Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
By NewsGram Desk
This is apparently a globalized world where illegal Rohingya refugees are revered and garlanded, the innocent Bangladeshi Hindus cruelly treated with inhumanity. International organizations and extremists group that condemn hate crimes and racism have turned a blind eye towards the plight of millions of Hindus which are subjected to brutality in Bangladesh every year.
Imagine a family living in a large beautiful ancestral home. The house, originally belonging to the family, was the seat of a magnificent civilization where happiness, intellectualism, and progressiveness were promulgated smoothly along with the traditionalism. Then came, as a consequence of a series of disastrous misadventures, some vindictive, baleful and rancorous ‘invaders’ gunged with duplicitous ideals and deleterious dogmas. They – after initially nestling themselves in the adjacent house – gradually started expanding their reach, swallowing their vicinity, creating havoc and destruction throughout, succouring darkness; eventually dimming the light of culture. Rape, mass murder, destruction and forceful conversions converts the magnanimous aroma of the house into a tenebrous reflection of the dark realm.
This is the story of Bangladeshi Hindus. They’ve been subject to brutal atrocities and destruction committed by the majority of Bangladesh which mounts a condition of ethnic cleansing. The recent mass addition to the list was made in 2017. In the year 2017 alone, according to the Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mojahote, an umbrella organisation representing Hindus within Bangladesh, 107 Bangladeshi Hindu civilians were murdered, 31 Hindu victims disappeared, at least 25 Hindu women and girls were raped, 23 Hindus were forcefully converted and 235 Hindu temples and statues within Bangladesh were desecrated. The same report also claimed that 782 Bangladeshi Hindus were forced to flee to India due to persecution by the Bangladeshi government and radical Islamist groups. This means that 6,474 different atrocities were committed against the Hindu community in Bangladesh in 2017. Which was even higher at 11,335 in 2016. One example of that was seen in Sovandadi village of Patiya, Chittagong where houses of 20 to 22 Hindu families were burned to the ground.
And these are all just the ‘reported ones’. Shipan Kumar Basu, the head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, believes that many atrocities within Bangladesh are unreported: “A lot of Hindu homes were burned in Chittagong Moheshkhali and there were other crimes that occurred against the minorities but they were not published in any newspaper.” The problem does not end there. The powerful establishment of the state of Bangladesh functions, directly and indirectly, either in support of the culprits or in ignorance of the conflict. The atrocities, most of the time, is the subject of no value to the Bangladesh authorities. And the culprits in fact, sometimes, gets a helping hands from the establishment.
Post-Bangladesh’s War of Independence, around 10 million Hindus were displaced, making it difficult for the authorities to establish direct ownership of property within specified legal timeframes and this reality showed the real face of Bangladesh authorities. The establishment, specifically the Awami League government confiscated 1.05 million acres of the Hindu land through Vested Property Act, 1972 and benefitted from the turmoil, showing absolutely no care for the Hindus. The authorities have time and again proved they hold no sympathy and sense of responsibility towards the Hindus.
The Ugly Persecution of 1971
The ugliest turn in the time was, of course, the 1971 War of Liberation, when technical cleansing of Hindus was widely done. In 1971, throughout the 9 month long persecution carried out by Pakistan’s Army in the then East Pakistan, the primary target was the Hindu community. The Muslim Pakistani Army unleashed a series of ‘holocaust’ like deleterious vindictive persecution, abduction, destruction, mass killing and raping of, predominantly, Hindus with an evil objective of quashing Hindu culture and religion in their ‘territory’.
A Sunday Times journalist Anthony Mascarenhas reported on these horrors wrote, “I was getting my first glimpse at the stain of blood which has spread over the otherwise verdant land of East Bengal. First, it was the massacre of non-Bengalis in a savage outburst of Bengali hatred. Now, it is a massacre carried out by the West Pakistan Army. Hindus, hunted from village to village and door to door, were shot off-hand after a cursory short-arm inspection showed they were uncircumcised. I have seen truckloads of human targets and those who had the humanity to help them hauled off under the cover of darkness and curfews. I have witnessed the brutality of kill and burn missions after the army who cleared off the rebels pursued pogroms in the towns and villages. Women were raped or had their breasts torn out with specifically fashioned knives. Children did not escape the horror. The lucky ones were killed with their parents but many thousands of others go through what remains of them with eyes gouged out and limbs amputated.”
Extreme brutality and inhumanity have encapsulated Hindus for long. Hindus of East Pakistan suffered one of the worst of genocides in history. It was the darkest year in the already dark century for them as 2.5 million to 3 million Hindus were slaughtered including women and children. As the barbaric acts continued many, fled the blood field to protect themselves and their family. Hindus were the prime targets of the army, 80% of refugees fleeing East Pakistan were Hindus numbering around 8 – 10 million.
Sydney H. Schanberg, The New York Times correspondent to Dhaka in 1971, gave a hand account of the brutal massacre of Hindus in Bangladesh. He said “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.” Women were subjected to horrors of a different kind. Schanberg wrote about the atrocities “The Pakistan army and the Razakars did not stop at simply massacring Hindus. They also took to raping Bengali women. During these horrific times over 200,000 Bengali women and girls were raped, many were taken as sex slaves and raped multiple times by the Pakistani army.
The so-called ‘secular’ media choose to not even consider this massacre worth reporting. The majority of the Indian populace was thus unaware of the planned destruction of their kith and kin. This genocide was a manifestation of the idea that led to a series of minor jihadi incidents affecting the Hindus ever since the 1947 partition. 1971 was one such event that does not even represent the entirety of the situation.
Demographics Changed Drastically
Degradation and destruction of the Hindu community their demography, culture and religion as a whole show a pattern. Right from 1951, a rapid and consistent decline in the Hindu population in Bangladesh is seen(East Pakistan 1947-1971).
Before partition, Hindus in the then East Bengal comprised 30-31% of the total population. Partition led to huge influx of Hindus in Bharat and out-flux of Muslims in East Pakistan. Migration reduced the number of Hindus in East Pakistan to about 22% of the total population as per the 1951 survey. Decades after partition, when the sands were settled, the religious demography of East Pakistan was supposed to be stable. The Hindus were consistently diminishing and reducing in numbers, this was clearly shown in an article on Indiafacts as well.
Such Socio-economic conditions, ethnicity, landscape, fertility and mortality rate, stable and continuous religious demography naturally lead to a diminished population. Despite similar conditions, the minorities in Bangladesh, unnaturally, kept on vanishing. “Due to unabated persecution, intimidation, and forcible conversion to Islam, the Hindu-Minority population kept on dwindling,” wrote Rahul Gupta for Hindu Jagruti Samiti.
Study of government data from 1941-2011 shows clear signs of diminishing Hindu population and unnatural change in demographics. In 1961, the Hindu population decreased to 18.50% of the total population. As a result of genocide, it further sliced to 13.50% in 1971. Eventually decreasing to 10.70% according to the latest census of 2011. But at the same time, the Muslim population kept on increasing and expanding from 78.90% in 1951 to 89.10% by 2011. The effects of forceful change in demographics touched the vicinal West Bengal also, where the Hindu population between 1951 and 1991 decreased by 4.1% while the Muslim population increased by 3.6%.
Crystalline and pellucid indications of a horrific ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus is exposed by this pattern. However, the globalized world is still either unaware or intentionally silent on this systematic ethnic cleansing. Global media has betrayed the ethics of journalism and essential values of humanity by ignoring such a huge case of ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh. India, after years of tears and cry, has finally acknowledged their condition by formally enacting a law fast-tracking their naturalization in India. Culprit changes but the victim doesn’t. Years later the original inhabitants are mere walking dead.
But despite every assertion of Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) matching the global gold standards of humanitarianism, many – predominantly Muslims – in India are up in arms against it. The act is being despised solemnly on the elision of Muslims as refugees along with Hindu, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians. An opportunity to welcome the suffered ones has fallen afoul to the squinted, murky, and somewhat morbid interpretations of secularism. While majority of Indians have opened up their arms to refuge innocent minorities from 3 Islamic States; some have added salt to their wounds by protesting against the act.
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement
Cricket fans can now book the ultimate experience with the official accommodation booking partner for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Booking.com. The T20 Pavillion, a bespoke cricket-themed luxury stay that transforms the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel and Residences into a classic cricket stadium.
The suite offers guests an all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience during the India vs Pakistan ICC Men's T20 World Cup match on October 24, 2021, packed with quirks and luxuries that is sure to satisfy even the biggest cricket enthusiast. Additionally, as a part of the experience, guests will also have the exclusive opportunity to meet Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor at The T20 Pavilion.
The booking window that opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021 and check-out on October 25, 2021. | Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash
For one night only, guests can soak in the energy of a roaring stadium to enjoy the epic match on a life-sized screen while seated on comfortable sofas -- just like the luxury box seats at the stadium. They can also head to the locker room (dining room) next to the field (living room) to have some energy drinks, just like a cricketer would do or head to the bedroom, transformed into a net practice area. It's got the field, the pitch, the locker room, pitching nets and cricket memorabilia infused in every element of the room.
The booking window opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021, and check-out on October 25, 2021. The T20 Pavilion is priced at Rs 6666 only in honour of all the great sixes smashed at the T20 World Cup. The T20 Pavilion can accommodate up to four guests. Cricket fans can visit the website or mobile app to book this cricket-inspired stay. (IANS/ MBI)