A QUIET CASE OF ETHNIC
PART FOUR: WHAT MUST BE
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
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
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
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
to act and act fast.
Five, demand that
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
account for it. And so what message
have we been sending to
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,
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