Saturday, June 01, 2013

Effort to Save Bangladesh's Hindus Gaining Ground

On May 28, 2013, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) executives and activists spread across Capitol Hill in Washington to urge US lawmakers to act to stop the oppression and slaughter of Hindus in Bangladesh.   HAF has been documenting atrocities against Hindus in the small but heavily populated South Asian country annually for several years.  (Bangladesh is the only nation to rank among the world's ten most populous and the ten  most densely populated nations.)

Samir Kalra, HAF Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights, has noted that "according to Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human rights group, there were nearly 1,200 incidents of violence directed against religious minorities (mostly Hindus) between 2008 and 2011"; and that "Islamic extremism is not a fringe phenomenon" in Bangladesh.  The period Kalra cites, by the way, all transpired under the rule of the supposedly "pro-minority" Awami League, which like its predecessors has not prosecuted crimes against Hindus.

HAF's efforts come on top of my own to educate Senators and Members of Congress about the human rights travesty perpetrated on Bangladesh's 15 million Hindus.  Last year, I confronted Bangladesh's ambassador to the United States, who tried to deny the evidence with nonsensical responses, like Hindus "cannot find suitable matches for their children, so they go to India where there are more Hindus" in perhaps the most ridiculous attempt yet to explain why Hindus have gone from a third of Bangladesh's population to under eight percent.  In February of this year, I similarly confronted Bangladesh's Home Minister in Dhaka, the nation's capital, who fared no better.  He was left with responses like "33 people were killed in Connecticut," "union membership is declining in the United States," and "I have seen the enclaves of the Red Indians" as his lame attempt to justify his government's complicity in ethnic cleansing.  He also promised to investigate any evidence I sent him--which I found rather strange, and asked him why the Home Minister in the nation's capital is dependent on "some guy from Chicago" for information about hate crimes in his own country.

All of this was dutifully reported to members of both the US House and Senate, several of whom are looking at initiatives to stop the ethnic cleansing of Bangladesh's Hindus.  These US lawmakers are prominent on committees that control trade policy (critical to Bangladesh's economy), foreign relations, aid, and funding for the UN.  The latter is important because Bangladesh supplies the largest contingent of UN peacekeepers of any nation and is dependent on those receipts--so dependent in fact, that the military's fear of losing this cash cow was the proximate cause of its 2007 military coup.

Look, no one is looking to hurt the Bangladeshi people; their government does a thorough enough job of that itself.  But if the government of Bangladesh will not act to stop the ethnic cleansing of its Hindu citizens, the rest of the world must.

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