STATEMENT BY DR. RICHARD L. BENKIN
PROTECTION FORUM FOR BENGALEE HINDUS OF ASSAM
GUWAHATI, ASSAM, INDIA
DECEMBER 4, 2010
Brothers and Sisters, Namaskar.
From the relative safety and comfort of the West, it is easy to pretend that we are not facing a deadly enemy in West Bengal and Assam. We cannot afford to have that amnesia ourselves or to let others have it. That is why I will be standing with you in February.
At the beginning of the last century, coal miners would carry a canary with them in to the mines. It was not for the bird’s beautiful song. There is danger in the mines: poison gas. But canaries are more sensitive to it than humans are, and if the bird passed out, the miners knew get out and fast. That gave rise to the expression “a canary in a coal mine,” which refers to something that shows us how things will be for us if we do not act. The Hindus of Northeast India and Bangladesh are like the canary in a coal mine.
There is danger in this world in the form of terrorists: radical Islamists and radical communists. Both aim to destroy what we have and they have joined forces to accomplish their designs. Danger also exists in the form of those who let them do it: people more concerned with the corruption money they can get; people who would rather help our enemies than be thought impolite; people who use their fear as an excuse for not acting. But they are fooling themselves if they believe that cowards can survive this epic battle that is upon us.
What is happening to the Hindus of Northeast India and Bangladesh will happen to the rest of us if we do not make a stand now and stop this Red-Green Alliance (Red standing for Communists; Green for Islamists). There are at least two ways to do this. First, as an American, I believe that the United States offers the best chance of forcing change on those who still find it convenient to be silent while others die. That is my challenge. In the past few years, I have begun to make significant progress with the US House and Senate on this, as well as with others. People are beginning to recognize that what is happening to the Hindus here is real, and that no decent person can ignore it. There is an expression that “light is the best disinfectant.” With every fiber of my being, I am working to shed light on this disease that is desecrating your great religion, raping your daughters, and eliminating your people—who I now consider my own, as well.
But what you do here is far more significant. For often when I raise the issue in Washington and elsewhere, people ask me why, if this is so bad, they see nothing coming from the Hindus themselves. When they see mass demonstrations, hear your outraged voice, and when or government sends up a cry against this crime; the people of the West will not be able to turn their heads. It also will give the people here hope and more importantly, pride.
Several years ago, I was in a refugee camp for Bangladeshi Hindus near the Nepal border. One young girl told me that it was her goal to become a schoolteacher so she could teach other Bengali Hindus to be proud of who they are and to know that they deserve better than the lives they have now. What happened to that pride, to that strength? Does anyone here believe that she was able to become a teacher? It is unlikely. So it is up to us to tap into her strength and the strength of so many others whom I have met in my travels here.
We can create self-help groups to keep the refugees from becoming victims of those who prey upon them. There already are groups along the West Bengal-Bangladesh border that are teaching them trades and giving them food and medical care until they can become independent. Why not in Assam? We can offer them micro-credit programs as well to help them find shelter and a way to earn a living. And we can make sure their children receive a good education whether in regular schools or outside programs. Let it do what my young friend in that North Bengal camp wanted to do: teach them to be proud and strong and to demand what is theirs in the world’s largest democracy, India.
And we can begin by fighting a most shameful order: a government in the world’s largest Hindu country seeks to expel Hindu victims of Islamist violence back to their attackers where a terrible fate meets them. Fight it in the courts; fight it in the press; fight it in the board rooms of companies that depend on your purchases to survive. Take it to Delhi; take it to the UN, the US, and the EU if you have to; but fight it. Do not let it take effect!
I know, I know. Many of you are thinking that the people are afraid or too timid. Well, perhaps they are. But you will be surprised how the sight of your strength, and especially of your victory, will change that. And each time it does, you will have more and more allies who join with you until the day when your enemies are defeated and Hindus will again feel safe.