Governments in South Asian countries have failed to ensure the rights of religious and ethnic minority groups, said Prof Muchkund Dubey, former foreign secretary of India yesterday.
“The governments in power have failed to recognise the rights [of religious and ethnic minorities], and take measures to redress their rights,” he said, referring to Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh among other South Asian Countries.
Dubey was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day long international conference titled “State and Society in South Asia: A Historical Perspective”, organised at Jagannath University.
Jagannath University (JnU) and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies jointly organised the conference.
In his keynote speech, Dubey observed many governments of South Asian countries made delayed response to issues of religious and ethnic minorities.
“In many cases it was too late to even be able to deal with the problem,” he added.
Dubey, also president of Council for Social Development in New Delhi, said that freedom of expression, right to dissent, non-suppression of diversities, upholding human dignity, ensuring human rights and special care to the rights of minorities are the essence of democracy.
“But South Asian countries have significantly deviated from that essence of democracy,” he said.
Regarding establishing secularism, Dubey said, “Most of the South Asian countries subscribe to secularism in their constitution. But partial factors were introduced during the course of implementation as in the case of Bangladesh, which has once again reverted back to secularism in a very steady fashion.”
Soon after the Liberation War, Dubey -- as an UN employee -- came to Bangladesh to prepare a report on the requirement of technical cooperation for rehabilitation and development.
“In the report I quoted Bangladesh, among all South Asian countries, having the best chance of progress in development,” he said.
One reason was cultural and linguistic homogeneity which none of the other countries [in the region] have. Secondly, sacrifice makes people proud and motivates them to move ahead.
“Today, Bangladesh is ahead of most of the countries in South Asia, including India, on many indices of social development like gender parity, maternal mortality rate etc,” he added.
The former bureaucrat felt that education should be made universal.
“One thing that is sadly missing in the entire sub-continent is the commitment to universalise education. We have model schools for children of the privileged and special schools for professionals but we don't say that in five years, we are going to universalise education for all,” Dubey said.
UGC chairman Prof Abdul Mannan; Prof Dr Mijanur Rahman, VC of JnU; Prof Dr Khodeja Khatun, chairperson, Department of History, JnU; and Prof Dr Harun-or-Rashid, vice-chancellor of National University, spoke at the event.