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By Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: If there is anything that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi fears, it is the international condemnation, against his authoritarian rule, which is threatening to dismantle the democratic, constitutional structure of the country. Though every effort has been made to subvert democratic institutions in the country, including the media, judiciary, bureaucracy, and the law enforcing agencies in the country, efforts are also being made to ensure that news of this downgrading from a “fully free country” to a “partially free country”, does not impact his reputation abroad.
To ensure this, the “Hindu” organizations in the US and other Western countries, which till 2014, were concerned with Hindu-centric religious activities and festivals, suddenly got co-opted into the more aggressive, hate-filled political entity Hindutva narrative. Instead of talking about “Hinduism”, the talks, activities, now center around protecting the interests of the extreme right-wing Hindu leader in power in India.
This is the first part of a five-part series, which looks at this curious but dangerous phenomenon, which seeks to misinform the Indian diaspora, under cover of religion, risking their own existence in the process.
In their constant portrayal of Hindus as prosecuted minorities, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has organized a virtual event, on March 24, to rake up memories of the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, which eventually gave them freedom from Pakistan. The fact that the organizers have chosen to address this program specifically as “1971 Bengali Hindu Genocide: Remembering the Lost – Celebrating Survival”, instead of addressing it just as a genocide, raises fundamental questions of whether they should be allowed to even hold a deliberately, inflammatory program like this.
The program details how it will be a solemn commemoration of the 200,000-400,000 raped, 2-3 million killed and over 10 million displaced during the 1971 “Bengali Hindu genocide”. The mischief here is that the program is called the “Bengali Hindu genocide”, but in the program description, there is no mention of ONLY Hindus being killed and raped.
As if this misleading projection was not enough, the program says, “learn about the historical context of the genocide and why it’s still important today, as we celebrate the survival and continued vibrancy of the Hindu community in Bangladesh.” This at a time when every bit of information of the genocide is available on the internet, minus the extremist Hindu right-wing twist to the narrative.
Interestingly the HAF website does not have a single credible article that clearly establishes that only Bengali Hindus were subject to the genocide.
The HAF heavily relies on the account of Archer Blood, the American diplomat during Richard Nixon’s presidency who in his historic communication to the president, famously called the “Blood Telegram”, says this, “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backward to placate the West Pak[istan] dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy,… But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected in order to salvage our nation’s position as a moral leader of the free world.
— U.S. Consulate (Dacca) Cable, Dissent from U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan, April 6, 1971.
There is no mention of “Hindus” in this telegram.
In an earlier telegram Blood wrote about American observations at Dhaka under the subject heading “Selective genocide”, “1. Here in Decca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak[istani] Military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have a list of AWAMI League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down
2. Among those marked for extinction in addition to the A.L. hierarchy are student leaders and university faculty. In this second category, we have reported that Fazlur Rahman head of the philosophy department, and a Hindu, M. Abedin, head of the department of history, have been killed. Razzak of the political science department is rumored dead. Also on the list are the bulk of MNA’s elect and a number of MPA’s.
3. Moreover, with the support of the Pak[istani] Military. non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus.
— U.S. Consulate (Dacca) Cable, Selective genocide, March 27, 1971
In the second telegram too, there is a mention of two Muslims and a Hindu in point 2, and in point 3, there is a mention of the attack on Bengalis and Hindus. And by all accounts mentioned in the HAF website, especially in the article by Smithsonian magazine, posted to support their viewpoint, the genocide was not on religious lines but on cultural lines.
The article clearly says that West Pakistan’s military went on a rampage raping and killing ALL Bengalis, both Hindus and Muslims because Bengalis were considered culturally inferior to the Urdu-speaking, West Pakistanis.
The article states, “Bengalis were dehumanized and Bengali women were perceived as prostitutes inviting sex. They were thought to have Hindu features which deleted any thought for their “Muslim” status that might prevent a perpetrator’s savage activities. Faisal, a Pakistani officer who had been in East Pakistan portrays Bengali culture in terms of the differences between East and West Pakistani ladies, pushing the open discrimination against Bengali women: “The women bathe openly so that men walking by can see them, and they wear saris that with one pull fall off their body, like Indians. They are very attached to music, like Hindus, and they have their daughters dance for guests, they take pride in this dancing and music, like prostitutes. My daughter does not dance, neither does my wife. This music and dancing aren’t Islamic. Our ladies are not prostitutes like Bengalis.” A Bengali Muslim lady Ferdousi Priyabhashini says the soldiers raping her said to her “You are a Hindu! You are a spy” because she wore a sari and bindi”.
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Among the handful of videos, that HAF has posted to support their claims of an exclusive Bengali Hindu genocide, there is an interview of the daughter of Archer Blood, Barbara Blood, where there is no mention of only Hindus being identified exclusively killed.
There is a credible 20 minute documentary by Zahir Raihan, which does not establish HAF’s claims too.
There is another documentary by “Bengali Hindus”, which talks about Hindus being raped and killed, from a Hindu victim’s perspective. However in a conversation with Sham Sharma, one of the makers of the film shares how it was not only the Hindu women who were being targeted, other minority women were being targeted too.
Sharma who has a youtube channel, full of content that is typical of extremist Hindu narratives, totally devoid of credible data, however, tries to make it an only Hindus killed narrative. This is exactly the kind of mischievous information used to garner sympathy for Hindus, projecting them as victims, by right-wing Hindu fundamentalists in India and the US.
The two ‘Bengali Hindus’, started this group, to clear misconceptions that people have about Bangladeshis and why they fled Bangladesh, to seek refuge in India.
The cherry on the pie is an interview of Indira Gandhi, who is constantly portrayed as a villain by Hindu fundamentalists, speaking about why she went to war with Pakistan, with no mention of only Hindus being targeted.
There is also an audio of an interview of Rukhsana Hasib, a victim of the genocide and author of ‘Shadows In The Sun’, with Sam Kalra, who is also part of HAF. Since her family suffered the brunt of the genocide, her story is credible enough, but again it’s not a story of only the Hindu genocide.
Besides this, the HAF has concluded it to be a Hindu genocide, quoting from a Wikipedia page on Hinduism in Bangladesh, hardly the most credible source, to establish a key historical fact.
This link talks about the falling numbers amongst the Hindus in Bangladesh, which HAF has used to show prosecution of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh. It fails to mention that the numbers dwindled because many sought refuge in India, after the 1947 partition and the 1971 war. After the war too, there has been a steady inflow of immigrants from Bangladesh to India, both Hindus and Muslims. To connect the stories of genocide, and dwindling numbers of Hindus in Bangladesh to portray Hindus as victims, decades ago, instead of questioning the atrocities on the minorities in India, by your own government, is a deliberate attempt to misinform the western world.
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