Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia | Wilson Center
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Ghosts from the Past? Assessing Recent Developments in Religious Freedom in South Asia

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Video for this event will soon be available.

In recent years, questions about religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities have reemerged as issues of concern in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. This conference brings together a series of academic and policy experts to consider how and why issues first debated during the crafting of these countries’ constitutions—including the place of Islam in Pakistan, the question of cow protection in India, the meaning of secularism in Bangladesh, the significance of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the status of Buddhism in Sri Lanka—have returned to South Asia with greater urgency and consequence.

This conference is co-sponsored by the Royal Society for Asian Affairs and Taylor & Francis.


10 am - Opening remarks – Bijan Omrani, editor Asian Affairs; Michael Kugelman, Woodrow Wilson Center

10:30 am – 12:30 pm: Panel 1 - Constitutional Considerations

Mridu Rai, Presidency University Kolkata

The Indian Constitution and the Making of Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims

Dina Siddiqi, Columbia University / BRAC University, Bangladesh

Destabilizing Secularism: Constituent Assembly Debates and the Making of National Others in Bangladesh

Farahnaz Ispahani, Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center

Constitutional Issues and the Treatment of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities

Christina Fink, George Washington University

Myanmar: Religious Minorities and Constitutional Questions

Moderator – Neeti Nair, University of Virginia and Woodrow Wilson Center


12:30 pm – 2 pm – Lunch


2 pm – 4 pm: Panel 2 – Contemporary Challenges

Raza Rumi, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

Religious Freedom in Pakistan: Challenges and Prospects

Cassie Adcock, Washington University, St Louis

Cow Protection and Minority Rights in India: Reassessing Religious Freedom

Neil DeVotta, Wake Forest University

Religious Freedom in Post-Civil War Sri Lanka

Ali Riaz, Illinois State University

More than Meets the Eye: The Narratives of Secularism and Islam in Bangladesh

Moderator - Michael Kugelman, Woodrow Wilson Center 



  • Neeti Nair

    Public Policy Fellow
    Associate Professor of History, University of Virginia; Former Fellow, Wilson Center
  • Michael Kugelman

    Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia


  • Farahnaz Ispahani

    Global Fellow
    Author and former Member, Pakistan Parliament
  • Christina Fink

    director, International Development Studies Program, and associate professor, The Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University
  • Ali Riaz

    Professor, Department of Politics and Government, Illinois State University; Former Public Policy Scholar, Wilson Center