The human rights of Hindu citizens are consistently violated in ten countries and one state in India where Hindus constitute a minority: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago. This report documents these ongoing violations of human rights.
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Hindus Across the Diaspora
Hindus, with a population of over one billion, are the third largest religious group in the world.
Hinduism is one of the oldest surviving religions and its origins can be traced back to at least the third millennium BCE.
Hindus are pluralistic in their beliefs, and accept the myriad means of worship and prayer available to human beings seeking spiritual enlightenment.
Hindus in South Asia and many of the twenty million Hindus living outside of India are subject to discrimination, terror, murder and other forms of violence, forced conversions, ethnic cleansing, temple destruction, socio-political ostracization and disenfranchisement. In some countries, fundamentalists from other religions advance a discriminatory and non-inclusive agenda and promote hatred of religious and ethnic minorities in league with politicians and other government officials.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN
Hindus have an ancient history in Afghanistan dating back to the earliest recorded days of Hindu civilization, the Vedic age (estimated to be between 3000 BCE and 1000 BCE).
Hindu temples destroyed by the Taliban have not been rebuilt and several temples are occupied by Muslim groups leaving nearly no Hindu institutions or places of worship existing today.
Hindus do not send their children to public schools due to fear of persecution and ridicule.
There are no facilities to provide restitution and resettlements of Afghan Hindus were they to return from exile. The resurgence of the Taliban further renders the Hindu population vulnerable.
Afghan Hindus living in exile are subject to intense pressure by the Governments of Britain and Germany to return to Afghanistan despite the continued violence toward and persecution of Hindus.
The Indian government is not adequately supporting Hindu and Sikh refugees from Afghanistan.
Existing Hindu temples and institutions in Afghanistan must be restored and rehabilitated.
The United States and the international community should apply pressure on the German and British governments to stop involuntary deportation of Hindu refugees from Germany and Britain back to Afghanistan.
India should expedite the issuance of visas and provide adequate monetary support to resettle the refugees.
Pakistan-based groups that are encouraging the resurgence of Taliban forces should be identified and stopped from their attempts to further destabilize Afghanistan. Any such continued destabilization will clearly affect Hindus and other minorities residing in Afghanistan.
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH
In 1947, Hindus constituted nearly 30% of Bangladesh’s population. By 1991, 20 million Hindus were “missing” from Bangladesh. Today, Hindus comprise less than 10% of the population.
Hindus of Bangladesh continue to be victims of ethnic cleansing waged by Islamic fundamentalists that include daily acts of murder, rape, kidnappings, temple destruction, and physical intimidation.
Human rights activists and journalists are continuously harassed and abused in Bangladesh.
461 acts of murder, rape, kidnappings, temple destruction, and land grab targeting Hindus have been recorded in this report for the nine months in 2006 for which data is available.
Nearly 1.2 million or 44 per cent of the 2.7 million Hindu households in the country were affected by the Enemy Property Act 1965 and its post-independence version, the Vested Property Act 1974. Individuals with direct ties to the Bangladesh National Party (BNP)-Islamist party alliance in power between 2001 and 2006 were beneficiaries of over 45% of lands confiscated from Hindus under the draconian Vested Property Act.
The interim Bangladesh government must take substantial and verifiable measures to immediately ensure that attacks on Hindus and their institutions that increased during the BNP rule cease and must bring to quick justice those political and radical religious elements who have led the assault on Hindus and other minorities.
Bangladesh must repeal the anti-minority and racist laws such as the Vested Property Act. Confiscated lands must be restored to the rightful, original owners.
Bangladesh should set up a Human Rights Commission and a Minorities Commission to monitor the human rights situation and to provide redress to minority grievances.
The United States and other donor nations must demand accountability from the Bangladesh Government, and all aid to Bangladesh should be contingent on the improvement of the human rights situation.
KINGDOM OF BHUTAN
Bhutan has been ruled by an absolute monarchy since 1907. The country has remained under the administrative control of the Buddhist theocratic leader Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgye. No constitution has been approved by the parliament though the government unveiled a draft constitution in 2005.
Bhutan is a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual society.
Bhutan evicted over 100,000 Hindu minority and Nyingmapa Buddhists from southern and eastern Bhutan in the early 1990s.
More than 100,000 Bhutanese citizens, nearly one sixth of the kingdom's total population of approximately 700,000 have been forced to leave or forcibly evicted from the country by the royal regime due to their religio-ethnic identity.
Over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees are living in refugee camps in Nepal managed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), while 20,000 other undocumented refugees are scattered outside the camps in Nepal and in several Indian states without any help or legal status.
Bhutan must take practical and concrete steps to demonstrate its stated commitment to a just resolution of the longstanding refugee crisis.
Bhutan, Nepal and the UNHCR should adopt a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for voluntary repatriation that includes a clear statement of rights and entitlements upon the refugees’ return to Bhutan - including full citizenship rights and human rights protections.
Donors, UN agencies and Bhutan's other partners should insist on measures to eliminate discrimination against the Hindu Lhotshampas who have remained in Bhutan since the exodus of refugees, and to ensure the protection of their fundamental human rights and their right to participate as full citizens of Bhutan.
REPUBLIC OF THE FIJI ISLANDS
In Fiji, Hindus constitute approximately 34% of the Christian majority state.
Fijian Hindus continue to face hate speech and Hindu temples continue to be targets of attack.
The Methodist Church of Fiji has repeatedly called for the creation of a Christian State.
It is encouraging that fewer attacks on Hindu temples and Hindus were recorded in 2006 compared to 2005. Also encouraging is that after the installation of the new interim government on December 5, 2006 there has been a steady decline in attacks on Hindu temples.
The Fijian government must respect the rights of all citizens, and the inherent political bias against Hindus and ethnic Indians in that country must be eradicated.
Fiji should repeal the “Truth and Reconciliation” (TRC) Bill and successfully prosecute and punish the criminals of the 2000 coup.
Fiji must do more to protect Hindus from violence and hate speech. Furthermore the government must safeguard Hindu temples from attacks.
The Fijian government must distance itself from Christian fundamentalists promoting hatred against Hindus and Hinduism, and avoid Christianization of its institutions.
INDIAN STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR
The Maharaja of Kashmir ceded his kingdom to India in 1947 when Pakistan invaded Kashmir in order to conquer the kingdom. Pakistan occupies about 35% of the region, India governs approximately half, and China occupies the remainder of the region including a portion ceded to it by Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have fought major wars over Kashmir.
Since the mid to late 1980s, Islamist terrorists from Pakistan and Afghanistan have targeted Kashmir and are guilty of massive ethnic cleansing of Hindus from India’s Kashmir valley.
300,000 Kashmiri Hindus are refugees in their own country, sheltered in temporary camps in Jammu and other parts of India.
The year 2006 did not see any significant amelioration in the status of Hindu refugees from Kashmir, and continued to be neglected by the Indian government and the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmiri Hindus must be allowed to return to their homes, must have their property restored to them and must receive protection from the Indian government and the Kashmir state government.
Pakistan must permanently end its sponsorship of terror via direct military aid to terror groups, sponsorship of terror camps in Pakistan and covert support to terrorists by its ISI spy service.
THE REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious former Soviet republic comprised mostly of ethnic Kazakhs following Sunni Islam and ethnic Russians following the Russian Orthodox Church. Hindus are a very small minority.
The small group of Hindus, mostly members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), has been harassed and intimidated by local Kazakh authorities. Their properties have been confiscated or destroyed.
The U.S. government should continue to discuss religious freedom issues with the Kazakh government and urge the Kazakh government to promote human rights and religious freedom. U.S. officials should continue to insist that bilateral cooperation on economic and security matters is a complement to, not a substitute for, meaningful progress on human rights, including religious freedom.
The international community should seek assurances that any legislation relating to religious freedom be drafted through a transparent legislative process, and that it reflect the country’s international commitments to respect individuals’ right to peaceful expression of religion.
Kazakhstan should return confiscated land, homes and property to Hindus and their religious institutions and compensate them for destroyed property.
Malaysia is a self-declared Islamic Republic and Islam is the official religion of the country despite Malaysia being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country in which Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are significant minorities. Minorities struggle to maintain and practice their religions.
The right to religious freedom has been eroding. Ethnic Malays are required to be Muslims, as they are born into Islam and do not have the freedom to convert.
The Hindu population faces increased discrimination and intimidation, including the destruction of their temples and places of worship. The government continues to treat pre-independence era Hindu temples differently than mosques from the same era, and gives preference to mosques in the allocation of public funds and lands.
Several disturbing cases have come to light over Hindus not being allowed to be cremated after their death in accordance with Hindu custom, and instead being forced to have an Islamic burial despite family members insisting that the individual was a Hindu.
Religious freedom should be allowed and encouraged for ethnic Malays and the minority religious populations in the country.
The Malaysian government should respect the wishes of Hindu family members and permit them to carry out final rites for their deceased in accordance with Hindu custom.
The United States, United Nations, the international community, and human rights groups should pressure the Malaysian government to protect Hindu temples from desecration and destruction. Hindu places of worship that existed prior to independence should be designated as temple property and title to the land should be handed to the respective temple trustees/committees as has been done for pre-independence era mosques.
The Malaysian Government should be urged to not discriminate in the allocation of public funds and land for places of worship between Muslim and minority religious groups.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN
In 1947, Hindus were approximately 25% of the population of Pakistan. Now Hindus constitute less than 1.6% of the population.
Pakistan officially discriminates against non-Muslims through a variety of laws such as blasphemy laws. On March 24, 2005, Pakistan restored the discriminatory practice of mandating the inclusion of religious identity of individuals in all new passports.
School textbooks continue to promote Islam, hatred of other religions including Hinduism and intolerance toward non-Muslims.
Recurring reports point to an alarming trend of Hindu girls being kidnapped, raped, held in madrassas (Islamic seminaries) and forcibly converted to Islam.
Hindus continue to be targeted in Balochistan, and more than 5,000 Hindus have been forced to flee.
In 2006, there were disturbing reports of demolition of the few remaining Hindu temples in Pakistan.
Pakistan should remove all blasphemy laws. Those imprisoned under blasphemy laws should get their day in court within a period of two weeks. Long imprisonments without court appraisal constitute human rights abuse.
Pakistan should reverse the March 24, 2005 decision to mandate religious identification in passports
Pakistan should set up a Human Rights Commission and/or a National Minorities Commission to monitor the human rights condition and to enable minorities to enjoy the rights provided to the majority population.
The United States should demand that Pakistan stop aiding all groups who seek to resolve the Kashmir dispute through violent means. Any aid to Pakistan should be contingent on Pakistan’s acceptance of a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy and the Qu’ran and Shari’a (Islamic law) serve as its constitution. Its law code is founded upon the conservative form of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism. This permits judges to use capital or corporal punishment for crimes, including murder, theft, sexual abuse, homosexuality and adultery.
Non-citizens are required to carry identity cards, which identify cardholders as “Muslim” or “non-Muslim.” This is enforced by the mutawwa’in or Saudi religious police.
There is no constitutional protection for the freedom of religion. Citizens are not allowed to choose or change their religion.
Non-Muslims cannot exhibit any outward religious clothing, text, or symbol, and cannot worship in public. Even private worship is prohibited and punished.
Intolerance of other religions is embedded in the kingdom’s educational institutions.
Islamic law characterizes Hindus as polytheists. This puts Hindus in the same category as those who practice “black magic” or “sorcery.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has branded Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern,” but U.S. military, oil, and other economic interests in the region has diminished its ability to influence change. Saudi Arabia is the centre of Islamic fundamentalism and it has funded Islamic fundamentalist institutions around the world.
The United States government and the world community must continue to pressure Saudi Arabia to change its Islamic nationalist/authoritarian nature. Unless the United States changes its policy to Saudi Arabia, minorities will continue to face severe and overwhelming discrimination.
Saudi Arabia must end its support for terrorism and fundamentalist Islam, promote basic civil and religious rights for its citizens and guest workers, and reform its education system in order to remove inaccuracies about other religions. It should instead promote tolerance and pluralism.
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation that has been severely hobbled by ethnic conflict. The violent conflict between the Sinhala-majority Sri Lankan government and the Tamil groups is the result of a combination of religious, ethnic, and linguistic conflict. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists in northern Sri Lanka erupted into war in 1983.
Not all Tamils are Hindus, and the LTTE, the primary Tamil-terrorist outfit, is not a Hindu organization. The prolonged conflict is detrimental to all Sri Lankans, especially the large Hindu minority population, which experiences an undue share of violence and displacement.
There can be no military solution to ethnic conflicts. Both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government should pursue a course of peace in order to end the conflict.
HAF expresses grave concern that the Hindu institutions and Tamil culture in Sri Lanka are severely threatened by the ongoing civil war and encourages all sides in the conflict to protect Hindu institutions from harm.
The United States, Norway and the United Nations must continue to pressure all parties involved to find an equitable, just and realistic resolution of the crisis.
REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
The country is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious island nation with mostly Hindu Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians accounting for most of the population. Roman Catholics and Hindus make up the largest religious groups.
The racial and religious animosity between Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbeans has been exacerbated over the years. Hindus are now major targets of violence, hate speech and discrimination.
Indo-Trinidadians have been systematically denied government benefits and employment in government service. The police have too often ignored attacks on Hindu-Trinidadians.
The United States should encourage the current Trinidad government to abide by the country’s Constitution and guarantee safety and security to Hindus and Indo-Trinidadians.
The Trinidadian government should practice parity and equality in government response to and support of various ethnic and religious groups, and recognize Hindus and Indians as equal partners in the rule and governance of the nation.
Trinidad must do more to protect Hindus from violence, hate speech, racial and religious stereotyping. Furthermore the government must safeguard Hindu temples from attacks.
The Trinidadian government must distance itself from Christian fundamentalists promoting hatred against Hindus and Hinduism, and avoid Christianization of its institutions.
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