Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Make sure USCIRF acts on Bangladeshi Hindu evidence

Some months back, principles from the Hindu American Foundation contacted me about the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  USCIRF was created as part of the International Religious Freedom Act during the Clinton Administration to help the US government consider issues of religious freedom in its foreign policy; although geopolitical considerations sometimes trump that, as in the cases of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  USCIRF was finally going to address the Bangladeshi Hindu issue, and they asked me for contacts inside Bangladesh who could provide concrete evidence of the atrocities and of the Bangladeshi government's complicity.  That was an easy assignment, and based on my information, USCIRF met with Bangladeshi human rights activist and attorney, Rabindra Ghosh who provided tons of verified evidence.

Now that USCIRF has the evidence, we have to make sure it acts on it?

Like so many others, USCIRF was enamored with Bangladesh's Awami League and actually upgraded Bangladesh's status when that party took power.  After more than a full term in office, the Awami League has proven its involvement in allowing its Hindu citizens to be forcibly converted to Islam, driven out, or killed; and even participates in some of the actions. If you care about the Hindus in Bangladesh, phone, fax, or email the following message to USCIRF:

The government of Bangladesh has been complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and supporting attacks on their religious freedom. Extensive evidence from independent witnesses confirms this, and in its recent trip to Bangladesh, USCIRF saw it. As such, we urge you to take strong action, including formal US recognition of the ethnic cleansing and the Bangladeshi government's role in it, and to place Bangladesh among Tier 1 Countries, where "particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated."  Thank you.

Here is the contact information in order of impact:  Phone 202-523-3240; Fax 202-523-5020; Email media@USCIRF.gov.

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Is West Bengal Government Preparing an anti-Hindu Action?

Earlier this year, I was at a Mandir in the rural Burdwan District of West Bengal.  Most of the people with me were there because of my work to stop anti-Hindu persecution in Bangladesh.  One man, however, was there to keep an eye on us.  He was part of West Bengal's ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), led with an iron fist by strongwoman Mamata Banerjee.  I confronted him about why the West Bengal government turns a blind eye toward anti-Hindu persecution in the state and the illegal infiltration from Bangladesh that has pushed Hindus out of several key border areas.  He admitted that both were problems but said that if they raised the issue "certain parties" would object strenuously.  "So what," I replied.  "Isn't it more important to stop the persecution?"  Yes, he said, but they needed those "certain parties" (i.e., code for Muslims) as the party's vote bank.

Fast forward to the landslide victory by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  A key element to that win was a rejuvenation of Hindu pride after years of a government that demonized it as bigoted. During the campaign, Mamata was one of only a few Indian politicians who said that she would never join hands with Modi, and she has maintained that attitude ever since.  Moreover, while the TMC maintained its control in West Bengal, the pro-Modi vote made some serious--and heretofore absent--inroads.  Are recent events in the state part of a TMC/Mamata effort to shore up its base through action against Hindu activists?

On October 27, an associate of mine, Apurba Roy, was seized by West Bengal police along with his brother Nitish, at first on a manufactured charge of weapons possession.  After the authorities failed to comply with the law to produce the accused within 24 hours along with a charge, international pressure forced their hand.  Only the charge had changed to "illegal infiltration."  You see, Roy was a refugee from anti-Hindu persecution in Bangladesh, and had fled to West Bengal at some point in or prior to 2008.  Prime Minister Modi stated categorically that such refugees would be welcome in India.  Mamata's minions, however, would have no part of that and have begun rounding up people like Roy--while continuing to allow Muslims to cross from Bangladesh, increasing their current political strength.

Colleagues on the ground told me that while in custody, Roy faced severe questioning about his activities and those of my colleagues and me.  Other Hindu activists have been arrested recently, including Hindu Samhati founder and prominent Hindu leader, Tapan Ghosh (although he has been released at least for now).  It would not be out of keeping for the West Bengal rulers to harass pro-Hindu activists, including those like Roy and me who are only trying to stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.  We will know more later this month when, according to the most recent filings, the government will hold its first hearing on Apurba Roy's case in a Bangaon courtroom.

Will this herald a TMC action to purge the state of its opponents?  A lot of people will be watching for the answer.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

India can expect the media's "Israel treatment"

What is the media's "Israel treatment"?  It is the imposition of a general narrative over the situation, which then mandates that all events be interpreted within its framework; all editorial decisions about what gets covered (and what does not) and how it is covered must come out of that narrative.  Matti Friedman, who was an Associated Press reporter and editor in its Jerusalem bureau from 2006-2011, has done an excellent job of describing how that narrative works to mislead populations whose misinformed actions then seem to validate this "narrative construct that is largely fiction."  How would such a narrative work to distort any actions India might take to save Hindus in Bangladesh?

The media and its slavish followers have decided that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a "bad guy" and that Bangladesh is a "moderate Muslim country,"  both of which are as far from the truth as one can get.  If PM Modi is a bad guy, so must be the overwhelming number of Indians who gave him a landslide mandate in the world's largest democratic election ever.  Moreover, I have the pleasure of knowing him and know that he is sincere in his aspirations for his nation and all of its people.  On the other hand, Bangladesh has fallen under the grip of Islamists, who now control most of its major institutions.  (Al Qaeda and ISIS have recently opened offices there.)  Another of the media's cherished myths is that the current party in power, the Awami League, is the "good party," as opposed to its major opponent, the BNP,  Like the rest of the narrative, that too does not stand up to the reality of ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindus and others in Bangladesh with the government's tacit support.

Here is one example of how the narrative distorts reality to make good guys into bad and bad guys into good.  Earlier this year, I was in Assam's tribal areas and observed the cultural and ecological damage massive infiltration from Bangladesh has brought to the region.  Forests are being destroyed, poaching is bringing both the elephant and one-horned rhino to the brink of extinction; the natives' children are being sent out of the area for their safety with the parents having little hope that they will return to their tribal culture; an ancient way of life and the ecology that supports it are dying, and the people in the area are restive.  On several occasions, that restiveness has erupted into violence (I've interviewed several elderly tribal victims of the violence); and the only thing preventing another, major eruption is the people's expectation that new Indian PM will protect them.  Yet, I told tribal leaders earlier this year that if they try to expel illegal infiltrators, the media will feature "bedraggled refugees," alleged victims of "nationalists."  Moreover, no major media outlet has covered the devastation to their land and way of life--even after Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina promised a continued flow of illegal aliens to Assam.

The media has left India with three difficult options.  It can cave into the narrative in an attempt to avoid criticism at the price of its people's safety.  It can ignore the narrative and hope that one day people will recognize the reality of the situation.  It can attempt some hybrid that probably leans toward the second option but attempts to mollify its critics. If the Israel experience is any guide, the first option is a disaster and will only invite more anti-Hindu rhetoric; and the third will prevent India from achieving the goals it wants to in order to protect its people. The second road is a tough one that brings potentially high political costs to the leader who follows it.  My own sense is that after centuries of other nations--first the mughals then the British then the West in general--treating India in a patronizing way and lecturing it on right and wrong; India is about to flex its muscles under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and take its rightful place as a world economic, cultural, and military leader.  How it handles the flood of infiltrators from Bangladesh, the Prime Minister's pre-election promise to protect neighboring Hindus from ongoing and state-supported persecution, and similar matters will test its mettle in the face of the narrative makers.

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Hindu Victims Still Ignored

With the world's attention focused on headline grabbing international matters in Gaza, the Ukraine, Syria and soon somewhere else, victims of ongoing human rights atrocities continue to suffer as they have day after day, month after month, year after year.  For whatever set of reasons, Hindus in Bangladesh have always found their victimization pushed aside by "more important" matters.  And today, while the UN Security Council and others posture and issue declarations about hundreds dying in the Middle East, they are silent about the millions of Bangladeshi Hindus who face government tolerated atrocities daily; atrocities that include murder, rape (including gang rape), child abduction, forced conversion, religious desecration, and more.

There is Eti Biswas, 22 years old when she was abducted in December 2012, who has not been seen since.  The Bangladeshi government has refused to help find the young woman and bring her back to her family; nor has it prosecuted the known perpetrators who openly boast of their "victory."  Worse, the act was retaliation against the family because they refused to abandon their small piece of land simply because they are Hindu; and in fact local officials participated in the abduction.  Koli Goswami was 20 years old when she was abducted in 2009, and she is still missing.  Local police, a magistrate, and even an Awami League MP hatched a cover-up and warned her guardian to back off or his daughters would suffer the same fate.

And right now, 15 Hindus remain in custody in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's home district, accused of murdering a Muslim.  The latter stormed a Hindu temple, started desecrating deities and abusing women; and when locals stopped him, he was killed.  The men awaiting trial were picked up seemingly at random and charged with the crime.  Perhaps because it knows that the charges are false, the Bangladeshi government has deprived them of due process.  Their families engaged the prominent human rights attorney, Rabindra Ghosh, to represent the accused.  Yet, when he went to see his clients, he was beaten by anti-Hindu lawyers in the courtroom and with the magistrate's tacit approval.  Since then, the local court has determined to proceed with the trial of these men--with those same anti-Hindu lawyers as their counsel.  Advocate Ghosh petitioned the Bangladeshi High Court for a simple change of venue (pretty reasonable given the facts), and was turned down flat.  By the way, there was a sixteenth Hindu accused of the crime, and he mysteriously died in custody.

For decades, the world's self-appointed guardians of human rights have ignored the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh, who have gone from almost a third of the population to perhaps one in 15.  It is high time we end our shameful silence.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Obama vs. Cameron. Who stands with Israel?

I was going to write an extensive blog about how the murder of three Jewish teens is a human rights violation that the world has a tough time treating as one.  Instead, I am reproducing statements about the murder by US President Barack Obama and British PM David Cameron.

Obama:  "On behalf of the American people I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel – who held Israeli and American citizenship. As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth. From the outset, I have offered our full support to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice, and I encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together in that effort. I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation. As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States.”

Cameron:  "This was an appalling and inexcusable act of terror perpetrated against young teenagers. Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those responsible. Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with the families of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. No parent should have ever to suffer such heartache or grief."

Not much to say.  While Obama parses his words, uses the passive voice, and refrains from calling this heinous act terror; Cameron is clear and unequivocal.  Obama urges restraint and obliquely makes clear that an Israeli response could "destabilize the situation."  (Does he really think it's stable now?) Cameron stands with Israel in seeking to bring to justice "those responsible," who might include the actual murderers as well as those who sent glorified them.  Cameron also humanizes the three boys by calling them by their first names.

Did I fall asleep in one country and wake up in another?

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Sunday, June 01, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi already thinning India's bloated government

In office only five days, India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already showing people how a small government, conservative head of state acts.  Without even touching his people’s services or their quality, he began on his very first day in office fulfilling his promise to cut the size of his country’s bloated government.

He began by swearing in only 23 cabinet ministers, combining several portfolios and eliminating others.  It was the smallest number of cabinet posts in 16 years.  Only five days later, the Prime Minister did away with an entire layer of government by summarily abolishing the country’s 30 “ministerial groups.”  These groups were designed to protect entrenched and immediate interests, whether legitimate or not; and stood between India’s citizenry and the cabinet.  They had to give their blessing to any measure requiring cabinet approval before it could even get there for deliberation.  Under the previous, left leaning Congress Party government, ministerial committees numbered as many as 60.

Modi, whose theme has been “minimum government, maximum governance,” got rid of these groups even though in doing so he took on more personal responsibility and the greater accountability that comes with it.  According to The Hindustan Times, their abolition means that Modi himself “will now have to adjudicate matters where there are differences among cabinet colleagues,” rather than having an additional bureaucratic layer to cut deals and run interference for him.  And he will be responsible for those decisions, something his immediate predecessors assiduously avoided.

Reducing the size of government and speeding up the pace of decision-making are two critical elements in the free market conservative Modi’s plans to revitalize the Indian economy and polity and make government responsive to the Indian people.  Modi's method will remove the barriers that until now has kept a lot of people worldwide from participating in India's economic potential.

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Accept it America, a Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a good thing

Few Americans are aware of the potentially earth-shaking events currently unfolding in India. The left-center Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has ruled India for all but eight of its 67 years of national existence, is about to be voted out of power in favor of the conservative opposition under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Fewer still realize what a fantastic thing it is for the United States.

Modi is an unapologetic free market capitalist who turned his state of Gujarat into a pro-business economic miracle that accounts for 72 percent of India’s new jobs and has its lowest unemployment rate.  His foreign policy is based on a strong and assertive India that acts as the bulwark against the expansion of both radical Islam and communism, both of which have taken the lives of many Indians.  I spend a lot of time in India and never once was there when attacks from either or both did not cost innocent lives.  Yet, a small but vocal Congressional coalition of leftists, conservatives, and people who fashion themselves defenders of human rights but do so with blinders; have banded together to keep beating an anti-Modi drum that has been discredited multiple times.  Taken in reverse:

  • The uniformed:  Congressmen like Chris Smith of New Jersey have been fed the stale and discredited line that Modi was involved in Gujarat's 2002 riots.  Several commissions and even India's Supreme Court have absolved him noting that much of the "evidence" they encountered was based on fabrications.  Yet, Smith and others believe that they (perhaps as Westerners?) sitting half way around the world know better than the entire Indian judiciary.
  • The ill informed:  Several conservatives have been convinced that Modi will be bad for Christians on the basis of hyperbole spread by missionaries some of dubious political leanings.  Most recently, several Christian prelates have noted that more and more Indian Christians have flocked to Modi as the man who can make their lives better.  Moreover, Modi has never been credibly accused of aiding or abetting any anti-Christian actions.
  • The misinformers:  Leftists have reason to worry.  Modi once told me that he was anxious to work closely with the US and Israel.  He also will begin dismantling some of the big government programs that have made India one of the most corrupt country in the world and have actually made the lot of most Indians worse.  He recently addressed a crowd in the Indian state of Assam, worried about Islamist infiltration of their homeland, the increased anti-Hindu violence they bring and their environmental destruction.  "Assam lies next to Bangladesh, and Gujarat lies next to Pakistan,” he said. “People of Assam are troubled because of Bangladesh, and Pakistan is worried because of me."
The Indian American Muslim Council has hired a lobbyist to use their influence to get Members of Congress to sign on to this biased resolution.  We do not have their money, but we have the truth. House Resolution 417 is a pack of lies and must be defeated.  On top of that, the World Bank reported last week that India has passed Japan as the world's third largest economy.  With China as Number 2, this is a time to embrace India and its new Prime Minister, not alienate them.

To see if your Member of Congress is a co-sponsor of the anti-India bill, House Resolution 417, and want to urge him or her to withdraw from this ethnocentric, factually flawed, and geopolitical stupid piece of legislation, click this link.  You can also contact me through this blog.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Is this the year when the US exposes Bangladesh for what it is?

People who have any ground-up familiarity with Bangladesh find the notion of it as a "moderate" country laughable.  It's an idea that springs forth from elites in the diplomatic corps, academia, the media, and leftists everywhere.  It's not a notion that has any relation to what is actually happening there.

For decades, radical Islamists have taken over one social institution after another, including education, banking, even the law.  Perhaps the most tragic irony of calling Bangladesh moderate, though, is how it receives the title while allowing or even participating in the systematic elimination of its non-Muslim minorities.  My own focus is Bangladesh's Hindu community, which has fallen from almost a fifth of the population at Bangladesh's birth in 1971 to perhaps as few as one in 15 today. During that time, we have received ongoing reports of anti-Hindu atrocities including murder, rape and gang rape, child abduction, forced conversion, religious desecration, land seizures, and more.  But minorities face attacks in many nations.  The situation in Bangladesh becomes a human rights atrocity that deserves international intervention because Bangladeshi governments regardless of party have refused to prosecute all but a few cases; they have enabled it and still do.

Those who believed the current, Awami League government would be different were wrong.  During its first term in office, major anti-Hindu atrocities occurred at or over an average of one per week.  There were especially horrendous periods, such as a nine-day span May 2012 that included a murder in broad daylight, a child abduction, and two rapes (one of a child on her way to a Hindu religious festival).  While my tabulation is not final yet, the situation in 2013 and so far in 2014 appears no better.  Not only has the government refused to help retrieving abducted women and children; in many cases, its officials participated in the crimes.

These are only the crimes I verified myself; many more were reported, which my limited resources did not let me investigate.  All of them were confirmed by at least independent witnesses, occurred under the Awami League government, were not prosecuted, and were targeted specifically against Hindus and Hinduism.

Organizations like the Hindu American Foundation have been publicizing Bangladesh's ill-treatment of Hindus for years.  Bangladeshi human rights giant, Rabindra Ghosh, has been investigating and documenting it for at least that long.  Yet, people who can do something about it seem to want to hold on to their fairy tale about a moderate Bangladesh, truth be damned.  Until now.  I am currently involved in initiatives in multiple international capitals that would restrict Bangladesh’s ability to sell its exports, provide UN peacekeeping troops, and otherwise maintain its current economy as long as it is the economic engine that drives the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and other minorities.

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee (one of the most powerful) and its Chairman Congressman Ed Royce have been working with me to hold hearings this year on Bangladesh's ethnic cleansing of Hindus.

Mount Prospect, Illinois (just outside of Chicago) recently became the first US city to issue a formal proclamation recognizing Bangladesh's ethnic cleansing of Hindus; we expect more localities to follow, and expect them to be the basis for action depriving Bangladesh of the income it uses to maintain its persecution of minorities.

Bi-partisan representatives of Members of the US Congress have let the US Commission on International Religious Freedom know that they can no longer give Bangladesh a pass on its human rights violations because it threw off military rule over six years ago.

At least three major NGOs have asked me to work with them on the issue of Bangladesh's Hindus.

And just this week, some Congressional aides asked if they could help me get the matter before the US House's human rights commission.

Bangladesh depends on the tacit complicity of other by way of their silence.  Once the matter is out in the open, companies that currently purchase their goods will not want to be associated with ethnic cleansing; the UN would not have peacekeepers who cannot even keep the peace within their own borders; and the Awami League government will actually have to do something rather than mouth empty platitudes.  Stay tuned because we expect a lot to happen in the near future to change this debate forever.

Post Script:  In a recent human rights mission, I saw first hand that Bangladesh has been exporting its anti-Hindu jihad across the border to West Bengal and Assam states in India. Its large scale infiltration is also causing an environmental disaster in Assam that we expect to address this year as well.  My advice to Bangladesh's leaders:  take action before others force action upon you; and recognize that once you lose those international markets, others will step into the void and you will never re-gain your previous position if you later decide to do the right thing.  Just do it now.

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

H.R. 417 Anti-India; Harmful to US-India Relations

The year 2014 begins with a particularly pernicious and irresponsible piece of legislation circulating the United States Congress.  It is H.R. 417 which begins by praising India but follows with nothing but propaganda and mischaracterizations that could set back US-India relations by decades.  The resolution singles out India as a nation that regularly tolerates attacks on minorities, while its backers would never think of calling out the worst violators of minority rights including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  Moreover, I have been in India for about a month every year, and every time I've been there, there has been at least one terrorist attack and anti-religious action.  Not one of them has been perpetrated against a minority, but every single one has been perpetrated against the majority Hindu community.

H.R. 417 is also presumptuous and ethnocentric.  India has enacted and enforced a plethora of laws that protect minorities; some might even say advantage them.  417 additionally singles out one of India's two major candidates for Prime Minister and accuses him of racism and atrocities. What's wrong with that?  First, it's not true.  Second, Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has been cleared again and again of any wrongdoing, including being cleared by India's Supreme Court, which has stellar reputation internationally.  How insulting for a group of people half way around the world, who have not seen a tenth of the evidence reviewed by India's Supreme Court, to presume that they know better due to some sort of entitlement!  And consider this:  Right now, it looks more likely than not that Narendra Modi will be India's next Prime Minister.  How do we--a nation that welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin and whose President bows to the Saudi King--apologize for that insult and make relations whole again?

The Hindu American Foundation has uncovered the biased motives of the group behind H.R. 417, the misnomered Committee Against Genocide, as well as its discredited information, and anti-Hindu hatred.  See The Coalition Against Genocide:  A Nexus of Hinduphobia Unveiled.

You can help stop this dangerous and prejudiced bill by contacting your Representative in Congress and urging or demanding that he or she oppose the resolution.  If your Representative is already a co-sponsor, urge him or her to do as Congressman Steve Chabot did who withdrew his co-sponsorship when he was apprised of the facts.  You can find your Congressman or Congresswoman through this site.

Hindu Genocide Museum Proposed

A group of concerned citizens from several areas across the United States are looking to build a museum dedicated to educating people about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindus in places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.  The effort is in the early stages, but we know that the intention is to pattern the museum after the holocaust museums commemorating the Nazi attempt to wipe out the Jewish people.  More to come on this.

To help with any of these or other efforts, please email me.

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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Something easy you can do to help save 15 million Bangladeshi Hindus

As we have been reporting here and elsewhere, we seem to be turning a corner in our struggle to stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.  A US locality has officially recognized this human rights atrocity (you can help get your own to do the same -- contact me), two human rights NGOs are looking at the matter seriously, USCIRF has admitted that this is a serious issue for religious freedom in Bangladesh, and more of official Washington is taking notice even while our foreign policy is focused on Iran and the Middle East--and that is where you can help.

The House Foreign Affiars Committee, under the leadership of its Chairman, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), is giving serious consideration to holding hearings on the issue.  Its Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, under its Chairman, Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), and the leadership of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is moving close as well.  SAVING BANGLADESH'S  HINDUS FROM THEIR OWN NEIGHBORS AND GOVERNMENT IS A MATTER OF DEEPLY-HELD AND SHARED VALUES THAT HAS OVERCOME PARTISAN DIFFERENCES.  Divisions between Democrats and Republicans have evaporated here.

Members of Congress are sensitive to their constituents' concerns.  If they hear from you, they will recognize that this is an important issue in itself and an issue that is important to their constituents.  You can put us over the top by calling or faxing them.  (Emails are not very effective.)

"I am a constituent of [Congressman or Congresswoman _____________] and want to express my strong support for hearings on the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.  Hindus have been reduced from almost a fifth of the country to less than eight percent through racists laws and ongoing atrocities that the government refuses to prosecute.  As [Congressman or Congresswoman __________] is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I urge [him or her] to support hearings on this human rights atrocity that the Committee is considering.  Thank you."

If you are contacting Ed Royce, instead of calling him a "member," refer to him as "the chairman." If you are contacting Eliot Engel, "refer to him as "the ranking Democrat," rather than a "member."

To find out if your Congressional Representative is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, go to this site.  You can also email me.

With this simple action, YOU can make a huge difference.  Thank you.

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Progress in the Fight to Save Bangladesh's Hindus

As Bangladesh slips further into anarchy, approaching its first scheduled elections since changing the constitutional process for them; we are seeing both increased violence against Hindus in Bangladesh, allowed to continue with impunity by Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League government; and progress in the fight to stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the United States.

People do bad things--and especially gross human rights violations--because they believe that no one will notice or even care.  This is what has enabled successive Bangladesh governments to allow their Hindus citizens to be brutalized with impunity.  That is changing, however, and promises to hit the Bangladeshis where they can least afford it if they do not put an end to this "Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing."

Bangladesh's ability to attract international donations, provide UN peacekeeping troop, and sell its garments on the international market depend on the continued belief that Bangladesh is a moderate nation that does not persecute its minorities--both of which are contrary to the facts.  Now, from the United States, a major player for all of those goodies, comes the following over the past several months:

  • Staff for two Congressmen--one Democrat, one Republican--approached the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) about focusing on the ethnic cleansing of Hindus when making its determination.  USCIRF agreed, and I am working on follow up.
  • The US House Foreign Affairs Committee is looking seriously into the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh and working with me on it.
  • The Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect recently became the first US locality to formally recognize the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.  More such proclamations are expected from other localities.
  • Two major US organizations dedicated to the fight against genocide and associated with no political causes, are now looking closely into the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.
The European Parliament, representing another major force on which Bangladesh depends, is currently considering an extensive report about that nation's complicity in the persecution of its Hindu citizens.

If Bangladesh officials continue to think that people will accept their blanket and disingenuous denials of responsibility, they are mistaken.  Already, questions are arising about how donations, peacekeeping receipts, and the purchase of Bangladeshi goods support the ethnic cleansing of Hindus.

Those questions are only getting louder.

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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Hometown Proclamations shed light on Bangladesh's oppression of Hindus

UPDATE:  On October 1, 2013, Mount Prospect, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, did issue the proclamation noted in this post and thereby became the first US locality to recognize the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh.  We expect this to be the first of many.  Click here.

The late US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once noted that "Sunlight is said to be the greatest disinfectant."  His words told us that evil deeds will be opposed and stopped if people are made aware of them.  This is our challenge in stopping the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.  Our most recent success in doing that is working with cities, towns, and villages throughout the US to have formal proclamations issued that recognize this human rights travesty.

Every citizen has the right to approach his or her town with a passionate request for them to help save 12 to 15 million innocent lives--innocents who are being brutalized while an unconcerned "civilized" world turns the other way.  Every locality in the US has the ability to help save these lives, and each of us can be the major driver of that effort.

Most people do not think of themselves as heroes.  Imagine how you would see yourself if you played an important role in saving millions of people!

We have the evidence, sample proclamations, and the necessary understandings so that your approaches will resonate with your home town.  Right now, we are working to issue proclamations around Durga Puja, October 9-13, 2013; if there is not enough time, Diwali is November 3-7, 2013.  You have a chance to save lives and honor Hinduism and the growing number of Hindus in the United States.

We are operating in several places.  If you want to join in this effort, contact me at drrbenkin@comcast.net.

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Bangladeshi Human Rights Giant, Rabindra Ghosh, attacked; Demand Action

On July 27, 2013, human rights activist, Rabindra Ghosh and his colleague were attacked, poisoned, and needed emergency medical care to save their lives.  Thus far, the Bangladeshi government has taken no action to find and punish the perpetrators.

Ghosh and his colleague, Ganesh Rajongshi, were returning from one human rights fact-finding trip in Khulna and reached Natore, where they were to investigate another case of anti-Hindu activity.  At that point, a group of perpetrators attacked them with some sort of poison; and emergency personnel had to rush them, unconscious, to Natore Sadar Hospital. Rajbongshi remained unconscious and had to be transferred to Rajshahi Medical College on the Indian border.  Doctors said his condition was precarious.  Both men are still receiving medical care for their injuries.

The incident has been confirmed and published in at least three Bangladeshi newspapers.

Ghosh has been attacked by Islamist radicals and government operatives on several occasions, including May and June of last year.  In April 2012, Ghosh’s 87 year old mother was attacked in retaliation for his unrelenting human rights actions.  None of the perpetrators were ever punished.

In light of the Bangladeshi government’s history of allowing attacks on Rabindra Ghosh to go unpunished, documented cases where government operatives warned human rights activists to stop investigating cases of anti-Hindu human rights abuses, and the decades-long ethnic cleansing of Hindus that the Bangladeshi government tacitly supports; it is clear that Rabindra Ghosh and Ganesh Rajongshi cannot expect justice from the Bangladeshi government without outside intervention.

Justice’s best chance will come if those receiving this release contact their US Senators and Members of Congress and ask them to send a formal letter of inquiry to the Bangladeshi embassy in Washington.  Ask them to inquire (formally) about the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, as well as government actions to protect Rabindra Ghosh and other human rights activists from attacks by radicals and government operatives.

I have worked with lawmakers before and am happy to supply needed information, a mocked up sample letter, or anything else they might need.  I know both victims personally and have traveled with them to investigate anti-Hindu actions throughout Bangladesh; I can vouch for their integrity and the integrity of their cause.  If you need help with contact information for your Senator or Member of Congress, contact me or go to:  http://www.contactingthecongress.org/.

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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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Monday, April 29, 2013

US Should Grant Modi a Visa before it is too late

Imagine the following scenario.  It is mid-year 2014, and India has just sworn in its new Prime Minister--an individual committed to achieving for India its rightful place as an international economic and political giant.  A pro-growth PM, he will likely preside over the time when India's eclipses China as the world's most populous nation; and he has made it clear that this new India will stand for the values we Americans espouse against the forces of international authoritarianism.

The US Ambassador congratulates the Indian people on their new leader, talks about the strong relationship between India and the United States, and extends a hand to the new Prime Minister.  The PM politely accepts it but with a knowing smile of contempt and wondering about my country's duplicity and whether or not we will be a true friend to this resurgent India.

Although the Indian elections are almost a year away, polls and pundits are confident that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will become the nation's next PM.  As of today, the US government maintains its position that Narendra Modi is disqualified from receiving a visa to visit the United States; that he was somehow involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which over 1000 Hindus and Muslims died.  It is an odd position for us to take sitting atop our perch halfway around the world when people close to the ground have exonerated Modi of any such charges multiple times.

Although the Indian Supreme Court has declared Modi innocent of any wrongdoing, the US State Department, politicians, and self-interested ideologues believe that they know better and dismiss the court's actions.  I'm not sure what happened to our hallowed principle that people are innocent until proven guilty, but it seems we do not apply it in Naredra Modi's case.  Last week, the Indian legal system began the process of hearing the final gasp of Modi's detractors who are demanding that the court reject its own body's final report on their say-so.  It is not certain when it will dispose of this final stab at Modi, but as soon as it happens, the United States government would be wise to announce that if Narendra Modi wants to apply for a visa he will get one; that the charges against him have not been proven despite multiple attempt; that we have listened to those who slandered Narendra Modi's good name.

It is not only an insult to Modi himself and to the millions of Indians--Hindus and Muslims--who have made him Gujarat's longest serving Chief Minister, and one of its most successful.  In maintaining our baseless visa denial, we are declaring in one fell swoop that the entire Indian legal system is without merit; that the highly respected judges on its Supreme Court do not know what they are doing.  Is this how we treat a friend and ally?

My country has made peace with some of the worst world leaders imaginable:  Joseph Stalin who the Roosevelt Administration wanted us to call "Uncle Joe," Mao Zedong who was openly proud of the tens of millions he sent to their death, Palestinian terrorists and their Holocaust-denying "President," "moderate" Taliban, and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.  Yet, we hold firm against a man declared innocent time and again; a man who actually stopped Gujarat's annual that have not recurred under his administration?

My country's leaders need to acknowledge truth over politics and ideology and begin the same discussions with Modi that the UK, EU, and others already have.  Yes, it will be embarrassing if we suddenly extend a hand of friendship while holding the position that the man to whom we are extending it is worse than the rogues' gallery above whom we have taken into our bosom.  Worse for everyone, however refusing to budge in the face of facts threatens the quality of that friendship and the fate of the world going forward.

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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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