South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) held its Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, BC, on July 17,  2011, elected a board with representation from the entire South Asian region and adopted resolutions pertaining to people’s struggles and human rights on the subcontinent and Canada.


Following the AGM there was a public educational forum on “Islamophobia,” moderated by Zahid Makhdoom and addressed by Harinder Mahil, former Chair of the Human Rights Commission of BC, Itrath Syed, PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University, and Graham Fuller, writer and Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University.


The following board was elected: Chinmoy Banerjee (President), Harsha Walia (Vice President), Abi Ghimire (Treasurer), Nila Somaia (Secretary), Zahid Makhdoom, Chelliah Premrajah, Haider Nizamani, Habiba Zaman, Harjap Grewal, Imran Munir, Bhanu Poudyal, Amal Rana, Robbie Grewal, (Members at Large), and Abid Pittalwala (Life Member).


Following is the text of the resolutions adopted:


On Bill C4, Regarding Asylum Seekers In Canada


Whereas the Harper government’s Human Smuggling Bill C4 reintroduces Bill C49, which had been previously rejected by all opposition parties and condemned by many community, legal, human rights, and migrant justice groups,


Whereas it is a bill modeled after Australia’s internationally condemned policies of mandatory detention and human rights abuses against asylum-seekers and proposes mandatory detention without review by the Immigration and Refugee board for 12 months; denial of the right to apply for permanent resident status until five years after favorable determination of the claim, and denial of access to relief based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds,


Be it resolved that SANSAD urges the Canadian Government to withdraw this anti-refugee and punitive Bill, which sets out to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act.


On War Crimes In Sri Lanka


Whereas, the civil war in Sri Lanka having ended in May 2009, civilians affected by the war have not yet been resettled in their resident villages and a large number of civilians and former combatants still remain detained,


And whereas the panel of experts appointed by the UN have submitted a report confirming war crimes and other horrific abuses committed by both sides during the war,


And whereas Human Rights watch and Amnesty International have reported killing and disappearance of thousands of innocent civilians,


Be it resolved that SANSAD urges the Canadian Government to move the United Nations to launch an International, independent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka.


On Domestic Violence In Bangladesh


Whereas Rumana Manzur, an Assistant Professor in Dhaka University doing a Master’s at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, was viciously attacked and blinded by her husband during her visit home in Dhaka on June 5, 2011,


And whereas this appalling act of domestic violence depriving a woman of her full enjoyment and realization of her life, brings to light the violence that women are so often subjected to as a result of social arrangements,


Be it therefore resolved that SANSAD condemns this brutal attack on Rumana Manzur and will write to Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa seeking justice for Rumana and other women subjected to domestic violence,


And be it further resolved that we  protests the lack of effective legal/judicial measures of the government of Bangladesh to fight against the structural and systemic violence against women that precipitates domestic violence, and which routinely lays the blame on the victim instead of the perpetrator;


We further urge the UBC administration to assist Rumana in seeking repatriation to Canada.


On Killings And Disappearances Pakistan


“Whereas in the past year there have been several incidents of politically motivated killings and disappearances in Pakistan, most notably the murders of Salman Taseer, a governor, Salman Shahzad, a journalist, and Saba Dastiyari, a professor, because they dared to stand up for human rights, the rights of oppressed minorities, and the truth that is essential for the existence of a peaceful, free and just society,


Be it therefore resolved that SANSAD, condemns these killings and kidnappings, mourns these deaths and demands that the killers of these speakers of truth be brought to justice.”


On Nepal Crisis


Whereas Nepal faces a crisis on many fronts, including poverty, extreme inequality, foreign intervention, political mistrust and resulting political stalemate,

Whereas Nepal has continuously faced food shortages for more than two decades, is facing the grim prospect of having close to a million people on the brink of starvation as the United Nation’s World Food Program cuts down its aid because of the lack of donations, and will have to face the devastating consequence of rising temperatures in the Himalayas,


And whereas the prospect of a bright future of democracy, social justice and empowerment of oppressed and marginalized groups opened by the agreements signed by the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) and the alliance of seven parliamentarian parties since 2005, particularly the 8-point agreement of June 2006 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of November 2006, has closed down to a dead end and produced frustration, cynicism, and anger among the people,


Therefore be it resolved that SANSAD urges all political actors in Nepal to honor their commitments in the agreements signed in June 2006 and in November 2006 to create a new constitution that embodies the aspirations of Nepali people for a democratic, just and inclusive society;


And be it further resolved that we urge all political actors, NGOs, INGOs and Civil Society in Nepal to work together to ensure that food sovereignty and right to food are guaranteed by the proposed constitution of Nepal.


On Bangladesh: Extra-Judicial Killings


Whereas the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), established in March 2004 by the Government of Bangladesh with personnel drawn from various military and paramilitary forces, has been sanctioned to take punitive action outside the law in violation of the guarantee in Article 32 of the Constitution of Bangladesh that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law,


And whereas according human rights activists, including Amnesty International, the RAB with impunity has been responsible for the killing of more than 1000 unarmed civilians,


And whereas the torture and extra-judicial killings by the RAB have been defended by ministers and officers of the Government of Bangladesh in the name of “law and order,”


Be it therefore resolved that SANSAD condemns the existence of the RAB as an extra-judicial force, condemns its extra-judicial actions and their defense by representatives of the Government of Bangladesh, and demands that the RAB be dismantled and Bangladesh be restored to the rule of law.


On ILO Convention On Domestic Labour


Whereas the 100th International Labour Conference (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland adopted the First Convention and Accompanying Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers on June 16, 2011, declaring that domestic workers have the same right as other workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining, eliminating all forms of forced labour and discrimination in respect to employment, and effectively abolishing child labour,


Whereas the convention recognizes that  domestic labour contributes significantly to the global economy and that, being largely performed by women and girls, who are often migrants, it is undervalued, invisible and makes its performers vulnerable to the abuse of human rights,


Therefore be it resolved that SANSAD commends the delegates to the 100thInternational Labour Conference (ILO) for adopting this worthy convention and urges the Government of Canada and other national governments to sign it.


On Land Acquisition And Displacement In India


Whereas the Government of Orissa signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in 2005 with the Korean corporation POSCO, the third largest steel company in the world, for the largest foreign investment in India, to produce 12 million tonnes of steel per year near the port town of Paradeep,


Whereas this deal has involved the acquisition of more than 4000 acres of land, most of which is forest land,


Whereas thousands of people led by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) have been opposing the displacement of people caused by this deal and thousands of villagers, including hundreds of women and children have lain down for weeks on roads in Jagatsingpur to block the passage of government and company officials and equipment,


And whereas the villagers protesting land acquisition and displacement have been joined in solidarity by the Dhangaria Kandh adivasi community from the nearby Niyamgiri area, who previously blocked bauxite mining in their hill district by the London-listed Vedanta group,


Be it therefore resolved that SANSAD extends its wholehearted solidarity to the villagers in Jagatsingpur and the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti in their just struggle for land, home, and livelihood and demands that the Orissa government stop all harassment of the villagers and cancel its deal with Posco,


And be it further resolved that SANSAD extends its solidarity to the thousands of farmers in Karnataka who are opposing the forcible acquisition of their land by the government of Karnataka for the establishment of a steel plant by Posco.


On Blasphemy Laws In Pakistan


Whereas the murders of public figures such as Shahbaz Bhatti, minister of minority affairs, and Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, committed in response to their challenge to the existing blasphemy laws in Pakistan have drawn the world’s attention to these iniquitous laws,


Whereas a series of Hudood regulations, blasphemy laws and constitutional amendments brought in by successive governments in Pakistan, have been used for harassing and terrorizing women, religious minorities, journalists, academics,  and secularists,


Whereas a large number of the followers of the Ahmadiya faith, Christians, Hindus and secular Muslims have been killed or persecuted under the sanction of these blasphemy laws,


And whereas human-rights and women’s-rights groups in Pakistan for many years have sought the repeal of the Huddod ordinances and blasphemy laws as inconsistent with the culture, mores and traditions of the people of Pakistan,


Therefore be it resolved that SANSAD joins its voice to the voice of people in Pakistan in condemning all atrocities committed in the name of these unjust laws and calling for their repeal.

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