WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) held a press conference at Capitol Hill, on June 27, 2006 to release its much anticipated second annual report on the status of human rights of the Hindus in South Asia, Afghanistan and Fiji. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, senior ranking member of the House of International Relations Committee, co-hosted the press conference held in the Rayburn House Building. Ros-Lehtinen expressed serious concern over the facts presented in the Human Rights Report and welcomed the document.
?As an ardent of Human Rights advocate in the United States Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that all are afforded the protection they deserve,? said Ros-Lehtinen during her address. ?Especially, Hindus who are persecuted by extremist groups.?
A House resolution calling attention to human rights violations against the Hindus prompted by, among other things, the HAF report is being prepared and the congresswoman is expected to deliver a separate floor statement highlighting Human Rights violations that are particularly severe in Bangladesh.
?The second annual report on Hindu Human Rights is an objective compilation from reports by credible Human Rights groups of the genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, and discriminatory laws that Hindus face everyday in parts of South Asia and beyond,? said Ishani Chowdhury, Executive Director of HAF. ?This report documents a humanitarian tragedy that fills an important void existing in reports by both governments and other Human Rights organisations.?
The 105-page document is entitled Hindus in South Asia & the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights (2005). The report has garnered a broad array of endorsements from several members of Congress, various academics and Human Rights activists and religious leaders of diverse faiths.
?By documenting Human Rights violations against Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Fiji and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Hindu American Foundation continues to raise global awareness of these abuses,? said Congressman Joseph Crowley.
The 2005 report individually documents over 500 incidents of murder, arson, rape, desecration of temples, usurpation of property and other forms of violence against the Hindus over a single year in Bangladesh. The report confirms a continuous rise in such attacks since the 2001 general election brought the Bangladesh National Party to power in coalition with Islamist political organisations. In 2005, according to the HAF report, Pakistan witnessed a spate of Hindu temple destructions, kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls. Furthermore, the government of Pakistan continues a grim policy of aiding and abetting Islamist organisations recognised as terrorist groups by the U.S. State Department.
HAF included Fiji in the 2005 report as part of its long-term goal of highlighting the Human Rights abuses against the Hindus in the diaspora beyond South Asia. Despite of the fact that the Hindus consists of 38 per cent of the island, the Hindus and their religious institutions are routinely attacked in Fiji. The heavily influential Methodist Church there has called for conversions of the Hindus and establishment of a Christian state.
After reviewing the report, Iftekhar Hai, President of United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance condemned terrorist violence and said, ?It gives me great pain to note that extremist Muslims, a tiny minority, are unleashing terror on our Hindu brothers and sisters.?
?This report by the Hindu American Foundation?is a real eye-opener,? observed Professor Nathan Katz, Professor of Religious Studies at Florida International University. He further said that the Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan face unimaginable persecution routinely.