Friday, March 6, 2009

Human Rights in South Asia and the Fight Against Terrorism and Communalism

The greatest challenge facing any free society in a time of war - which is what this is - always has been remaining a free society while effectively fighting that war. Too often, today's free societies seem hopelessly split between the extremes of craven appeasement and blatant communalism. Neither option is anything other than a prescription for disaster," said Dr. Richard L. Benkin, a Jewish Human Rights Activist, while delivering a lecture on "The Fight Against Terrorism and Communalism" on Friday, 13th March, 2009, at the Department of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, University of Lucknow, under the auspices of Open Space - Lucknow.

Owner and Founder of Inter-Faith Strength and Member of Islam-Israel Fellowship Council, Dr. Benkin said, "Free societies have a difficult time demonizing any faith, and rightly so. But this also casts those who are ready to fight the radicals as extremists and communalists. Extremists cannot win this war; those who are too timid even to name our foe cannot even fight it. That must change and change quickly."

Dr. Benkin concluded by saying,"The good news is that it can. It is not even that difficult, but it will take a core group of committed activists from all communities who agree to take the necessary actions together."

A report on the event can be read on The Pioneer website.

"From the perspective of a knowledgeable outsider, South Asia presents a picture of a region with nations that use the language of human rights extensively but remain silent at arguably the most extensive record of accepted major human rights abuses in the world. We have numerous examples of inter-communal violence perpetrated against Muslims in Gujarat, Hindus in Kashmir and Ahmadiya in Bangladesh, just to name three. Radical Islamist terrorism has been targeting non-Muslims with growing frequency in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and elsewhere. Ethnic cleansing is being practised against Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh with government complicity; and in Bhutan by the government. Even the region's tiny Jewish population has been victimized with Christians in Northeast India preventing the B'nei Menashe from emigrating to Israel.

"Because South Asia is home to the world's second, third, and fourth largest Muslim populations, more than 95 per cent of the world's Hindus, and close to one in four people on the planet; this phenomenon is frightening not only for South Asia but for the entire world, " said Dr. Richard L. Benkin the next day, i.e. Saturday, 14th March, 2009, while giving a talk on "The Frightening Phenomenon of Human Rights Violations in South Asia", jointly organised by Open Space - Lucknow and Circle for Child and Youth Research Cooperation in India, at the Academic Staff College, University of Lucknow.

Author of a monograph on Bangladeshi Hindus, titled A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing, Dr. Benkin drew attention particularly to the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh. He said, "Governments and populations alike seem paralysed to take effective action. The thing most likely to galvanize both is a specific issue behind which every moral individual and entity can get. The wanton destruction of Bangladeshi Hindus is one such issue. From almost one in five Bangladeshis to less than one in ten today; Bangladeshi Hindus have been murdered and raped in ritual fashion and had their property legally plundered, while lower level official participated in the carnage and successive governments remained passive. Moreover, the world remained silent. Where was the government of the United States? The UN or the Human Rights NGOs such as Amnesty International? When we talk to leaders about it, they either plead ignorance or offer some excuse about why inaction was better than action. If one objects that it should not matter that the victims are Hindu; realize that it matters only because the perpetrators have made it matter. These atrocities occured because the victims were Hindu. And perhaps the world is silent for the same reason." Dr. Benkin received "Special US Congressional Recognition in 2005 and was nominated for Lorenzo Natali Prize for Journalism in 2006.

No comments: