Hindu American Foundation Releases First-Ever Annual Survey of Hindu Human Rights

Date: July 13, 2005

TAMPA, FL: The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) released today its first annual report on the status of Hindu human rights in Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Entitled "Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir: A survey of Human Rights 2004", the report was prepared by HAF and compiles media coverage and first-hand accounts of human rights violations perpetrated against Hindus because of their religious identity. The 71-page report was delivered prior to its release to the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who endorsed the report.

"The human rights violations that are occurring against Hindus must no longer be ignored without reprobation," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen after reviewing the HAF report. "Hindus have a history of being peaceful, pluralistic and understanding of other faiths and peoples, yet minority Hindus have endured decades of pain and suffering without the attention of the world."

Nikhil Joshi with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)Nikhil Joshi, Esq., member of the HAF Board of Directors after discussing HAF's first annual human rights report with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

Rep. Ackerman stressed the fundamental nature of religious freedom and supported the concept of the annual report produced by HAF. "The Hindu American Foundation has done some important work in this regard by compiling their 2004 Survey of Human Rights by helping to defend the rights of Hindus around the world to practice their religion without intimidation and by shining a light on those who would take away their religious freedoms," said Rep. Ackerman in a statement distributed on July 12, 2005.

The Hindu human rights report-the first in what is to be an annual publication-was prepared, according to the HAF Board of Directors, to document a humanitarian tragedy largely omitted in reports by the United States State Department and larger human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. While these groups often mention the attacks on Hindus according to HAF, the group maintains that the massive scope of this human rights disaster requires the extensive coverage that this report provides.

"With over 600 documented attacks of murder, rape and physical intimidation of Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India's state of Jammu and Kashmir last year alone, the ongoing atrocities against Hindus can no longer be ignored," said Ramesh Rao, Ph.D., member of the HAF Executive Council who contributed to the report. "We are gratified that leaders in the U.S. Congress understand the magnitude of this tragedy and are determined to raise their voices in outrage."

The report specifically denounces Bangladesh for a long-history of anti-Hindu atrocities that have recently spiked following the ascent of the Bangladeshi National Party-Jamat-e-Islami coalition. The decline of Hindus in Bangladesh from 30% of the population in 1947, to less than 10% today is analyzed in the report. The report alleges that the estimated loss of 20 million Bangladeshi Hindus is a consequence of an ongoing genocide and forced exodus.

"Persecution, discrimination and outright violence is the horrid reality for Hindus in Bangladesh today," said Aseem Shukla, M.D., member of the HAF Board of Directors. "The international community must demand that the Bangladesh government immediately investigate the ongoing religious cleansing within its borders and empower minority and human rights commissions there."

The HAF report also discusses the consequence of Pakistan and Al-Qaeda sponsored Islamist violence in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that has left tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims dead, and 350,000 Hindu victims of religious cleansing. Similarly, the Pakistan government is condemned for systematic state-sponsored religious discrimination against Hindus through elaborate "anti-blasphemy" laws, and for failing to investigate numerous reports of millions of Hindus being held as "bonded laborers" in slavery-like conditions.

"While HAF supports all efforts to bring lasting peace between India and Pakistan," cautioned Sheetal D. Shah, member of the HAF Executive Council and a contributor to the HAF report, "Pakistan must continue to be held responsible for a recent upsurge in violence in the Kashmir valley, and even possibly on one of Hinduism's most sacred shrines this month alone."

HAF leaders were gratified by Congressional support for the report and discussed plans to follow-up the report in personal interactions with many other legislators planned later this year. A congressional resolution emphasizing aspects of the report is being actively discussed. Rep. Ros Lehtinen and Rep. Ackerman pledged to continue working with HAF on these human rights issues.

"I applaud the Hindu American Foundation for bringing awareness to this issue," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. "I look forward to working with it to help address this scar on the international human rights community."

Rep. Ackerman discussed the obligation of Congress to speak out against international human rights abuses. "By working alongside organizations such as the Hindu American Foundation, we can help to ensure that violations to religious freedom are documented, and challenged across the world," Rep. Ackerman added.

The full text of the first annual HAF Hindu human rights report is available at http://www.hinduamericanfoundation.org/HHR2004.pdf. The corresponding Executive Summary is below.

A survey of human rights 2004

The human rights of Hindu citizens are consistently violated in three regions where
Hindus constitute a minority: Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Jammu & Kashmir.

    • Over 400 documented attacks have taken place on Bangladeshi Hindus between January and November 2004.
    • These attacks include the day to day acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, temple destruction, and physical intimidation.
    • Hindus are labeled as "enemies" of Bangladesh. The Enemy Property Order II of 1965, under which property belonging to Hindus was identified as enemy property, was renamed as Vested Property Act in 1972, and under which, the Government of Bangladesh vested itself with alleged enemy properties. Still in force, this Order of the President and the Enemy \ Vested Property Act has not been subjected to any judicial review.
    • Hindus, who comprised nearly 30% of Bangladesh's population in 1947, now constitute less than 10% of the population.
    • By 1991, 20 million Hindus were unaccounted or "missing" according to expected population trends.
    • Hindus, who constituted between 15% and 24% of Pakistan's population in 1947, now comprise less than 1.6% of the population.
    • Nearly 2 million people, many of them Hindus, are held as slaves in "bonded labor" in southern Pakistan.
    • Kidnapping of vulnerable Hindus is a well-established multi-million dollar industry.
    • Pakistan officially discriminates against non-Muslims through a variety of laws and strictures. Discriminatory laws include the "anti-blasphemy law" under which anyone who is accused of criticizing the Prophet Muhammad is imprisoned without trial for long periods of time, and mandatory religious identification in passports. Specific discriminatory laws are the Hudood Ordinance of 1979 (offence of Zina, offence of Qazaf, execution of punishment of whipping ordinance), the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order of 1984 and Qisas & Diyat Ordinance (Section 306 C) of 1991.
    • Over 300,000 Kashmiri Hindus have been forced to leave due to ethnic cleansing abetted by Kashmiri Muslims.
    • These 300,000 Hindus are refugees in their own country, sheltered in temporary camps near Delhi and elsewhere.
    • More than 3,000 Hindu civilians have been killed, and thousands more Hindu police and army personnel have succumbed to terrorist violence.
      There are virtually no Hindus left in the Kashmir Valley; they have all been driven out.
    • Of these regions, Bangladesh represents an ongoing crisis for Hindus and is of utmost immediate concern.
    • Human rights violations against Hindus are repeatedly ignored by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and government commissions like the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that routinely fail to specifically highlight the plight of Hindus in regions where they comprise a minority.
    • Minority and human rights commissions in these regions must be created and/or empowered to pressure the governments of these countries to provide security and uphold the rights of minority Hindus. The international community must compel the governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to respect the human rights of Hindus as an urgent priority.

The entire HAF Hindu human rights report is available at http://www.hinduamericanfoundation.org/HHR2004.pdf

HAF is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization not aligned or affiliated with any political entity, party or organization.