Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Real War in South Asia

Trained as a social scientist, I learned that if a factor appears in event after event, ignoring it is intellectually dishonest and ineffective analysis.  As recent terror blasts in the South Indian city of Hyderabad remind us, Islam is terrorism’s repeating factor; and no one has yet to explain effectively why it would not be dishonest to summarily dismiss it as one.  Moreover, the refusal of Muslim leaders lay and clerical to act assiduously against those who commit terror in their name is troubling, to say the least.  It should be inconceivable that we live in a world where a group calling itself Indian Mujahadeen sets off terrorist bombs in a crowded Indian market, and stuffs them with nails to create the maximum amount of human suffering; and every single Muslim in South Asia is not hunting down the terrorists.  But we do.  And the rest of the world is not calling them on it, which is our part of the problem.

Yet, having just returned from Bangladesh where Islamists and their appeasers are eliminating its Hindu population, I can say that on the ground this is not a war between Hindus and Muslims but one between decent people and people who have no decency regardless of religion.

In the far northern district of Dinajpur, I recently visited a remote village of 85 Hindu families, cut off from the rest of Bangladesh in almost every way:  no electricity, bad roads, not even a signal for my cell phone.  Some time before our visit, more than 100 marauding Muslims attacked the village; moving from home to home, taking some possessions and destroying the rest; from farm to farm stealing livestock and destroying crops.  They torched the homes burning many to the ground; and they abused many of the women (an all-too-common feature of these attacks).  By the time human rights attorney Rabindra Ghosh and I arrived, the villagers had largely rebuilt, but charred remnants were there, too.  More chilling, the attackers are threatening to return and finish the job if the people do not leave Bangladesh.

Those attackers have no decency; and neither do the Bangladeshi officials, local and national, who refuse to help the victims or prosecute the attackers and are thereby complicit in the terror.  Right now, the only thing that stands in their way is four local Muslim policemen.  They told us that prior to the attacks, no one ever came to the village but that since then, they get there as frequently as possible, often multiple times daily, to let the villagers’ tormenters know that they will have to get through them if they want to renew the attacks.  (Villagers confirmed this.)  They are doing this largely on their own since, as they admit, the government is taking no action.  They fear for the villagers, however, because they know they cannot be there all the time.

In a country where decisions by public servants are based on how much money they get for it, these Muslim policemen represent the apogee of decency.

On the other hand, two Hindu Members of Parliament (MPs) visited me, and I asked them why neither they nor their 15 colleagues (by their count) have done a thing to save their co-religionists or even raised their voice against it.  I indicated Bangladeshi human rights lawyer and tireless activist, Rabindra Ghosh, beside me and said he could provide them with a fresh atrocity that they can read into the record at every session of the Jatiya Sangsad.  They could protest the non-repeal of the Vested Property Act and introduce bills to rescind this economic engine of ethnic cleansing until it is.  I pointed out that 17 MPs is a large bloc, and that the only thing preventing them from acting was their personal greed and moral cowardice.

They are not decent people, but the many young Bangladeshis I met—both Hindu and Muslim—who are trying to fight for the safety of Hindus are.  For their service to their country, the Bangladeshi police and government—who are not decent—rewarded them with beatings and arrests.

Then there is Bangladesh’s Home Minister, Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, particularly indecent because he is able to do something to stop the atrocities but refuses to do so.  On February 20, he and I had a rather acrimonious argument when he insisted that the government was doing just fine, thank you, in preventing attacks on Hindus.  I wondered how the people I met in that Dinajpur village would have responded.  His most insistent reply was that he “saw the enclaves of the Red Indians” in the United States and that “33 people were killed in Connecticut.” He also “countered” with “union membership has declined in the United States.”  Whether he really thought they have any relation to their government-aided ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh, or he was being cynical; the man has no decency.  Finally, he did ask me to provide him with evidence of any atrocities and he would have them investigated; but I asked him if he did not find it odd that he, the nation’s Home Minister sitting in its capital, was dependent on “some guy from Chicago” for information about events in Bangladesh.

Perhaps, however, the most indecent parties of all are the internationally referenced and well-funded  groups that claim the mantle of human rights defenders but who have actively ignored what has become an open secret in South Asia.  In its 2012 “Human Rights Report” on Bangladesh, Amnesty International did not even mention oppression of Hindus.  It claimed to have visited Bangladesh three times that year but could not find a trace of what has become an open secret that has been well-documented by organizations like the Hindu American Foundation, Global Human Rights Defence, and Bangladesh Minority Watch for years.

Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; the UN with its misnomered human rights commission; the finger-wagging European Union, CNN, Reuters, the BBC, New York Times, Times of India, Times of London, the left-wing media, the right-wing media, and pretty much every other major “media”:  indecent for their willful ignorance of the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh and of those Islamists and appeasers that are guilty of doing it.

So let’s add it up.  Muslim police, Muslim and Hindu youth activists, activists like Rabindra Ghosh; decent.  Hindu MPs, Muslim attackers, Muslim cleric and political leaders, big name human rights organizations and media, and the Bangladeshi Home Minister; indecent.  The ledger seems tilted against decency right now, and it seems the only hope Bangladesh’s Hindus have is for decent people to change that.

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Friday, March 01, 2013

Bangladesh Fine with Hindus' Destruction

On February 20, 2013, I met with Bangladesh Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir in his Dhaka office.  Having just returned from Dinajpur where I witnessed irrefutable evidence of Hindus' ethnic cleansing and government complicity, I wished to deliver a simple message.  Bangladesh has been able to get away with empty promises regarding the process that has reduced Hindus from a fifth of the population to just over seven percent, but that time is drawing to an end.  Bangladesh can either get on top of the process by taking certain concrete steps and help manage it; or it can be the recipient of whatever might come as a result of their inaction.

While some Bangladeshi officials have at least acknowledged the problem, this individual was having none of it.  He was adamant that his government was doing just fine, thank you very much, and it had no intention of doing anything more with regard to this human rights travesty.  In fact, his responses did not attempt to show how it was indeed not a problem and that Hindus in Bangladesh are just fine, but they took the form of accusations:  "I have seen the enclaves of the Red Indians," "33 people were killed in Connecticut," and "union membership has declined in the United States," which I pointed out, if I can take him at his word, indicate the depth of the problem they have.

It is an unfortunate fact that minorities are attacked pretty much everywhere.  The only reason for outsiders like me to get involved is when the insiders refuse to respond and send a message that such things are okay with them--the same message the Home Minister and early their US Ambassador sent.  I suggested that the Home Minister travel to Dinajpur where Bangladeshi human rights activist Rabindra Ghosh and I saw a village of frightened Hindus who were attacked by a group of marauding Muslims who went from home to home stealing what they wanted and destroying the rest, and from farm to farm destroying crops and stealing livestock.  The government refused to take any action and the area's MP is involved in grabbing the Hindu land; and the attackers keep threatening to return and "finish the job" if the Hindus do not leave Bangladesh.  The only thing preventing them from now is four Muslim policemen who go to the village on their own.

But the Home Minister just said that if there are atrocities, I should send him the evidence and he would investigate.  Besides the fact that this would do nothing in time for these villagers, I asked:  "Doesn't it seem odd that you, the Home Minister sitting in the nation's capital, are dependent on some guy from Chicago for evidence of such crimes?"  I also told him that such things should be handled at the local level by local officials and should not require an "investigation" by the Home Minister.

Yet, he remained adamant that they would not change anything--even the blatantly anti-Hindu laws that his government promised to repeal, had a chance to repeal, but did not.  That is, he was adamant until I suggested that such obstinacy could lead to a situation where they might find it difficult to sell their garments on the open market; at which point he pleaded poverty that fixing the problem would take money and that such sanctions would deprive them of it.

Stay tuned because leaders in at least two foreign capitals have been filled in on our encounter, presented with the damning evidence against Bangladesh, and are seriously contemplating action.

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