Hope for Bangladeshi Hindus from USA
Hope for Bangladeshi Hindus from USA
Dr. Richard L. Benkin
It is tragic fact—not an opinion—that Bangladesh’s Hindu population is dying; at least it will die if we don’t do something to stop it. Hindus have gone from a third of East Pakistan’s population in 1951 to a fifth when East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971. They are somewhere around one in 15 today. Demographers have made it clear that this precipitous population shift could not have occurred normal phenomena like birth rates. Nor is it the result of “voluntary migration… to find suitable matches for their children,” as alleged—and with straight face no less—by Bangladesh’s US Ambassador Akramul Qader. Their deaths have come from several decades of atrocities; atrocities in which successive Bangladeshi governments have been complicit; atrocities to which the “civilized world” has turned a blind eye.
The world’s governments, international bodies like the UN, major news media, and the most “respectable” human rights organizations have pretended not to see what had to be in front of their faces and instead turned away from them in silence. This is indeed, as my book calls it, “a quiet case of ethnic cleansing.” Recently, however, there have been signs from the United States of America that this might be about to change:
A Chicago suburb will soon issue a proclamation around Durga Puja that recognizes the plight of Bangladesh’s Hindus.The staff of two US Congressmen have approached the US Commission on International Religious Freedom about Bangladesh’s anti-Hindu actions, and the Commission agreed.Several Members of the US Senate and House are becoming concerned about the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh, including a powerful committee chair who was recently visited by a delegation of his constituents looking for action.
Chicago Suburb to Issue Proclamation
For the past several years, the village of Mount Prospect, a well-established Chicago suburb, has been issuing proclamations on behalf of Holocaust victims during the annual Days of Remembrance commemoration. Each year as I accept the proclamation, I note that as uniquely evil and ghastly that the Holocaust was, its legacy is for us to be mindful of current atrocities and do all in our power to live up to our watchwords, “Never again.” And while I do this, I remind listeners that what is happening to Hindus in Bangladesh requires us to take action.
Next month, Mount Prospect will issue a formal proclamation for the Hindu festival of Durga Puja and recognize the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh, many of whom will not be able to celebrate fully this important Hindu festival. Similar efforts are underway in other American localities for Diwali, Holi, and other important Hindu observances.
Congressmen Bring Concerns about Bangladesh to USCIRF
In 2009, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) removed Bangladesh from it perennial place on the USCIRF Watch List for its extensive human rights violations. As its staff explained it to me, this was done to recognize Bangladesh’s return to democratic rule and to encourage the Awami League government to take necessary actions to alter Bangladesh’s sad history, especially in its treatment of religious minorities. The attempt at encouragement did not work.
At several points since that move, I have spoken with USCIRF and provided it with documentary evidence of continued atrocities against Hindus and the government’s refusal to take the steps needed to stop them. In August, the staff of two influential Members of the US Congress approached USCIRF about Bangladesh and the ongoing anti-Hindu atrocities. USCIRF staff told them that Bangladesh’s anti-Hindu atrocities are “high on their radar,” and according to one of the bi-partisan delegation’s leaders, “we’ll be checking in with them on the issue.”
Hindu Americans Bring Bangladesh Concerns Foreign Affairs Head
On September 23, a delegation of California Hindu community leaders met with Congressman Ed Royce, the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. After presenting Congressman Royce with a copy of my book, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus, and other evidence of anti-Hindu atrocities, the delegation expressed their concerns and asked the powerful Congressman if he could help.
Congressman Royce replied that he has become aware of the atrocities perpetrated against Bangladesh’s Hindus, promised to take action on the matter, and called his Chief of Staff to get things started. The group presented a number of proposals, all of which the Congressman took under immediate advisement. There was some suggestion that the Congressman might empanel hearings about Bangladesh’s Hindus.
There are more initiatives underway, many of which strike at the core of Bangladesh’s economic resources. Those resources support the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and further give lie to the Awami League’s false posturing as “moderate” or “pro-minority.” The USA is the second largest importer of Bangladeshi exports. Once Bangladeshis get the message that they stand to lose a significant part of their income as long as they continue their blatant human rights violations, they will have little choice but to do the right thing.
[Dr. Richard L. Benkin is an American human rights activist fighting to defend Hindus in Bangladesh. His book, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus, is about to enter its second printing and is available through his web site, http://www.interfaith.com/TEMP for US readers and through http://www.akshayaprakashan.com/index.php?p=aquietccaseofethniccleansingthemurderofbangladeshshindus for all others.]