Persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to express my deep concern over the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh. The coalition government of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, BNP, which came to power on October 1, 2001, has initiated a violent campaign. And since the BNP's parliamentary victory nearly 3 years ago, a campaign of terrorism, murder, and religious cleansing has been unleashed on Hindus living in Bangladesh. I had written a letter to Bangladesh's Prime Minister Zia in 2002 about this violent persecution, but I have received no response to date; and it is a fact that unabashed violence has continued freely.
Although the latest wave of violence has been ensuing since the BNP took power in 2001, Hindus have been a disappearing minority in Bangladesh at the hands of Bangladeshi forces that have employed human rights abuses, atrocities, and ethno-religious cleansing tools. In 1941, Hindus comprised 28 percent of the population; but by 1991, the Hindu population dwindled to a meager 8 percent. A large part of this decrease in the Hindu population can be attributed to the 1971 genocide by the then-Muslim East Pakistan Party, whereby 2.5 million Hindus were murdered and 10 million Hindus fled to India as refugees.
Reminiscent of the Jewish Holocaust, Hindu homes were marked by a yellow H, which in fact guided the pillagers to their homes. Over the following 30 years, thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed, Hindus were systematically disenfranchised from holding political power, and prejudicial legislation ensured an unstable existence for Hindus. In fact, Islamic extremists have routinely dispossessed Hindus and, for that matter, Christians and Buddhists, of their ancestral properties and land, burned down their homes, and desecrated and razed temples, which has resulted in forcing many to flee as refugees.
Mr. Speaker, I have reviewed numerous reports that attest to the current violent persecution in Bangladesh. These reports have been written by the International Federation of Bangladeshi Hindus and Friends, Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, CNN, BBC, and multiple Bangladeshi newspapers that reflect the testimonies of the Hindu victims.
This campaign of minority cleansing in progress in Bangladesh has to be stopped. Since 1971, when Bangladesh was born as a secular democratic country out of Islamic Pakistan, all minority populations have declined, and this Islamization must be put to an end through the government's leadership. In an effort to uphold pluralistic democracy in Bangladesh and protection
of Hindus and all minorities, the following must be implemented:
First, restoration of secularism in the constitution of Bangladesh, as it existed in the first constitution of independent Bangladesh in 1972.
Second, passage of affirmative action and hate crime laws that acknowledge the minority communities of Bangladesh.
Third, production of a white paper on atrocities against the minorities over the years, and assurance that the perpetrators of the ongoing pogrom are brought to justice.
Fourth, repatriation of the refugees, displaced people, with full compensation to the victims.
Fifth, ending of oppression of journalists and writers who report minority and human rights violations.
Six, termination of the illegal torture in custody of members of secular parties.
And seventh, allowance of an independent commission to investigate the atrocities perpetrated against the minority groups.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that these goals can be achieved and the Government of Bangladesh can take the necessary steps to international human and civil rights.