in the media at this

time”. Cynthia is a Dalit activist, writer, social policy researcher and an independent Journalist.

Speaker from Maldives, Dr. Mariyam Shahuneeza, founder President of Countering Violent

Extremism Through Youth Empowerment and Director Policy planning and research, department of judicial administration said, “Data shows that it is minorities and other marginalized communities that are more exposed, hence, hit harder by COVID-19 possibly due to living conditions, health disparity, and health care disparity to name a few.

According to the South Asia State of Minorities Report 2019, due to discriminatory laws in some South Asian countries, vulnerable communities are denied official refugee or minority status and in many parts of South Asia hate speech and targeted violence against minorities were observed. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, this deprives minorities and other marginalized communities of essential rights and services including access to health care and information in their own language. First step in addressing the issue is to understand that in order to protect ourselves we need to protect the entire human race.

It is not us versus them but it is us versus the virus. Therefore, in order to successfully protect the human race, it is essential that UN conventions are followed and rights of vulnerable communities are protected.

Dr. Sadia Mahmood, Assistant professor, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad said, “The ongoing

pandemic has affected religious minorities in different South Asian countries variably. It specifically hasn’t changed anything for Muslim communities in certain South Asian countries where they were already being subjected to majoritarian exclusionary politics, communal violence, oppressive state policies, and discrimination.

In Pakistan, although the pandemic didn’t help already existing fissures in the society to disappear, it also did not exacerbate these faultlines to victimize the religious minorities.

Neither is there any discriminatory policy adopted by the state. The religious minorities in Pakistan have so far not reported any incidents of discrimination in the context of COVID 19. After the Pakistani government issued the policies of physical distancing to be observed at the places of worship, these policies were voluntarily adopted by the religious minorities.  But we must keep in mind that the structural vulnerabilities of everyday life are and will impact marginalized communities, whether Muslim or Non-Muslim, in the country.

Convener SARIM, Dr. Syed Khuram said, “States have a responsibility to protect all people residing

in their territory, be they members of majorities or minorities, indigenous people, citizen or non-citizens. If a state neglects its primary responsibility to protect minorities under its jurisdiction, the subsidiary responsibility lies with the international community as a whole. International and regional organizations must build domestic state capacity while strengthening the tools and political will to deliver timely collective responses when states fail in their responsibilities. Bilateral and multilateral mechanisms alike can counter nationalist rhetoric and policies by emphasizing that a diverse, well integrated society is in the interest of both the majority and minorities.

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