Look at ourselves to find Culprits for the Ethnic Cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.
Dr. Richard L. Benkin
If my recent trip to South Asia taught me anything, it is that the solution to stopping the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh lies within us. And so do the obstacles. This is a serious human rights travesty that has been flying under the world’s radar for at least 40 years as Hindus went from almost a fifth of the new nation of Bangladesh (1971) to less than eight percent today. Throughout that period, there has been a torrent of confirmed and specifically anti-Hindu atrocities that have proceeded with the tacit approval of successive governments representing all political stripes in Bangladesh. According to Professor Sachi Dastidar of the State University of New York, the number of Hindus murdered, forced to emigrate, and forced to convert to Islam, or never born as a direct result come to 50 million. That is a third of Bangladesh’s current population, which shows how that country is as much Hindu as Muslim—or would be were it not for this creeping jihad.
Bangladesh still has the world’s third largest Hindu population with about 12 million Hindus living without protection from radicals and others who can attack and abuse them with impunity because the government they helped vote into office turns a blind eye toward their victimization. And yet, what major media outlets report this ongoing ethnic cleansing? What internationally hailed human rights organizations champion a fight against it—or even mention it in any significant way? That the answer to both questions is “none” does not mean they all are anti-Hindu or funded by of petro dollars.
As Ceasar said in William Shakespeare’s play, “The fault dear Brutus is not in the stars but in ourselves.”
On February 18, I was in Bangladesh where I embraced Hindu victims and confronted their victimizers, stood with their defenders Hindu and Muslim, and confronted Bangladeshi officials participating in and allowing these atrocities. I had also spent a great deal of time with Advocate Rabindra Ghosh, who puts his own well-being aside to fight to stop the atrocities.
That night, I arrived at my hotel to find two Hindu Members of Parliament (MPs), waiting to speak with me. They came expecting well-wishes, photo-ops, and hand-wringing about how bad others are. But they represent Dinajpur and Khulna, two areas in Bangladesh where anti-Hindus abuse is a way of life, where the Awami League government continues its predecessors’ practice of purposely turning a blind eye to this “quiet case of ethnic cleansing,” and where these government officials who say they represent the Bangladeshi Hindu community sit silently while their co-religionists are slaughtered. Having freshly returned from one of them where I met victim after victim, I was in no mood for their sort of false solidarity. So, after a brief introduction, I asked, “Okay, tell me what you—as Hindu MPs—are doing about the ethnic cleansing of your people here.”
“We have done many things. “ Answered the man from Khulna where fresh atrocities are occurring even while I am writing this.
“Many things? You know that’s [a lie],” I replied sharply. “Hindus in your district are being raped and killed, their land snatched, Mandirs destroyed; and no prosecutions. So, don’t tell me that you’re doing ‘many things.’ How many Hindu Members of Parliament are there?”
..“Seventeen? That’s a lot of people; and you mean to tell me that with that many in parliament, you still haven’t done anything?”
“Well, the party—“
“That’s your other mistake, and I tried to tell this to Hindus before the last election. Minorities need to form their own political party. Right now, the Awami League doesn’t have to do anything. They know you’ll vote for them anyway. And the BNP doesn’t have to do anything because they know you won’t vote for them.”
And I went on for some time, peppering them, demanding, egging them on, etc. I told them that they should be ashamed that I come half way around the world while they do nothing here for their own people. Pointing to Rabindra Ghosh, I said that “he has extensive evidence that there are Members of Parliament involved big time in grabbing Hindu land, even rapes and other atrocities. You know what your enemies think of you as you sit next to them smiling? ‘We can steal their land, rape their daughters and sisters, and just give them a few Taka.”
Someone started to say something about there being problems. “Problems? Problems? I don’t want to hear about problems,” I said. “You think I don’t have problems? Or that he [Rabindra Ghosh] has none? ‘Problems’ are just an excuse for not doing what’s right.”
They sat either with their face buried in their hands (people in the lobby were beginning to take notice) or looked up at the ceiling; but I would not let up. For years, we have been struggling against a system and a government that wants to keep the issue buried while keeping the destruction of Bangladesh’s Hindus going strong. People like these two men are in a position to do something about it but do not.
I reminded them that an American Christian, former US Congressman Bob Dold raised the issue of the Bangladeshi Hindus on the floor of the US House, while they remain silent. Referring again to Rabindra Ghosh, I noted that “this man has extensive, direct, and verified evidence of enough atrocities so that each Hindu MP can begin each session of the Jatiya Sangsad (Bangladeshi parliament) by reading a new one in the record. Perhaps they can be the agents who force the government to act or the world to take notice.”
Right now, however, they refuse to acknowledge their responsibility to act. And while they sit silently and watch their people being brutalized, organizations like Struggle for Hindu Existence under the leadership of Upananda Brhmachari, is providing a public forum to do what they are not: exposing the truth of what is happening to Hindus in Bangladesh so that people will act to stop the atrocities.
It has been more than a month since our encounter, and none of Bangladesh’s 17 Hindu MPs have taken any action or uttered a word of protest even while the atrocities continue and their constituents suffer. If these “leaders” are too cowardly to act, perhaps the voters in their districts should vote for people who are not.