“Since 1947, 49 million Hindus in Bangladesh have gone missing according to Sachi [Dastidar],” read Congressman Dold. “And a recent Hindu American Foundation report concluded that the Hindus of Bangladesh continue to be victims of daily acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, temple destruction, and physical intimidation. Dr. Richard Benkin, an authority on human rights abuses in Bangladesh, has described to me on several occasions the atrocities and human rights abuses suffered by Bangladesh’s Hindus that he personally has verified.”
According to HAF’s human rights report, Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora, A Survey of Human Rights 2010, Hindus in Bangladesh comprised 30% of the population in 1947, while today they comprise less than 10%. Just this month, Bangladesh’s parliament passed a constitutional amendment retaining Islam as the official state religion, despite 2008 election promises made by the current Awami League government to restore the secular 1972 constitution. The move has been seen by many as a compromise by the ruling Awami League, which has been branded as anti-Islamic by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and several Islamist organizations. Secular groups and religious minorities, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, have expressed serious concerns over the amendment and its implications on religious freedom.
“Voices calling out the Bangladesh government for its history of human rights abuses against Bangladeshi Hindus is once again a part of the Congressional record,” said Prof. Ramesh Rao, the editor of the HAF report that Congressman Dold cited. “HAF will continue to work with other advocates to ensure that the issue of Bangladeshi Hindus remains an urgent concern and, that the U.S. Congress soon considers legislation that predicates financial aid on addressing those concerns.”
Congressman Dold’s remarks were made in reference to his support of H.R. 440, which calls for a State Department Special Envoy who would be authorized to represent the United States in cases relevant to religious freedom in the “priority countries of Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.“ The bill passed the House of Representatives yesterday and is now pending review by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under bill number S.1245.
“Promotion of religious freedom in countries with abysmal human rights records, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, is vital to our national security interests, and we hope such legislation will have the teeth to curb the funding of rogue regimes,” added Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF Director and co-author of its human rights report.