Sunday December 16, 2018

Five nations with significant share of Hindu population

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By Keshav Chhabra

Hindu population is estimated to be over one billion. Hindus make up almost 15 per cent of the total world’s population, making it one of the four major religions in the world. While over 90% of Hindu population resides in India, here is a list of countries which have significant Hindu population other than India.

Nepal: A “Hindu state” till January 15 2007, Nepal was declared a secular state in 2007. Almost 81 per cent of the population is Hindu followed by Buddhism (9.04%), Islam (4.38%), Kirat (3.04%) and other religious groups including Christians. Home to the largest mountain peak in the world, the state observes many festivals like Dashain (Vijay Dashmi, a 15-day long festival here), Khicha Puja/ Gai Puja and Bhai Tika along with others.

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Mauritius: Famous for its tourist attractions, around 48.5 per cent of the total population of the nation follows Hinduism. Other significant religions are Christianity (32.7%), Islam (17.3%) and Buddhism (0.4%). Though the most famous festival is Maha Shivaratri celebrated around February and March, others like Thaipusam, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Holi mark the annual calendar with zest and celebrations.

Sagar Shiv Mandir, Mauritius
Sagar Shiv Mandir, Mauritius

Fiji: With around one third of its population following Hinduism, the religion flourished here during the colonial expansion of Britishers. Most of the Hindus were brought as cheap labour. Though the country has observed several instances of communal unrest, the beautiful island continues to house around 2,61,000 Hindus according to a 2004 estimate.

Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, Fiji
Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, Fiji

Guyana: A nation known for its rich flora and fauna, it has more than 2,00,000 Hindus. Hinduism accounts for around 30 per cent of the total population of the South American nation. Though the majority of population consists of Christianity (around 57%), Muslims and Buddhists account for significant minorities in the state.

Credits: www.snipview.com
Credits: www.snipview.com

Bhutan: A part of the Indian subcontinent, around one fourth of the country’s population follows Hinduism, mostly practiced by Nepalese ethnic groups. The first Hindu temple was established in Thimpu by His Holiness The Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of Bhutan in 2012. Though a majority follows Buddhism, Hinduism continues to be practiced in the southern parts of Bhutan.

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Journalists Around The World Faced Intimidation and Prison in 2018: Report

Tuesday, Time magazine selected journalists who have been targeted for doing their work, the “guardians” of truth, as their Person of the Year.

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Khashoggi, U.S., Jail
A man holds a poster showing images of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (L), dubbed "assassin," and of journalist writer Jamal Khashoggi, dubbed "martyr," during a prayer service for Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Turkey. VOA

A multipronged crackdown on the press continued throughout 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists concludes in a report published Thursday.

Imprisonment, intimidation and allegations that journalists produce “fake news” surged in 2016, when U.S. President Donald Trump won the election, CPJ found.

Trump has been a vocal critic of the press, often chastising journalists as “very dishonest people.”

The number of journalists in jail dipped 8 percent, from 272 in 2017 to 251 this year. But that doesn’t mean the situation has improved, Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, told VOA.

The numbers fluctuate and may not reflect every imprisoned journalist. They also remain markedly higher than just a half decade ago.

ethiopian PM, Jail
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Oct. 29, 2018. VOA+

More importantly, targeting a single journalist can have far-reaching repercussions.

“The effects are not only, obviously, [on] the journalists themselves and their families and their colleagues, but we really are talking about the effect on citizens as a whole,” Quintal said.

CPJ’s report highlighted several bright spots.

In Ethiopia, which has experienced dramatic reforms under new leader Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, no journalists are currently known to be imprisoned, for the first time in 14 years.

Improvements in some countries, however, don’t necessarily rub off on others.

“Unfortunately, neighboring Eritrea remains the highest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, with 16 journalists in jail as we speak,” Quintal said.

Worldwide, report author Elana Beiser, CPJ’s editorial director, singled out China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as troublespots, highlighting how wide-ranging efforts to silence journalists have become.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Quintal’s region of focus, Cameroon, where seven journalists are in jail, is a new country of concern. At least four of those journalists faced false news charges in what Quintal called “a huge, huge setback.”

Times, Jail
Jamal Khashoggi on the cover of Times as the ‘Person of they Year”

Overall, more than two dozen journalists have been charged with publishing false news, mainly in Africa.

Accusations and imprisonments can propel self-censorship, with profound effects on citizens’ right to information.

“When you see your colleagues being put in jail, when you see them accused of so-called fake news, when they’re being arrested on false news charges,” Quintal said, “it does, obviously, have a chilling effect.”

Quintal herself was targeted, along with colleague Muthoki Mumo, in Tanzania last month.

Despite having an invitation letter from the Media Council of Tanzania, the two, both former journalists, were detained and interrogated.

Quintal, from South Africa, and Mumo, from Kenya, were kept in custody for five hours.

“We were lucky because we were able to leave Tanzania,” Quintal said, contrasting her experience to journalists in the country who have gone missing or continue to face intimidation.

jamal Khashoggi, trump, jail
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA

“The abusive nature of what happened to us showed the world the true nature of what is going on in Tanzania at the moment,” she added.

Quintal and Mumo’s case was unusual. Governments tend to target their own citizens, and journalists imprisoned by their governments make up 98 percent of cases, CPJ concluded. They also found that 13 percent of journalists in jail are women, an 8 percent increase from 2017.

Despite worrying signs, there is room for optimism, Quintal said.

When new leaders come to power, she said, human rights and press freedoms can improve very quickly.

Also Read: Facebook Rolls Out New Tool that Lets Journalists Examine Political Ads

Quintal pointed to The Gambia as one example, where the new president, Adama Barrow, has created space for journalists to work without fear of reprisal.

Tuesday, Time magazine selected journalists who have been targeted for doing their work, the “guardians” of truth, as their Person of the Year. (VOA)