At a symposium on Minorities under threat in South Asian Countries organised by South Asian Minorities Lawyers Association (SAMLA) to observe International Day for the Rights of Minorities, prominent lawyers and intellectuals and members of Minorities Commission expressed concern on attack and persecution of minorities in South Asia in the national capital on December 18.
In order to advance awareness about the need to realise rights of minorities in the South Asian region, SAMLA instituted SAMLA Social Harmony Awards. The Awards are conferred annually on two personalities or institutions, one from minorities and the other from the majority community, who have made significant contribution for protection of rights of minorities and promotion of social harmony in the region. The awards for 2021 were given to eminent Lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Senior Advocate Mr. R.S. Suri, ASG.
Prashant Bhushan, senior Supreme Court lawyer, said, “It is apparent and known to all of us what is happening in our country and how minorities are being demonised and attacked in various parts of the country. Those who speak out against attacks on minorities are also being attacked. They are charged with sedition and UAPA. Despite those attacks, it is exceedingly important to continuously raise our voices individually and collectively against attack on minorities and others.
He added, “These attacks thrive on fake narrative and propaganda, demonising minorities and running hate campaign against them. This needs to be countered by exposing the falsity of these narratives by speaking the truth and informing and educating people about the contribution of minorities to the making of our nation.”
Salman Khursheed, former law minister, cautioned that if an individual or community doesn’t speak for others thinking that they are not attacked and are safe are mistaken because their turn will follow eventually and at that point of time no one will stand for them. This is true not only for minorities but also for the majority.
Dr Zafarul Islam, former Chairman Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC), in his keynote speech, spoke at length on the rights and violation of rights of minorities in South Asian countries. While lauding the role of Chief Justice of Pakistan in restoration of a temple there and while reminding the action taken by Bangladesh government against those who had attacked minorities there, asked India to learn lesson from such action taken and should not allow violent attacks on minorities in India and severely punish violators of the minority rights.
Zakir Khan, Chairman DMC, said when minorities speak against atrocities against them it is hardly taken seriously but when people like Ashok Arora, Suri sb, Prashant Bhushan and other members of civil society speak for them then it is heard. So it is important for minorities to take them along and raise their voice collectively.
President of SAMLA, Nasir Aziz and Secretary General Feroz Khan Ghazi also addressed the gathering.