Washington, D.C. (April 12, 2013) -- "We want justice, we want justice," was the chant heard from a crowd of over 300 demonstrators, mostly of Bengali origin, on Wednesday in front of the White House. The rally, organized by the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), urged the United States government to use its influence to stop the rampant persecution of Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Many of the participants spoke of their first hand experience with persecution they endured during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence and the ongoing violent campaigns that have occurred since.
"The recent tragedies faced by the Hindu community of Bangladesh are reflective of the violent attacks that we faced in 1971 and again in 2001," said Sitanghsu Guha, an advisor to BHBCUC. "In a report presented to Congress, Senator Ted Kennedy shed invaluable light on the targeting of Bangladesh's Hindu community during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. There are details of the tremendous loss of life, hundreds of thousands of women raped, and the nearly ten million people displaced. It is in that spirit that we urge the U.S. government to offer its support to Bangladesh in this critical time. If the U.S. fails to act now, there may be no Hindus left in Bangladesh."
Protesters arrived in chartered buses from New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and as far as California to join local DC area residents. Recent months have seen a sharp rise in violence perpetrated against Hindus, Buddhists, Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, and atheists in Bangladesh by Islamist groups after the first of three Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) leaders was convicted for committing war crimes during the country's 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan. JeI and other groups are widely believed to have instigated the current spate of violence.
"The situation in Bangladesh is getting worse by the day. The demands of the protesters to President Obama and American lawmakers to stop the violence in Bangladesh are urgent for not only the safety of Bangladeshis, but U.S. security interests in the region." said Jay Kansara, HAF Associate Director. "Bangladesh has witnessed increasing religious fundamentalism for decades to the demise of all its minority communities who have bore the brunt of violent attacks and killings."
Earlier in the day, a small delegation of leaders from BHBCUC and HAF met with Congressional offices to request a hearing on the persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The delegation also requested groups perpetrating violence against religious
minorities in Bangladesh, like the Jamaat-e-Islami and its
affiliates, be put on U.S. designated terrorist lists.