Wednesday 22nd of October 2014 12:18:54 AM A- A+
Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant : Richard L. Benkin
The great US Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis once noted that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” He was telling us that people—especially government officials—get away with doing bad things because they can do them without other people noticing. Bring it into the light where others can see it, their crimes will be obvious, and the people will know that they must take action to stop them. No case better reflects Justice Brandeis’s observation than that of Hindus in Bangladesh
Hindus have been persecuted in Bangladesh mercilessly for decades. Just since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, they have dropped from almost a fifthof the population to an estimated one in 15 today. It does not matter which party controls the government; both are complicit in these crimes. Bangladeshi Ambassador to the US Akramul Qader tried to explain away the population decline by calling it voluntary, saying that Hindus in Bangladesh “cannot find suitable matches for their childrenso they go to India where there are more Hindus.” That’s ridiculous, and I was surprised that Ambassador Qader would have the gall to make such a remark. (Several US officials who control US-Bangladesh trade policy had a good laugh with me over that idiotic statement.) I have interviewed hundreds of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees and not one told me they left their country to find matches for their children. Moreover, we have documented proof of ongoing atrocities that the current government has refused to prosecute: between one and 1.5 per week since the Awami League took office, and these are only those we have been able to verify with at least two independent sources using our limited resources.
Bangladeshi governments have been getting away with letting this happen, rarely prosecuting cases and frequently rewarding perpetrators with Hindu land seized under the Vested Property Act. The current government’s apologists admit this then add that any other Bangladeshi party would be “worse,” which provides little comfort to the victims of their complicity in terror. But things are starting to change, and ironically, the Awami League helped that by refusing to let me into the country earlier this year.
US officials wanted to know what they had to hide and whether I was uncovering facts that they wanted to cover up. The resulting dialogue with both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill has led more Senators and House Members to be concerned with the plight of the Bangladeshi Hindus. Congressman Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, is working with me to hold public hearings on the matter. Our work also contributed to the recent fact-finding mission to Bangladesh by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that addressed the persecution of Hindus there for the first time.
We cannot be certain when but sometime soon, Americans will begin demanding that their government and retailers find non-Bangladeshi sources for their readymade garments and other products. The only thing that will prevent it is a real end to government sponsorship of ethnic cleansing: annulling the Vested Property Act and returning all seized property to their Hindu owners; dismissal, prosecution, and punishment of any and all public officials complicit whether through active participation or cover up; strong police and if necessary, military action to protect all of Bangladesh’s citizens; and the consistent application of the rule of law to all regardless of religion.
As I have made clear to Bangladeshi cabinet ministers and others: what happens depends on action, not words, and it is in their hands.
Dr. Richard L. Benkin:
Independent Human Rights Activist
Expert legal witness regarding South Asia, and its peoples, and asylum requests.
Lecturer and Speaker