Consequences promised after Bangladesh refuses entry
Dr. Richard L. Benkin, an American human rights activist fighting to defend Hindus in Bangladesh shares his experience of Bangladesh which is becoming a dungeon for its Hindu minorities.
For a nation dependent on American purchases of its readymade garments and US support in the UN for its peacekeeping troop receipts; Bangladesh is not acting like a friend. Every day, scores of Indian nationals along with a smattering of others line up at the Bangladeshi High Commission in New Delhi to apply for and later retrieve a visa so they can enter the country legally. It is a rather perfunctory process, over quickly and without incident.
I know that to be true because I have been in those lines and at other times observed them close up. This year, a combination of bureaucratic inefficiency and the worst bout of food poisoning I ever had delayed my visa application about a week; then Bangladeshi mendacity and the need to cover its sins denied one.
People often want to know how Bangladesh can engage in the ethnic cleansing of Hindus (reducing the Hindu population from one in five to one in 15) and get away with it. One way is to control the information others get about their country and censor out the evidence of their human rights atrocities. Their refusal to allow me in the country is a good example of this—although in the end it will backfire.
After three round trips to the High Commission and two more to its bank; a Bangladeshi official told me that if I returned the following Monday, they would process the visa and get it to me on Tuesday “100 percent.” So I did, giving the Bangladeshi official my passport, evidence of the fee paid, pictures, and my application. He promised me that I could pick up my passport with the visa in it the next day. It was a simple process, he said, and I could be sure of getting my visa on Tuesday. Based on his repeated and unequivocal assurance, I purchased plane tickets for Bangladesh as my schedule was getting tight.
But when I returned the next evening as told, I encountered something quite different.
I was toward the front of a line whose occupants’ nerves were worn pretty thin already because without explanation, the Bangladeshis opened the gates over an hour late. I watched the first few people in front of me get their visas in the expected manner, even as the clerk piled through hundreds of applications and passports to retrieve that one belonging to the individual at the window. I anticipated the same as my turn came. Instead, the clerk told me that they could not locate my passport and application, even after going through the disorganized piles several times and calling for yet another large group of passports.
He had to call in reinforcements, for not only was he dealing with my missing documents; he also had to contend with a crowd getting angrier while he did. Eventually, another official appeared and told me, “Come back in two days,” while they processed my request. “Whoa,” I said. “I was told in no uncertain circumstances that I’d have my passport this evening ‘100 percent.’ And on the basis of your promise, I purchased plane tickets for Dhaka leaving tomorrow morning.” Besides, I told him, I had a limited amount of time, but he seemed to know that.
“Two days for processing,” he said with that disingenuous smile that seems to come with bureaucratic training.
“I can’t do that. I’m a foreigner here and can’t be without my passport that long.”
“Two days,” he said, holding up two fingers. “Processing.”
Now, I had been through this before with the Bangladeshis. Their human rights record is abominable and I was uncovering the evidence to prove it. I knew that if I returned in two days, I’d be told to return in another two days; and so on until it was time for me to fly home—unless, there really was some reason why a process that was quick and simple for everyone else was complicated and extended for me. So, I asked for one, which the official either could not or would not give me. With it now clear that the Bangladeshis had no intention of issuing a visa, the official asked me to step to the side so they could get out the other visas. It was getting dark, and the crowd was losing patience.
I refused to move. The Bangladeshis still held my passport, which gave them a tremendous advantage over me. So I peppered them with rapid fire questions (“Why am I being singled out,” “Is it because I’m an American,” “Or a Jew,” “Is this how a US ally acts”) and with equal rapidity squeezed in, “Give me my passport.” He did! Now I had no incentive to follow his abusive commands. I refused to budge and again demanded “Why am I being singled out for special treatment? I wanted my application with the time stamp and promise of a visa; so I pressed for it as the crowd grew even angrier and the bureaucrats started anticipating a very late night. The official called his boss for instructions and told me I could have my documents; but only if I wrote a note stating that I was withdrawing my visa request “voluntarily.” In the end, I got the application, but the note they received said that I was acting under duress and enumerated exactly why; nothing voluntary about it.
I intended to show up at the American embassy the next morning to file a formal complaint against Bangladesh and its Awami League government. On the way home, however, I decided to use the time I had to explore new avenues that would document Bangladesh’s complicity in regional human rights atrocities; which turned out to be the right way to go.
• First, I contacted my associates
inside Bangladesh, and they have been sending me authenticated evidence
of anti-Hindu atrocities and the government’s complicity in them. It is
not the same as being there myself and encouraging victims and activists
alike, but the evidence remains compelling.
• Second, I contacted several friends and associates on Capitol Hill in Washington, and they were rather peeved at Bangladesh’s “unfriendly” actions. We are having ongoing discussions about what that means, and more than one has said that they indicate Bangladesh, as I have been saying, is not the “moderate” country it postures itself as.
• Third, instead of going to Bangladesh, I went to Assam’s tribal areas and documented the environmental disaster caused by government-supported Bangladeshi infiltration; the lack of border control; the rising tensions on the border that will explode unless the infiltration stops; and I saw for myself, Bangladeshis entering India illegally through the open border and without any opposition by Indian or Bangladeshi forces.
The result of all this was to make US Congressional Hearings on Bangladesh a reality and to disseminate—not block—the truth about specific atrocities and the Bangladeshi government’s role in them. Perhaps the Bangladeshis believed that denying entry to a national from a “friendly” country would protect them from the consequences of their anti-Hindu atrocities; in the end, however, it only brought the day of reckoning for them closer.
Author is an American human rights activist fighting to defend Hindus in Bangladesh. His book, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus, is about to enter its second printing.