It’s Up to Us!
Dr. Richard L. Benkin
After the population transfers that accompanied partition, Hindus accounted for about a third of the East Pakistani population (1948). When East Pakistan became Bangladesh, they were about a fifth (1971). Today, they are down to nine percent. In the past 60 years, how many UN resolutions were passed about it? How many outraged world leaders spoke out about it? How many times did Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch protest it? The Hindus of Bangladesh are being wiped out, and no one seems to care. Waiting for those world bodies to do the right thing about this will accomplish nothing but to insure the death of Bangladesh’s Hindu community—just as it has done for Pakistan’s Hindus. And now that we know this, we each have a choice: either act courageously and relentlessly to stop the slaughter; or do nothing and be complicit in it.
In February, I will again stand with my Hindu brothers and sisters in the illegal refugee camps of West Bengal and Assam; and in cities like Delhi, Siliguri, and Guwahati. Not only will I do this to show them that somebody does care, but also to continue gathering evidence of these atrocities for people in Washington who are beginning to take notice. Already two government human rights bodies are receiving the information and promising to act on it. Already members of the House and Senate are recognizing the atrocities and that what happens over there determine what happens here. An end to the atrocities is within our grasp; we need only seize it, and you can be part of it.
The American Hindu community and particularly Hindu youth, is the key. If they actively seek justice here and abroad and refuse to be complicit in these atrocities; our future will be secured. The United States—our United States—is the key because we recognize our obligation to stop the killing, and the US is the most effective entity to get it done. When I bring this matter before different bodies, they frequently ask why, if things are so severe, are Hindus themselves not up in arms. My answer is that they are but like everyone else need a focused effort to turn outrage into effective action. The coming months will have many people can act right now:
1. As the United States considers legislation that affects the Bangladeshi Hindus, we must tell lawmakers that their votes are literally a matter of life and death; and that we expect our lawmakers to stand on the side of life. We can do that only if we are prepared with an organization that can mobilize phone calls to every Congressional District in the country. We need volunteers to be part of that calling chain—to make calls themselves but and get others to do the same. The method is simple, but only you can build the chain of moral outrage that will save millions of lives.
2. While real atrocities occur all the time, many of the reports I receive are suspect. Winning the respect and attention of people in Washington requires that we give them only accurate information and are on solid ground when they receive the expected lies and denials from the perpetrators. We need volunteers to help sort through the information, put it in a format that people can use (and which I will provide); and ultimately allow us to verify or refute the information.
3. Children and students are compelling. Depending on your current level of schooling, we can organize lectures and seminars, vigils and marches, pen pals for Hindu children in the camps, and so forth.
4. And like everything else, this takes money. You can donate to my not-for-profit NGO or get others to do so by going to my web site, http://www.interfaithstrength.