The Discrimination Hindus Face Around The Globe And What They Can Do About It
In many countries around the globe, Hindus face discrimination in the form of targeting killings, large scale mob violence and attacks on temples. In this interview, Samir Kalra, author of the Hindu Human Rights report, reveals the challenges faced by Hindu populations globally, the measures to counter them, and how he plans to take the report to governments and international fora.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) recently released the latest edition of its Hindu Human Rights report. This report documents the challenges which Hindu minorities face in 10 countries and regions across the world. The report then goes on to make policy recommendations for improving the living conditions of these Hindu populations.
In contemporary times, the report is a unique and valuable document for studying and protecting global Hindu populations and for documenting global attitudes towards them.
Swarajya conducted an email interview with the author of the report, Samir Kalra. Edited excerpts given below:
My first question is regarding the kind of discrimination the Hindu minorities face. Economic, social, religious, ethnic, racial – what kind of discrimination did you find most rampant?
Hindu minorities globally face a number of significant challenges and forms of discrimination. The level, type, and severity of discrimination vary from country to country. In countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, for instance, although there are many legal provisions that deny Hindus religious freedom, the extensive daily anti-minority violence that Hindus face and the inability or unwillingness of the government and law enforcement agency to protect them is the most serious issue. This includes violence against women in the form of abductions, forced conversions, and sexual assaults; attacks on Hindu temples; targeted killings; and large-scale mob violence.
On the other hand, in Malaysia, the systemic institutional discrimination and economic marginalisation of the ethnic Indian Hindu community, sanctioned through the Bumiputra policies that favour the Malay Muslim majority, as well as policies that treat Hindu religious institutions inequitably are the most pervasive. And in Bhutan the government’s restrictions on cultural, linguistic, and religious rights of the ethnic Nepali Hindus is rampant, while abuses by security forces against Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka remains of critical concern. This is not to say that there aren’t a number of other ongoing issues in these countries and others, but these are some of the most rampant.
You have classified countries into three categories depending on the intensity of discrimination Hindus face in them like egregious violators, countries of concern and monitored countries. What is the criteria you have employed to come up with such a classification?
The first category, egregious violators, is based on a situation where the state has engaged in systemic human rights violations through official laws and policies that explicitly discriminate against Hindus and deprive them of their basic rights; and where the government has allowed non-state actors to persecute and commit acts of violence against Hindus with impunity or when its institutions are complicit in committing these abuses. The report classifies Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Pakistan as egregious violators.
Countries/regions labelled as of serious concern have committed severe human rights violations against their Hindu minority, but the level of discrimination, violence, and persecution is not as extensive or systemic as it is in egregious violator countries. In our latest report, Bhutan, the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K), and Sri Lanka are labelled as countries of serious concern. The designation of J & K is based only on the treatment of the Hindu minority in this particular state, and is not a comment on the state of human rights in general in India.
And finally, in monitored countries, the Hindu community has faced the some combination of discrimination, denial of fundamental rights, and violence in the past, but conditions have improved in recent years. This category includes Fiji, Saudi Arabia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Although Saudi Arabia’s treatment of minorities merits its designation as an egregious violation, it’s been labelled as monitored country in this report due to its small population of Hindu migrant workers and a lack of available data on violations against Hindus.
How can Hindus, where they are minorities, best protect themselves and their culture? Can they form groups and lobby their respective countries' governments?
Hindu minorities in a number of countries are becoming increasingly vocal and have formed advocacy and human rights groups to assert their rights, after years of staying relatively silent out of fear. Unfortunately, in many instances, these efforts have been disjointed or not unified. We hope that these Hindus can better organise themselves and the various groups in any given country can come together on a common united platform and collectively advocate for their rights. It’s also critical that Hindu organisations build relationships with other human rights groups, both domestically and internationally, to help ensure that their issues are taken up and that they have a stronger voice. Moreover, Hindu organisations that already exist need to create more programmes that educate the community in their respective countries in order to empower them.
Though Britain and the United States are secular republics, they never miss out in chiding the other countries whenever Christians are persecuted. Why India doesn't do the same given that this is the only country that is the last refuge for Hindus?
I can’t speak on why India hasn’t been as vocal in speaking out against human rights atrocities against Hindus globally, but we certainly hope that India, as the world’s largest secular democracy and spiritual homeland of Hindus, will start to play a bigger role in raising these issues in international fora as well as in its bilateral discussions with countries that have persecuted Hindu populations. We’ve been encouraged by some positive steps that have been taken by the government towards Hindu refugee populations that have sought refuge in India, but we hope that more will be done to assist those Hindu refugees that have fled from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Pakistan, many of whom are still living on the margins of Indian society without legal status or economic opportunities. For instance, thousands of Afghan Hindus have been living in Delhi for years without any legal status, and as a result are unable to obtain economic opportunities or provide education for their children.
What role can Indian Hindu groups play in helping their persecuted brethren in the diaspora countries?
Indian Hindu groups can play a critical role in assisting persecuted Hindus diaspora communities. For one, they can provide direct grant assistance to local Hindu groups in affected countries by supporting education, women’s empowerment, and other social programmes to uplift the community, while also strengthening the capacity of local Hindus to mobilise and advocate for their rights.
Second, they can advocate for greater involvement by the Indian government in assisting persecuted Hindus internationally, as well as raising greater awareness about these issues amongst the Indian public.
And finally, Indian Hindu groups can help provide economic, social, educational, legal, and medical assistance to Hindu refugees and displaced persons in India, including Afghan and Kashmiri Hindus struggling in Delhi and Pakistani Hindus living in makeshift camps in Jodhpur, to name a few.
This is the only major country for Hindus, but here, no mainstream media channel or newspaper has yet reported on your document. What explains this apathy?
It’s hard to say what the cause is for such apathy. But it’s global apathy towards these issues that motivated us to begin comprehensively documenting the human rights of Hindus and other minorities since HAF’s inception in 2003. That’s why we will continue to monitor and reach out to media outlets to ensure that the important issues in this report are covered and to raise awareness about the plight facing Hindu minorities.
How can we help this report reach the masses and sensitise the Hindu population here to be more vocal and supportive about the cause of Hindus that are being persecuted in other countries?
The next important step is to focus on the individual stories of victims and activists in each of these countries covered in the report so people can give a face to the suffering and personally connect with these persecuted Hindus. We plan to highlight some of these stories over the next several weeks and months through a series of blogs, Facebook live events, and other mediums.
A documentary based on this report would be an excellent initiative and would have far greater reach on social media. Are you planning something like that?
We’re looking into a number of options to expand the reach of the report, including multimedia options. We’ve prepared documentaries on specific parts of the report in the past, such as focusing on the plight of Pakistani Hindu refugees, but a documentary that broadly highlights the issues in the report is definitely something we would consider going forward with.
Do you plan to reach out to the Indian government and inform them at least through official channels about your report and the problems Hindus face in other countries?
Absolutely. This is an issue of global significance that requires the attention of the international community. We plan to share the report with the representatives of several countries, including India. In addition, we’ve already started sharing the report with US policy makers and will continue to advocate for issues facing Hindus that we have documented in the report.
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