Adopted by 4th General Assembly of SAAPE,  18-19 December 2012

We the members of the Fourth General Assembly, of SAAPE, having met at Kathmandu, Nepal from 18-20, December, 2012, do hereby, unanimously adopt this declaration.

We have assembled at this fourth General Assembly as South Asians drawn from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives and Nepal and taken note of the emerging situation in our respective countries and in South Asia.

We are deeply disturbed at the all-round degradation in the quality of life that the majority of South Asians are experiencing in their respective countries. We witness increasing deprivations in the human, cultural, economic, social and political spheres of our people.

The average South Asian loves to live in peace and harmony with her neighbours both within and beyond the borders that artificially divide us. When South Asians meet in each other’s country, there is so much of joy, happiness and fraternity, irrespective of religion, language, colour of skin or political affiliation. Yet there is so much of violence, cruelty, murder, rape, arson and looting, when extraneous thinking is injected into the locality, the class room, the market place or the place of worship. 

The story of Malala bears symbolic witness to what we have stated above. This little girl of Swat region in Pakistan decided that it was her birth right to go to school, but to our utter dismay, certain fundamental forces shot at her and tried to kill her. But this brave could not be killed, in spite of a bullet even in her head. She not only survived but she inspires us with her determination to live as an educated girl against the propaganda of fundamentalists.  We, especially, on behalf of all south Asian Girl children rejoice that she has recovered and is alive and smiling.

Malala has upheld the right of girl children to attend school in exercise of her fundamental right to education and it is Taliban that is put to shame for this criminal act against an innocent but determined girl child of Pakistan. We wish to adopt her as the daughter of South Asia and call upon all Governments, educational institutions and all child friendly organisations in our region to introduce scholarships for girl children's education by collecting donations in her name from all citizens of South Asia. Henceforth all school books should have a lesson in their text books explaining the story of Malala and explain how and why she fought for the right to education for all girl children. 

Simultaneously we take note of the tragic reality in all South Asian countries where millions of children go to bed hungry and grow up in acute malnutrition resulting in stunting and underweight, thus affecting their ability to grow up, study and become good citizens. This is happening after more than two decades of neoliberal growth in all countries of South Asia.

The story of hunger, unemployment, disease, illiteracy, homelessness, child labour, gender inequality, discrimination and deprivation, especially against the excluded social groups of our region is writ large in every corner of South Asia.

It is considered opinion and our lived experience that ever since the invasion of neoliberalism into our lands this condition of all round human misery stands further accentuated by the day. 

Unfortunately, our leaders, who represent the elite of South Asia are united in importing this economic model which has spread inequality, human deprivation and erosion of the quality of life of the millions. 

We must remember that this importation of the economic policies is primarily meant to help the crisis ridden western world of their own problems. This model is inspired by the 'Washington Consensus' (created by the united action of the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO and the treasury of the USA) has been imposed on us either through the Structural Adjustment Programme or the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and not through the democratic consensus of our people.

Indeed democracy has also been a casualty in South Asia. There are continuing obstacles to our progress along democratic lines. Recent events in different parts of South Asia, however, witness the rise of democratic struggles. The People, the Bar Associations, the Judiciary, the constitution making process, the media and above all civil society has been fighting relentlessly for advancing and consolidating democratic rights. Unfortunately there are attacks and setbacks in our endeavour and most recently these threats have come from fundamentalists of different religious origin and even from the ruling circles of the elite as we have witnessed in Sri Lanka. 

At the same time we renew our pledge to Peace and we remain committed to the peaceful path of struggle. We call upon all people's movements and all forms of protest and mobilisation in south Asia to shun the path of armed insurrection. There are too many instances where innocent people are the victims of cross fire and it is time for us to learn that the rich traditions of peace and non-violence, in the world and in our region alone must inspire and guide us in our struggle for a new world-  even if it is against imperialism aided and abetted by the local elite for their own aggrandisement.

We therefore pledge ourselves in favour of a secular, democratic, humanist order free from discrimination, denial of dignity, and artificial boundaries that impede our travel and our friendships, especially at a people to people level. We want a society that guarantees us all Human rights, especially that which is contained in the international Bill of Rights.

We want a people friendly Rule of Law based political order which is guaranteed by a constitutional arrangement in which sovereignty rests entirely with the people, with the right to recall corrupt officials along with machinery that can put such usurpers of power behind the bars, after due process of law.

We call upon all our friends in Civil Society and in people friendly political processes to wake up to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people and to strive for a new world order and to make efforts for the same in South Asia. Let us prepare well for the Peoples' SAARC and use the coming opportunity to ascertain the will of the widest sections of civil society and move forward to defeat the forces of fundamentalism, elite rule, exploitation, discrimination based on gender or social group and end all evil within the South Asia.

It is important that SAAPE help to appraise the situation of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. International community has not been able to significantly contribute to ease this pending problem. There has been no sign of immediate repatriation of the refugees by the Nepal government. 

Migration across borders and its impact on receiving states such as the issues in North-East India are foreign related issues as it shares borders with four foreign countries. There are major problems resulting from this cross border linkages. Infiltration from Bangladesh has brought about various problems to ethnic communities who are struggling for their rights and ownership to resources. Hence, land grabbing has a completely different meaning for ethnic people. 

There should be an emergency strategy of SAAPE so as to have a focal point to take immediate actions which will help us to stand up as South Asia, against tragic incidents such as the case of Malala. A People’s Coalition has to be formed and perhaps it can be linked with the Special Team about to be formed for Afghanistan. 

Trade Measures should have a “Look East” policy. We should critically look at on trade policies being implemented in South Asia by World Bank, IMF etc. to have people’s views on the impact on these policies.

‘Rights to Minorities’ and ‘No to Majoritarianism’, ‘full citizenship with all entitlements to minorities’. There have been cases of cross border inceptions where migrants have not been treated well even within legal framework. States have clear doctrines and secretarisation of migration for the interest of national sovereignty and security. There are bilateral and trilateral interests, political pressure and diplomatic protocol to be maintained. In this connection, civil societies should work together to develop a mechanism to work in terms of protecting people who are crossing the border.

Peoples' SAARC and Official SAARC relationship has to be linked and maintained so that the two bodies do not work in isolation. 

India must not give military aid to South Asia. It is the responsibility of the Indian civil society to break this and show the attitude that Indian politicians are to blame not the Indians in general.

Land and natural resource grab in South Asia is the serious issue that has led to the alienation of people from their rights to live and rights to livelihoods. The land grabbing process must be stopped urgently.