Temples and Saris unto Mosques and Burquas

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Column by Dr. Richard L. Benkin -

Jihad has come to India and, yet, the Obama administration along with State Department will tell you that it is nothing more than “isolated acts by individuals”. The government New Delhi is willing to go on record to suggest that you are “stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment.” The mainstream media will question as to how you can say that when we are hearing nothing about it from them. But it is real, and it is happening now. How do I know?! Well, that’s because I have seen it all through my very own eyes. The Obama administration’s studied denial will find us caught as flat-footed in India as we were in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere. The only difference being: India is an economic and military giant, with nuclear weapons, and could be a cornerstone of any effective fight against radical Islam.

For several years now I have been fiercely vocal about the progressive radicalization of Bangladesh along with its nationals. Although it is the only country that ranks among the ten most populous and the ten most densely populated, as well as being the second largest Muslim-majority nation, events there do not capture people’s imagination. When you talk about India in the same context, however, people take notice. The thought of an Islamist dominated India scares the heck out of them and should. While our own strategic thinkers concentrate on internecine struggles in the Middle East, their obliviousness to the significance of an [Islamist India] has enabled our enemies to further their agenda.

I have spent many years journey along India’s 2545 mile-long border with Bangladesh, besides witnessing the impact Bangladesh’s radicalization has had on its giant neighbor to the west. Amitabh Tripathi, who has been fighting against what he calls his country’s “soft policies,” noted that Bangladesh’s Muslims “are not radicalized but their institutions are.” That radicalization and a level of corruption on both sides of the border that makes my fellow Chicagoans look like amateurs has already produced demographic change in many strategic areas of India.

It also has given Muslim activists carte blanche throughout the entire country. The process is deliberate, has been going on for decades, and should send us a terrible warning signal, not only because of what it bodes for India, but also because of what sort of future the Obama administration’s soft policies and tolerance for an open border to our south mean for the United States.

Each year in districts like Uttar Dinajpur and North and South 24 Parganas directly across from the Islamic state, my colleagues and I find that more and more villages which once had mixed Hindu-Muslim populations are now all Muslim or Muslim-dominated. Gone are the roadside temples characteristic of places where Hindus practice their faith openly; gone are the sights of Hindu women dressed in their colorful saris and other vestments. They have been replaced by mosques and burqas.

Each year in districts like Uttar Dinajpur and North and South 24 Parganas directly across from the Islamic state, my colleagues and I find that more and more villages which once had mixed Hindu-Muslim populations are now all Muslim or Muslim-dominated. Gone are the roadside temples characteristic of places where Hindus practice their faith openly; gone are the sights of Hindu women dressed in their colorful saris and other vestments. They have been replaced by mosques and burqas. Last year, Tripathi and I met with Bimal Praminik, Director of the Kolkata-based Centre for Research in Indo-Bangladesh Relations and arguably the foremost authority on these population changes. He is convinced that this population shift is a deliberate and an integral element the jihad that threatens all of us: “Bangladeshi infiltration with Pakistani ideas… trying to ‘Pakistanize’ the entire region,” he said adding that that the dominant culture for South Asian Muslims has become more “Arabic,” than South Asian.

In 1947 when the British left, they partitioned the Indian subcontinent into Hindu and Muslim states. West Bengal went to “Hindu” India, and East Bengal (now Bangladesh) became part of Muslim Pakistan. While Hindu and Muslim majorities respectively, remains, exhaustive studies by Pramanik and others hold out little hope that things will continue that way.

During the second half of the 20th century, the Muslim proportion of West Bengal’s population rose by 25 percent and its Hindu population declined by nine, a process that has continued into the 21st. At the same time, Bangladesh’s Hindu population dropped from almost a third to nine percent. The process has not been pretty and has involved murder, gang rape, abduction of women and children, forced conversion to Islam, and legalized thievery of ancestral Hindu lands under Bangladesh’s anti-Hindu Vested Property Act. And now it is happening in India.

During the second half of the 20th century, the Muslim proportion of West Bengal’s population rose by 25 percent and its Hindu population declined by nine, a process that has continued into the 21st. At the same time, Bangladesh’s Hindu population dropped from almost a third to nine percent. The process has not been pretty and has involved murder, gang rape, abduction of women and children, forced conversion to Islam, and legalized thievery of ancestral Hindu lands under Bangladesh’s anti-Hindu Vested Property Act. And now it is happening in India.

Between 1981 and 1991, Muslim population growth in West Bengal actually exceeded its growth in Bangladesh. The South Asia Research Society concluded that Hindus have been fleeing Islamist persecution in East Bengal since the partition; but that since Bangladesh’s emergence as an independent nation in 1971, “there has been large scale voluntary infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims…to West Bengal and other parts of India” as well. The actual Muslim population growth exceeded Indian government projections that were based on demographic factors (fertility and mortality), internal migration, and the influx of Hindu refugees; thus, there had to be another element driving the change. Pramanik identifies it as “illegal immigration from across the border.” Islamist plans have been so detailed and longstanding that since 1951 the Muslim growth rate exceeded that of Hindus in each individual district of West Bengal.

One elderly woman in the Howrah district told us how Muslims are taking over her property piece by piece. She even showed us a wall with a star and crescent on it that local Muslims built to identify it as dar al Islam. In another village, residents showed us the remains of a Hindu temple that Muslims recently destroyed after urinating on its holy objects. Most poignant was the testimony of a crestfallen mother whose 22-year-old daughter was abducted weeks ago by local Muslims. Abduction of Hindu women and girls in the name of Islam has been common in Bangladesh for years and is a key element in jihad: eliminating females of childbearing years from the gene pool and forcing them to “produce” Muslim offspring instead.

Statistics might be the “smoking gun,” but jihad’s impact is far more powerful in the testimony of individual non-Muslim residents who are its victims. One elderly woman in the Howrah district told us how Muslims are taking over her property piece by piece. She even showed us a wall with a star and crescent on it that local Muslims built to identify it as dar al Islam. In another village, residents showed us the remains of a Hindu temple that Muslims recently destroyed after urinating on its holy objects. Most poignant was the testimony of a crestfallen mother whose 22-year-old daughter was abducted weeks ago by local Muslims. Abduction of Hindu women and girls in the name of Islam has been common in Bangladesh for years and is a key element in jihad: eliminating females of childbearing years from the gene pool and forcing them to “produce” Muslim offspring instead. It is now happening in India, according to victimized parents who told me about it in India’s North and Northeast.

Residents of Deganga, only 40 kilometers from the West Bengal capital of Kolkata, lived through an anti-Hindu pogrom last September. The pogrom started — as these things are wont to do these days — with a fabricated land dispute in which Muslims claimed a wooded area off the region’s main road that Hindus own and on which sits a Hindu shrine that is considered very sacred. As the 2010 Islamic observance of Iftar came to an end, a large group of Muslims attempted to seize the land until local Hindus stopped them. It was then that they started attacking Hindu households and shops indiscriminately, forcing many to flee the area with little more than the clothes on their backs.

I returned to Deganga last month to find that while many homes and shops have been rebuilt, a sense of security by Hindus in their ancestral land has not. Most of the residents spoke about leaving the area; others talked about being fearful of attack, their children unable to attend school, and Hindu women being harassed whenever they go to the market or other places in the area. Many of them showed us charred pieces of their former residences; in other cases we were able to see signs of it bleeding through a new coat of paint. Hindu women and girls showed us where they hid during the attack to avoid being raped or abducted and made concubines; a fate that likely has befallen the missing 22-year old daughter of the mother above.

In every single one of these cases, local authorities have refused to take action. In fact, during the Deganga pogrom, they arrested the community’s wealthiest Hindu on the false charge of firing on the jihadis. In the past, this official inaction has been purchased; but it is also a product of the alliance between Islamists and Communists in India. That alliance was announced publicly at a meeting in the south Indian state of Kerala; and it has been policy for West Bengal’s three-decade old communist government. Wherever we spoke with these villagers, Muslim neighbors would gather menacingly in an attempt to intimidate our informants. In some cases, they attacked after we left — again with no action by the authorities.

In every single one of these cases, local authorities have refused to take action. In fact, during the Deganga pogrom, they arrested the community’s wealthiest Hindu on the false charge of firing on the jihadis. In the past, this official inaction has been purchased; but it is also a product of the alliance between Islamists and Communists in India. That alliance was announced publicly at a meeting in the south Indian state of Kerala; and it has been policy for West Bengal’s three-decade old communist government. Wherever we spoke with these villagers, Muslim neighbors would gather menacingly in an attempt to intimidate our informants. In some cases, they attacked after we left — again with no action by the authorities.

In Meerut northeast of New Delhi and far from Deganga, the population of this once Hindu-dominated town is now split down the middle between Hindus and Muslims; and the Hindus are living in fear. Just five days ago before my arrival, a Hindu was burned to death and shortly before that a community leader was targeted and killed. These actions are becoming more common in this substantial-sized town with no police re-action; and according to residents and activists, it is only a matter of time before things explode.

Our State Department will STILL like you to believe that there is no jihad in India. They will hew the official line that the liberal Awami League government in Bangladesh has put an end to anti-Hindu actions there. A similarly weak government in New Delhi will parrot the same platitudes. Yet, their false palliatives bring no comfort to the scores of victims who have told us their stories; or the many others now unable to do so.

They cannot explain away major terrorist attacks in India’s largest cities like Mumbai, Pune, in New Delhi, and elsewhere. They cannot explain how insurgents can regularly kidnap minor officials and receive their ransom (usually release of prisoners, cash, and government forbearance from counter terrorist action) every time they do. If the Obama administration and its left-wing counterparts in India do not replace their studied ignorance with effective action, we will be as “surprised” over what becomes of India as we were with Iran, Egypt, and a host of other nations. Imagine what an Islamist India would mean for us.

Columnist, Dr. Richard Benkin, is an independent human rights activist who has been part of efforts to correct injustices worldwide.

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