by Richard L. Benkin (February 2010)
In a few weeks, I again will be with Bangladeshi Hindu refugees in a number of illicit camps throughout North and Northeast India. They fled to the world’s largest democracy and the country most closely identified with their faith, hoping for aid and comfort after being victimized next door by Islamic radicals, a government that supports minority oppression, and everyday Bangladeshi Muslims who are made to profit from attacks on their Hindu neighbors.
In several other visits to these camps, I have witnessed, seen evidence of, or heard from victims of
· Gang rape, often ritualized, often perpetrated against multiple members of the same family
· Abduction, especially of Hindu children and young women
· Forced conversion to Islam
· Religious desecration, including arson and the destruction of Hindu temples and dieties
· Violent seizures of Hindu land, carried out under the protection of police, other officials, and even Bangladeshi law
· Assaults on defenseless victims
· Organized attacks by Muslim mobs
As heart wrenching as it is, however, to stare into the eyes of a young teen while she tells you of being gang raped, all of these atrocities are also symptoms of at least two far more insidious phenomena, which we have no choice but to fight and fight relentlessly. This organized attack on non-Muslims is part of the wider international jihad that threatens all civilized peoples, Bangladesh has become one giant Petri Dish for the Islamists, and what we do—or do not do—there will tell them how well their strategy will work elsewhere and how well-founded their assumptions about us are. Even beyond that existential threat, however, this is not about one or another sensationalistic event but about a system of legalized oppression and ethnic cleansing that has been proceeding almost without a break for more than three decades. That is the reality for Bangladesh’s 13-15,000,000 Hindus, and it places every one of them at risk. For despite the current Bangladeshi government’s protestations to the contrary—which they glibly issue in the face of opposing evidence—Hindus in Bangladesh live without equal protection under the law and are therefore subject to arbitrary actions by the Muslim majority.
Yet while events like the attempted terrorist bombing of Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas day remind us of that constant threat facing us; no one ever alerts us to this quiet case of ethnic cleansing and how it is just as dramatically a part of the same threat.
At the time of India’s Partition in 1948, Hindus accounted for about a third of the East Pakistani population. When East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971, they were about a fifth. Today, they are less than one tenth. There have been no UN resolutions condemning the perpetrators; no outraged world leaders speaking out about it; not a single protest from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or the rest of the misnomered human rights industry. The Hindus of Bangladesh are being wiped out, and no one seems to care. Yet, if this was happening to the Muslims of India those same bodies would decry “Hindu extremism” and excuse Islamist attacks on India as justified outrage. But in fact, that is not what is happening, as South Asian Islamists are progressively changing Indian demographics. During roughly the same period, Indian’s Muslim population has actually grown, rising from about nine percent to perhaps 20. In West Bengal, the Indian state on Bangladesh’s western border, Muslims were at 25 percent at the start of this century, and many estimate them to be at least 30 percent today—thanks in part to a friendly communist state government.
Bangladeshi governments regardless of party have been complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Hindus. In almost every atrocity, they either allowed the perpetrators to act with impunity or actively participated in it with them. The country even has a law, the Vested Property Act that empowers the government to seize non-Muslim land and distribute it to Muslims of its choice. It has been in force for 35 years—and no arbiter of human rights has complained; no morally-outraged country has ever conditioned business or aid on its repeal. Their de juro bigotry is the economic fuel for destroying their Hindu communities, which in Pakistan is now down to one percent from 20—and I saw much of that remnant streaming into Indian Punjab in March ahead of the advancing Taliban.
The United Nations, which never tires of telling us in one way or another how it is the arbiter of right and wrong in the world, is actually a major supporter of ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Bangladesh and Pakistan (which has the same confiscatory law with a different name) supplies more UN peacekeeping troops than any other country. In November 2009, the last month for which figures are available, each had more than 10,000 of its citizens employed as peacekeeping forces on the UN payroll. The United States had 76, Australia 105, the UK 281. China—another pillar of democracy—had over 2000. These peacekeeping jobs are critical to the Bangladeshi economy and polity, as we saw during the country’s 2007 military coup. According to the standard narrative, the coup occurred because impending elections were revealed as fraudulent, and there was a great deal of unrest in the streets. While that did happen, the coup came about for very different reasons.
When I arrived in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka three days before the coup, I was greeted with the bizarre spectacle of every single democracy urging the Bangladeshis not to hold elections—especially bizarre in retrospect since they since accepted rigged elections in Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Bangladeshi freedom fighter and Muslim Zionist Shoaib Choudhury, who I was with at the time, and I were informed of the coup shortly before it happened. Our sources also told us that the military decided to move because its leaders believed that the UN was about to join the democracies and threaten its ability to supply peacekeeping troops—which makes sense. No one wants 10,000 unemployed, armed, and angry young men forced into the country. Clearly, the UN has the ability to influence the Bangladeshis by making participation in peacekeeping missions contingent on an end to minority oppression (both in law and in fact). It merely chooses not to do so.
Getting the UN to act is one way we can stop the march of Islamists and ethnic cleansing. Legal scholars can force a review based on the Vested Property Act. Others can focus on the numbers provided above: one third, one fifth, one tenth; a drop that does not occur through normal demographic processes. Making this reality something world leaders cannot ignore is another. Neither the international human rights industry nor the rogue’s gallery that populates the various UN human rights commissions will be any help.
Under the auspices of a new NGO, Forcefield, several Indian colleagues and I are planning a no-holds-barred documentary about this human rights disaster. Forcefield is a non-agenda driven human rights organization—which means it is not anti-Israel or anti-US, and has no leftist agenda that drives its choice of issues. Neither will it ignore human rights abuses simply because they are carried out by Islamists. Through the documentary and other vehicles, Forcefield expects to educate publics and lawmakers to what is happening to the Hindus of Bangladesh.
Trade is yet another critical area. The United States is a major importer of Bangladeshi goods, and over the past six years, I have helped stop several attempts to award Bangladesh tariff relief; this as part of our efforts on behalf of Shoaib Choudhury, whom the Bangladesh government continues to persecute. (Congressman and Senate candidate Mark Kirk has been and continues to be key ally in efforts to stopping these atrocities.)
The Bangladeshis will never stop these atrocities because of arguments about right and wrong; we tried that. Even the current government is no different than its predecessors; it has no internal dynamic for change. It continues to benefit from the Vested Property Act and does not want to anger potential voters by bucking the standard Islamist line. But we can identify and push on the many pressure points that Bangladeshis cannot ignore, such as those noted above. Those efforts are underway, and anyone wishing to join them, contribute to Forcefield, or become part of our call chain to contact members of the US Congress and Senate should email me at [email protected].
How serious is this? Throughout history, hardcore believers alone have never been sufficient for ethnic cleansing or genocide. Their success required a compliant authority and a large stable of everyday people to carry it out. That is exactly what they now have in Bangladesh as did others who led mass murders in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. Islamists will judge us by whether we stop this one or remain content to let it happen—when it will be too late for us, too.
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