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US Commission silent about ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh


By Dr. Richard L. Benkin

bangladesh hindus3

On April 30, 2015, the United States joined with the Taliban and other South Asian jihadis by supporting the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh. On that date, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its annual report that deliberately ignored the evidence it had about the ongoing atrocities against Bangladeshi Hindus and the current government’s complicity in it.

Since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, Hindus have gone from almost a fifth of the population to an estimated one in 15 in this country, which has world’s eighth largest population and fourth largest Muslim population. Throughout that time, Hindus have faced ongoing atrocities including murder, rape, child abduction, forced conversion, religious desecration, and pogroms. Through a racist law taken in whole cloth from Pakistan, the Vested Property Act, successive Bangladeshi governments have plundered Hindu property and seized most of it.

The atrocities themselves are horrible enough to cause outrage in all decent human beings and spur them to take action. It’s the Bangladeshi government’s complicity, however, that demanded a stern rebuke from USCIRF and recommendations for US action.

Instead, the Commission did not even place Bangladesh on what it used to call its “Watch List” of nations that do not take action when religious freedom is threatened. A product of the International Religious Freedom Act, USCIRF was passed during the administration of US President Bill Clinton. Its specific mandate involved identifying situations like this and recommending US government action so that we are not complicit in them. Its recent action not only failed to meet its mandate; it also consigned 12 million Bangladeshi Hindus to a terrible fate.

For the past eight years, I have been going to South Asia, comforting victims and confronting victimizers. Had USCIRF acted courageously instead of cowardly, it would have made a difference. The Bangladeshi economy is inordinately dependent on its imports from the US and other western nations, and the powers in Bangladesh will react if any of those states take a strong stand on an issue. I’ve seen it happen before, I’ve been part of it. Bangladesh took action when those nations started objecting to the terrible and dangerous conditions for workers there.

Unfortunately, those same western elites including USCIRF consistently give Bangladesh’s government a pass when it comes to Hindus. Their position in part comes from their naïve belief that the ruling Awami League of Sheikh Hasina Wajed is different from its out-of-power rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and they will do anything to support the Awami League’s ongoing false claim of being “moderate.” Yet, under their watch jihad against the dwindling non-Muslim population has intensified.

  • I personally confirmed unpunished anti-Hindu atrocities at a rate of about one per week under the Awami League rule;
  • Bangladeshi human rights activist Rabindra Ghosh and his Bangladesh Minority Watch investigate atrocities and fight government inaction. They face regular attacks either by the government or by those supported by it;
  • The Hindu American Foundation and others have documented the anti-Hindu
  • Hague based Global Human Rights Defence’s 2013 film, “Culture of Impunity: The rise of Bangladeshi religious extremism,” documented how government inaction enables anti-Hindu atrocities and the rise of Islamists.

The US Congress has begun voicing concern about Bangladesh’s war on Hindus. Bob Dold of suburban Chicago has now been joined by Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce and the only Hindu member of the Congress, Tulsi Gabbard. I also have been working with several Senators through their staff, including Presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

Yet, USCIRF continues down a discredited and deadly path. It had an opportunity to take a moral stance against jihad and instead took the route of silence.

At one point, it looked like things would be different. Chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett assured me that USCIRF would address the issue. Its representatives reached out to me for contacts inside Bangladesh who could substantiate the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and the government complicity. I connected them with Rabindra Ghosh, who met with a USCIRF staff person in Bangladesh and gave compelling evidence of the atrocities and the Awami League’s complicity. He knew that the government would target him for doing so but told me it was worth the risk.

Yet, USCIRF is more invested with vilifying India than the truth when it comes to Hindus. Their report said precious little about the terrible atrocities against Hindus. In its report on Pakistan, for instance, where Hindus continue to face ethnic cleansing and have been reduced to one percent of the population, USCIRF calls violence against Hindus “allegations,” while it did not similarly question the claims of any other minority group. In 2014, I arranged a meeting between Dr. Swett and Indian officials where we agreed on a path of dialogue that gives equal respect to the US and India. Months later, however, Swett rejected that course telling me she would take another. That choice was clear in the report, which used questionable material to claim religious freedom abuses in India. When USCIRF staff brought the allegations to me for my advice, I provided evidence refuting it. Despite that evidence, USCIRF continued its diatribe and attributed the alleged problems to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election and “Hindu nationalist groups.” It also called forced conversion of Hindus “media propaganda.”

Why USCIRF chose this anti-Hindu, anti-India approach is something for which they must answer, because if they cannot be of any value in stopping Bangladesh’s war on Hindus, what value do they have at all?

As a patriotic American, I have to challenge my government and ask how, if we cannot stand up to a rump state like Bangladesh, we will confront countries like Iran and North Korea? And what does all of that say about our new role in the world?

Dr. Richard L. Benkin is an American human rights activist whose current mission is to stop the war on Hindus in Bangladesh.

  • rachna

    U.S. will wake up only when it faces severe backlash from Islamic jehadis. Till they massacre Hindus it is fine for narrow minded U.S. politicians who have been well known for double standerds.

  • Tanumadhya Dasa

    America and for that matter European States care only about what is profitable for them. In the 70s and 80s USA ignored the plight of the citizens of Latin American countries and in fact provided the countries who were murdering their citizens with weapons and military training simply to get cheap Coffee. They invaded the middle east for Oil and now Asia which provides their Nikes etc. America wont address the abuse and persecution of their own citizens who come from ethnic communities, so why expect them to care about victims elsewhere. ….

  • rachna

    U.S. will wake up only when it faces severe backlash from Islamic jehadis. Till they massacre Hindus it is fine for narrow minded U.S. politicians who have been well known for double standerds.

  • Tanumadhya Dasa

    America and for that matter European States care only about what is profitable for them. In the 70s and 80s USA ignored the plight of the citizens of Latin American countries and in fact provided the countries who were murdering their citizens with weapons and military training simply to get cheap Coffee. They invaded the middle east for Oil and now Asia which provides their Nikes etc. America wont address the abuse and persecution of their own citizens who come from ethnic communities, so why expect them to care about victims elsewhere. ….

Next Story

Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)

Next Story

India will soon ask Malaysia to extradite Preacher Zakir Naik

India will soon approach Malaysia with a request to extradite hardline Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

India will Request Malayasia to extradite Zakir Naik
India will Request Malayasia to extradite Zakir Naik. wikimedia commons
  • India will seek the Malaysian government’s help in extraditing televangelist Zakir Naik who faces charges of money laundering and inciting hatred through his sermons broadcast on Peace TV, the foreign ministry said Friday.

Zakir Naik obtained permanent residency in Malaysia 

Officials will approach their Malaysian counterparts with the extradition request sometime within the next two weeks, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a weekly news briefing in New Delhi.

“Any formal request seeking the assistance of a foreign government in cases of extradition requires a completion of the internal legal process involving consultation with other ministries involved in the case,” Kumar said.

“At this stage, we are nearing the completion of this process and as soon as this process is complete we will be making an official request to the Malaysian government in this matter,” Kumar said. “It could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks. But it would be soon and the nature of our request would also be clear.”

Naik fled India a month before terrorist carried out a massacre at a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in July 2016. This week, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said the Islamic preacher legally obtained permanent residency in the country, and that Malaysian authorities would arrest him only if he broke local laws or was found to be involved in terrorist activities.

Naik’s speeches allegedly inspired some of the militants who carried out the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, where 29 people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, were killed.

In November 2016, the Indian government banned Naik’s Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation, which partly funded the Peace TV channel that is banned in India, Bangladesh and several other countries.

Kumar said because the Indian government had knowledge of Naik’s whereabouts, the legal procedures would be tailored to requirements between the two countries in their extradition treaty.

Advocate challenges charges

“Naik is being hounded because he hails from a minority community. The charges that the investigating agencies are trying to frame are all stale and are hardly incriminating,” advocate S. Hariharan told BenarNews in a phone interview from Delhi.

“The charges lack veracity and would not stand scrutiny in the court of law. We will be challenging the extradition and deportation.”

Last week, the Indian government filed a 61-page charge sheet against Naik alleging he was involved in a criminal conspiracy by lauding terrorist organizations. In April, a non-bailable warrant was issued against him in an alleged case of money laundering through his NGO and a shell company.

In Malaysia meanwhile, the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has urged the government to ignore any request from India to extradite Zakir Naik, Reuters reported.

“For Muslim individuals, even when they won by using arguments and not weapons, like Dr. Zakir Naik, they are considered terrorists because their arguments cannot be countered,” PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang wrote last week in an opinion piece published in Harakah Daily.(BenarNews)

Next Story

Drone and Satellites Expose Myanmar’s Pain

Rohingya refugee
An Oct. 5, 2017 image taken from a video released by Arakan Rohingya National Organization shows villagers preparing to cross a river towards the Maungdaw township in the Rakhine state that borders Bangladesh.

London- The Rohingya refugee crisis is an age-old tale of displacement and suffering, but technology is providing new tools to tackle it, rights groups and charities said on Wednesday.

Powerful drone and satellite images are bringing to life the urgent needs of more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, while also providing strong evidence of abuses, which could be used to lobby for justice.

“We can describe for hours the large numbers of refugees crossing the border and how quickly existing camps have expanded, but one image captures it all,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.

The UNHCR is using videos and photographs shot with drones to show the scale of the displacement crisis and bring it to life to spur action from the public and donors.

It is also using satellites to count and identify refugee families by their location in the Bangladesh camps to target assistance to those most in need, Mahecic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The use of drone footage of refugees entering Bangladesh has boosted donations for medical care, water and food, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of 13 leading British aid agencies.

Rights monitors also hope satellite images can provide evidence that to help bring perpetrators to justice.

Satellite photos were used in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to prove mass executions in 1995 in Srebrenica.

But the technology has yet to achieve its potential because of limited budgets and a lack of standardised methodologies accepted by courts, experts say.

Human Rights Watch has shared satellite images showing the burning of almost 300 villages in Myanmar, refugees’ mobile phone footage and their testimonies with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We have found the debris field in satellite imagery where people were executed, corroborating multiple eyewitness statements,” said Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst with the U.S.-based rights group.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and his office is working to determine whether it meets the legal definition of genocide.(VOA)