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By Dr. Richard L. Benkin
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.
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.