Labor Day Weekend
September 4 and 5, 1999

Montreal, Canada


Centre d'études et de ressources sur l'Asie du Sud
(South Asia Research and Resource Centre)
3680 Jeanne Mance, #440
Montreal, Quebec
H2X 2K5

Phone: (514) 982-6606, ext. 2248
Fax: (514) 982-6122



The first announcement for this conference, which was circulated on March 1, 1999, received an encouraging response from several cities in North America and Europe. Since that time the BJP-led government has fallen. But this does change our decision to hold the conference. Whether or not the BJP is in power at the center, Hindutva ideology and politics has emerged as a major factor not only in governance but more importantly, in civil society. Obviously, a culture of secularism and democracy cannot be created and strengthened merely by a change in the government at the center.

Disregard for human rights of minority communities has prevailed throughout the history of independent Pakistan and the country is witnessing a renewed rise of fundamentalism with the Shariat Bill, the increasing attacks on journalists and the escalating violence against women.

The Indian Diaspora in North America and elsewhere with intimate ties with the large affluent middle class in India has significantly contributed to the strengthening of Hindutva politically and financially. Branches of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) exist in several major centers in the US, Canada, Britain, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere. These backward forces are united and resourceful. Likewise, Jamaat-e-Islami is influential and active in different cities. They are polluting the hearts and minds of the younger generation in the name of providing roots and cultural identity. On the other hand, secular democratic forces which exist in great numbers have not been able to offer an effective alternative nor been successful in becoming the alternative voice.

Democratic forces in India as well as Pakistan recognize the importance of bringing the Indian and Pakistani Diaspora into the common struggle for secularism, democracy, human rights and peace in the subcontinent. In order to provide a forum for discussion of these issues, the South Asia Research and Resource Center (CERAS) is organizing a North American Conference on the Labor Day Weekend 1999 (September 4 and 5) at Montreal. We are inviting a few speakers from India and Pakistan. Christophe Jaffrelot, a French scholar and author of the well-researched book The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India has accepted our invitation to speak at the conference.

We will support the visit of up to 10 youth who submit papers for presentation at the Conference. In order to facilitate finalization of selection and most economic travel arrangements, we suggest the abstract relevant to the theme given in the program below reach us by July 15. It would be helpful if the participating youth get sponsorship from their local groups, if possible. Youth presentations will be inlcuded in the Confrerence Proceedings.

We invite secular and democratic-minded people of origin in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries living in North America, Britain and Europe to this North American Conference on Peace and Human Rights in India and Pakistan. As well please send your suggestions about the program presented below so it can be appropriately modified in time. If you would like to help in organizing this conference, please let us know.

The principal objective of this conference is to debate how we can contribute to fighting for secularism, democracy and human rights in India and Pakistan. We would collectively attempt to formulate programs for providing non-resident South Asians especially the youth with secular and democratic alternatives and culture, which would also help strengthen secular democratic forces in India, Pakistan and the rest of South Asia.

CERAS will bear the cost of the stay of participants in Montreal. Travel has to be paid by the participants with the exception of a number of youth whose travel will also be subsidized in full or in part.

A cultural programme on Saturday night will provide a showcase of cultural activity in the service of secularism and rights. If you can contribute something in this area please indicate to us.


Youth up to the age of 35 years are encouraged to send the following to CERAS before July 15, 1999:

1. A brief essay on why you want to attend the conference, your motivation and what you feel you would bring to the conference.

2. An abstract of the paper you would like to present at the conference. The finished paper should be 800-1000 words and participants will be given approximately 15 minutes to present each paper.

The youth presentations will precede the conference workshops and the broad themes of discussion will be: Activism to support secular forces within North America based South Asians, the use of media, both to spread religious fundamentalism and to spread secular, religious tolerance, and the definition of an identity.

CERAS will pay up to $500 (CDN) for travel expenses for a maximum of 10 youth to attend the conference. Expenses will be prorated by distance, and of course youth will be expected to find the most economical mode to get to Montreal.

CERAS will arrange for the accomodation of the youth. Please specify special needs/requirements in your application.


Friday, September 3
Saturday, September 4
Sunday, September 5