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Minority Rights in South Asia: Before, During, and After COVID-19

Minority Rights in South Asia: Before, During, and After COVID-19

Date and time: May 6, 2020, 4 to 5:30 pm Indian Standard Time (UTC+5:30)

Register here.

This event is free to attend, but in the interest of security, please register for a free ticket beforehand.

Once we have your details, we will send you an email with the Zoom ID and password, and further information related to security, the week of May 4.


Join us for an in-depth discussion on the state of South Asia’s minorities, with a focus on refugees, migrants and stateless populations. This discussion comes from the South Asia Collective’s flagship publication, South Asia State of Minorities Report.

The report is available here:

The webinar will feature leading minority rights activists and researchers who will share key findings of the newly released report, as well as discuss the state of minorities in South Asia over the last year, and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South Asia Collective is a group of research and advocacy groups from across South Asia, who work on documenting the conditions of minorities in contexts across the region.

Speakers from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan – all members of the Collective – will discuss their 2019 report, “South Asia State of Minorities”, which provides an overview of the current challenges facing minorities in South Asia, with a particular focus on religious minorities. It also examines the theme of ‘Migrants, Refugees, and Statelessness’, with a focus on issues at the intersections of minority rights and the right to nationality. This includes long-standing issues, such as those affecting “up-country” Tamils from Sri Lanka both within the country and in India, as well as the conditions of Afghans in Pakistan, and Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. It also covers emerging issues, including escalating concerns of a statelessness crisis in South Asia, subsequent to the introduction of a discriminatory citizenship law in India.

At a time of increasing politicization of minority rights protection in South Asia, particularly in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report and discussion draws critical attention to these issues and opens the question on how to respond to a worsening context.

A discussion and Q&A will follow the presentations. The event will open with UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, as keynote speaker.


Fernand de Varennes has been the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues since 2017. His work and commitment focus on the human rights of minorities, as well as the prevention of ethnic conflicts, the rights of migrants, the relationship between ethnicity, human rights and democracies, and the use of federalism and other forms of autonomy arrangements to balance competing cultural interests.

Sajjad Hassan (India) is the Director of Misaal Foundation, New Delhi. Sajjad holds a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics, UK, and has a number of years of development sector experience – in India and the South Asia region, with grassroots networks, development agencies and governments.

Deepak Thapa (Nepal) is the Director of Social Science Baha. He writes regularly on Nepal’s contemporary social and political issues, and is the author or editor of many publications, including, most recently, Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Nepal Peace Process (co-editor).

Zakir Hossain (Bangladesh) heads Nagorik Uddyog (Citizens’ Initiative), a Dhaka based human rights organization, working for the rights of socially excluded and marginalized communities. Zakir has been a human rights and environmental activist for the past 20 years.

Elaine Alam (Pakistan) is a development sector specialist with a history of working in the civic & social organization industry. She has served as the technical advisor to the Ministry for Human Rights & Minorities Affairs, Government of Punjab, with a Postgraduate focused in Poverty Reduction: Policy and Practice. She is the founding member and secretary-general of FACES (Formation Awareness and Community Empowerment Society).

Sakuntala Kadirgamar (Sri Lanka) is the Executive Director of Law and Society Trust. She is a senior governance expert with extensive experience providing policy and technical advice on governance reform and negotiating gender & social inclusion, who has been called upon to play a key role in providing policy advice to diffuse political and social tensions and to advance new governance and development initiatives.

Anosh Sayed Hossain (Afghanistan) is the executive director at Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN).

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