Dr. Richard L. Benkin




This is the final installment in a four part series about the ongoing persecution and ethnic cleansing of the millions-strong Bangladeshi Hindus.  Previous installments established the historical roots of this relentless and racist attack, the deadly combination of the Islamists’ incessant attacks and government’s tacit agreement, and the shockingly abusive reaction by their co-religionists in West Bengal, India.  Part Four focuses exclusively on what the West can do to prevent genocide before it occurs.  What a novel thought!


The first question to answer is:  Do we find these allegations credible?  The second is:  If we do not, are they serious enough to warrant further investigation; or should we instead turn our backs?  And the third is:  What action, then, are we and the international community morally bound to take?  Obviously, answers to the first two questions are not mine to provide; but there are several specific actions that should be taken on behalf of these victims of the murderous combination of apathy in the face of passionate hatred.


First, the Indian government maintains a hands-off policy towards the refugees’ continued persecution, even cross border attacks.  It can maintain the fiction that it is an autonomous matter for West Bengal only insofar as no one challenges it.  The Indian government needs to be approached about these atrocities occurring on its soil with the apparent collusion or deliberate non-interference policy of one of its constituent states. Is Indian inaction a matter of constitutional law or is it discretionary?  Verifying the answer is itself another answer.  Each answer, however, suggests its own course of action, as well as the appropriate action by the government of India and the direction of any protests.


With regard to this and subsequent actions, people in the democratic West, can be effective by personally lobbying their representatives; whether those politicians serve in Congress, Parliament, or any other legislative body.  Indian leaders will take our concerns much more seriously if they are brought to them by a concerned, friendly nation with which it likely has extensive economic ties.


Second, the refugees must be granted some sort of legal status within India.  Their lack of any is an open secret.  It was very easy for me to locate these individuals and the camps they call home.  In more than one of them, I found West Bengal government officials—and no doubt the occasional RAW agent. How much easier would it be for the government of India to find these people and get them on some sort of official register!  As long as these people remain in a legal netherworld, they remain vulnerable to abuse and manipulation.  Only a legal status will assure them of their human rights, education for their children, freedom of movement, and better employment opportunities.  Many refugees used to farm their own lands in Bangladesh but now are reduced to itinerant day labor or such things as pulling rickshaws; or as I observed, digging through garbage dumps.


Third, demand refugee status for these people.  They fit every classic definition of a refugee community.  They fled religious persecution by both private groups and a government that refused to protect them; and they have a reasonable expectation—which they often state explicitly—of facing more violence should they attempt to return to Bangladesh.  Demand protection and economic assistance from the appropriate United Nations agency.  The UN certainly does not shrink from making a big point about refugees elsewhere.  Bangladeshi refugees are present in many parts of India, especially in the northern and eastern regions of the nation.  I observed some in Delhi living in desperate conditions.  Many might declare these people “economic refugees” because the proximate cause of their flight was economic hardship.  It needs to be stated, however, that if economics caused the flight, it was economic privation due to religious persecution.  Could it be but a coincidence that the refugees are Hindu and not a proportional mix of Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims?


Fourth, to the extent that individuals have had their land seized under Bangladesh’s Vested Property Act or Pakistan’s Enemy Property Act, they have a right to compensation from those governments which instituted and supported the legalized thievery based on religious persecution. The laws are an affront to the civilized world and that the civilized world has not taken action in the decades of the laws’ existence is an affront to the values we claim to espouse.  A credible suit with realistic chances of succeeding is likely the quickest way to get Bangladesh to act and act fast.


Five, demand that Bangladesh immediately repeal the racist Vested Property Act.  It offends every principle on which human dignity is predicated.  Yet, no one is calling it what it is.  No one is calling Bangladesh to account for it.  And so what message have we been sending to Bangladesh about its legalized ethnic cleansing?  That MUST stop.


Six—and perhaps most importantly, demand an end to the carnage:  the carnage in Bangladesh, and the carnage in West Bengal.  Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others often have urged the stationing of international monitors in various parts of the world; but they have been silent on this matter.  The United Nations, NATO, and other international organizations likewise can be found in all sorts of international trouble spots and former trouble spots.  But they, too, have been silent on this issue.  Humanity itself—as well as other victims of sectarian violence—cries out for this.  There is little doubt that if left unchecked, radicals will carry out their intended genocide in South Asia.  Our world has been consistently ineffective when it in combating that. The Nazi holocaust against the Jews, Rwanda, Darfur, and others come to mind.  Nothing was done until the bodies were piled too high to ignore.  This time, let us stop genocide before it occurs.



Dr. Richard L. Benkin is an independent human rights activist who first gained notoriety for his successful fight to free Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from imprisonment and torture in 2005.  Since then, he has continued to advocate for Mr. Choudhury’s rights—are constantly under attack by the government of Bangladesh—and for other human rights issues.  Most recently, he took a fact finding trip to West Bengal and other areas in India to confirm the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus and the severity of their current situation even in India.


Dr. Benkin is available for talks and seminars:

Part I: The Roots of Ethnic Cleansing
Part II: Islamist Attacks and Government Collusion
Part III: Rightless and Vulnerable