Silence from “South Asians”

by SAHF Team

South Asian Groups’ Response to Hindu Persecution in the Indian Subcontinent

The heading gives it away. I, a young Hindu, want to know where the groups that propound to care about human rights in South Asia are when it comes to matters of Hindu persecution in the Indian Subcontinent. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), which is one such prominent organization, has not a single—not a single—tweet discussing Hindu persecution or Hinduphobia in the Indian Subcontinent. That’s a stellar record for an organization that created its twitter account in 2009. Another such (ironically named) organization, Equality Labs, has an arguably much “stellar” record. Why? Because Sharmin Hossain, the Political Director of Equality Labs, has been on the record unjustly saying that “Hinduism cannot be a part of progressive discourse”, and she fallaciously called the sacred Hindu practices of using vibuthi, kumkuma, and mangalsutra/thali as cultural practices rooted in violence. Forget speaking about Hinduphobia or Hindu persecution, why does it seem that some groups that claim to care about human rights in South Asia actively promote anti-Hindu bigotry?

It’s a well-known fact that Hindu persecution is very real and has been happening wholesale in South Asia. In Afghanistan, the situation has reached to such a point that Representative Jim Costa of the 16th Congressional District called it a “genocide” of Hindus and Sikhs and urged that immediate refugee protections be extended to them.

In Pakistan, the US State Department noted in its 2019 report on the country that Hindus suffer from forced conversions, mob violence, and temple destructions and attacks; the report also highlighted that in 2019 “a large proportion of bonded laborers were low-caste Hindus”. In fact, why look to 2019? Just a few weeks ago, Hindus in the Sindh Province were being denied food rations during a pandemic while two young Hindu girls were abducted by a local politician’s brother. A family member of the abducted girl said in a released video, “Minorities here are facing persecution. They have abducted our daughters. We are not getting justice and are continuously facing atrocities . . . We can’t face this torture”. What this family experiences is far from irregular. According to the National Commission of Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), more than 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are abducted and forced to convert to Islam annually in Pakistan. Renowned Dalit journalist, activist, and Sindh politician Surendar Valasai places the number much higher by saying that 1,000 to 1,200 Dalit Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam every year alone.

In Bangladesh, where Hindu persecution is rarely discussed, just in the year 2017, a report stated that at least 107 Hindus were killed, 31 were victims of enforced disappearances, 782 Hindus were either forced to leave Bangladesh or aspired to do so, 235 temples and Hindu vigrahas (idols) were destroyed or attacked, 25 Hindu women and children were raped, and 23 were forcibly converted to another religion. That’s just one year. In fact, the situation is so dire for Bangladeshi Hindus that Professor Abul Barakat of Dhaka University noted that “there will be no Hindus left within Bangladesh within 30 years.”

Many of the “South Asian” solidarity and activist groups certainly have time to demonstrate against the CAA, which undeniably gives reprieve to families that have fled such persecution, but they are silent when it comes to Hindu persecution and Hinduphobia in the Indian Subcontinent. Desmond Tutu, a celebrated activist who fought against the apartheid regime in South Africa, once remarked that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” It seems that many of these “South Asian” organizations that hypocritically and ironically propound to care about human rights have chosen the side of the oppressors when it comes to Hindu persecution in the Indian subcontinent.

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