Foreign Policy Blogs

Stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus

The Hindus and other minorities of Bangladesh experience horror as they are persecuted and ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland. It is time for the world to stop this!

The Holocaust experienced by the Jewish people was the most brutal event in human history. Throughout the ages, there is no parallel to such an atrocity. Six million innocent Jewish men, women and children were murdered just because they were born into a different faith. However, unfortunately, the Holocaust was not the only instance of genocide and ethnic cleansing that humanity witnessed. From Rwanda to Bosnia to the Yazidis and Christians in Iraq and Syria, other nations have experienced genocides that the world should also pay attention to if they are serious in their declaration proclaiming NEVER AGAIN! And now in Bangladesh, the Hindus are currently being ethnically cleansed from their homeland and if it continues at the present pace, it has the potential to become genocide yet the world is silent.

It need not be like this. As political scientist Donald Horowitz once proclaimed, “The dead it is said do not live to tell the tale but this is not true in ethnic cleansing. The dead do tell the tale; it is the living who are reluctant to speak.” This profound statement has much relevance for our times. The living must listen carefully to the voice of every murdered human being especially if they were slaughtered in a case of genocide or ethnic cleansing for each one of them has a horrific story to tell you.

As Sujit Das, who authored a report on the plight of Bangladeshi Hindus, proclaimed, “Pay attention and you will hear a crying whisper in their silence.” In the case of Bangladesh, they tell the story of a people experiencing untold suffering and injustice just because they were born into the wrong faith. The Bangladeshi Hindu women who are raped daily because they were born Hindu are fortunate enough to live but the rape mentally slaughtered them so they are like the living dead. Today, not only the victims but humanity itself is crying bitterly for your attention.

According to the Bangladeshi Census, in 1941, 28.3% of the Bangladeshi population were minorities. Out of this, 11.88 million Hindus lived in Bangladesh while 588,000 were members of other religious and ethnic minority groups like the Buddhists, Christians and animists. By 1991, the Muslim majority increased by 19.5% while the Hindu population increased by only 4.5%. Why did the Muslim population of Bangladesh increase so much but the Hindu population did not? If the usual rate of population growth prevailed, there should have been 32.5 million Hindus in Bangladesh in 1991 but the actual figure is 12.5 million. What happened to the other 20 million Hindus over this 50 year period?

During Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971, a genocide against the Hindus in Bangladesh occurred. As Sunday Times journalist Anthony Mascarenhas reported at the time, “I was getting my first glimpse at the stain of blood which has spread over the otherwise verdant land of East Bengal. First, it was the massacre of non-Bengalis in a savage outburst of Bengali hatred. Now, it is a massacre carried out by the West Pakistan Army. Hindus, hunted from village to village and door to door, were shot off-hand after a cursory short-arm inspection showed they were uncircumcised. I have seen truckloads of human targets and those who had the humanity to help them hauled off under the cover of darkness and curfews. I have witnessed the brutality of kill and burn missions after the army who cleared off the rebels pursued pogroms in the towns and villages. Women were raped or had their breasts torn out with specifically fashioned knives. Children did not escape the horror. The lucky ones were killed with their parents but many thousands of others go through what remains of them with eyes gouged out and limbs amputated.”

However, Mascarenhas related that the “pogrom’s victims are not only the Hindus of East Bengal but also many thousands of Bengali Muslims. These include university and college students, teachers and left wing political cadre.” While many Muslims were also slaughtered in 1971, the Pakistani Army and their Bengali allies had a special hatred of Hindus. The Muslims were killed for supposedly adopting Hindu culture, just as the German intellectuals opposed to the Nazis like Social Democrat Friednick Kellner were often accused falsely of being closet Jews or adopting Jewish culture via their left wing ideology.

The justification for the slaughter of the Hindus of Bangladesh by Pakistan and their Bengali allies also had an uncanny resemblance to Nazi justifications for the Holocaust. Colonel Naim justified committing genocide against Hindus because “the Hindus had completely undermined the Muslim masses with their money. In some cases, they made up more than half of the teaching staff in colleges and schools, and sent their own children to be educated in Calcutta. It reached a point where Bengali culture was in fact Hindu culture and East Pakistan was virtually under the control of the Marwari businessmen in Calcutta.”

Sadly, after the genocide of Hindus in the 1970’s, the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Bangladesh continues under the present ruling Sheikh Hasina government. Systematically, Hindu homes today are being either destroyed or seized by the state. Hindu holy places are being desecrated. Hindu civilians today are also murdered, raped, abducted and forcefully converted to Islam. In fact, the Bangladeshi government even offers financial incentives for the conversion of non-Muslims, thus leading to many Hindu women being abducted, raped and forcefully converted out of their ancestral faith. And Hindus are systematically discriminated against, unable to serve in senior level positions in most cases. Unfortunately, many so-called Muslim Bangladeshi intellectuals have promoted the view that the Hindus are migrants and thus not true Bangladeshis. This only encourages more violence and discrimination against the Bangladeshi Hindu community.

The time has come for the world to speak out against this and to say NEVER AGAIN! The international community needs to stop being a silent bystander and to start to take actions to stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Bangladesh. As Elie Wiesel once proclaimed, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”



Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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