Tuesday, March 06, 2012 5:47 AM IST
The Sunday Standard

Ethnic cleansing of Hindus on rise in Bangladesh

Last Updated : 26 Feb 2012 10:10:22 AM IST

HYDERABAD: A missing population of 49 million religious minorities over 64 years has been the elephant in the room Bangladesh and its neighbours choose to ignore. Calling it a case of ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus, US-based human rights activist Dr. Richard Benkin has worked hard to expose the Red-Green alliance of communists and radical Islamists in South East Asia. “During its first year in office when the Awami League party came into power in 2007, the cases of violence against Bangladeshi Hindus averaged at one attack per week during. Till 2010-2011, it continues to be one anti-Hindu case every three days,” observes Benkin who addressed students at the Osmania University Centre for International Programme here and later at the Madabhushi Ananthasayanam Institute of Public Affairs in Tirupati. Stating that Hindus who were one third of East Pakistan’s population at the time of partition of India in 1947 had dwindled to 9 per cent in 1971 when Bangladesh was created and further down to 7 per cent of the current population.

Known better for securing the release of Bangladeshi journalist and editor of The Weekly Blitz, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, in 2006 due to his pro-Zionist comments and criticism of rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh, Benkin currently works with the Bangladeshi Hindu refugees in India. “These refugees, who have settled in various parts of West Bengal, Assam and in transit camps in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, are not officially identified and since they do not receive any aid, they are usually squatters who scrimp for a living,” says Benkin. The driving force for the exodus are chiefly the ‘government-tolerated’ cases of rape, arson, murder, deliberate religious desecration and forced conversions of the Hindus in Bangladesh. “It is not just the radical Islamists who lead the attacks. The reluctance of the Bangladeshi government to take cognizance of the crime and initiate criminal proceedings against the perpetrators has resulted in increase in local attacks. The Vested Property Act that gives the government power to distribute the land of religious minorities among its people once they flee the country threatened by terror has led to forced and violent eviction of Hindus by their Muslim neighbours. The economic engine drives the ethnic cleansing,” observes the human rights activist.

India’s reluctance to speak up against the atrocities has been puzzling for the rights activist. “When I present my case to the US government, they ask me that if the problem were so big, why India doesn’t say anything. I often wonder, are my resources greater than that of the Bangladeshi and Indian government put together, the RAW and CIA, the media of the world put together, that no one seems to notice the crimes being committed against these religious minorities?”questions Benkin who has been tracking instances of human rights violation against Bangladeshi Hindus since 2007.  He pointed out that the UNO could not do anything to save the Hindus and it is the Indian government which has to act fast to stop atrocities on the meager 15 million Hindu population in Bangladesh.

“No one is too small to make a difference,” is the motto that has kept the rights activist going, who believes that it is time Bangladesh and its neighbours took cognizance of the ethnic cleansing and put a cog in the wheels of the licensed acts of violence.

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