Centre for Democracy, Pluralism and Human Rights (CDPHR), an organization that works towards advocating equality, justice and human rights, has released reports of India’s seven neighbouring countries, highlighting grave human rights violations against minorities, especially Hindus.
The reports released on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Tibet have been prepared using previous years’ reports from international human rights bodies, human rights activists and NGOs, media reports, narrations of credible writers and interviews of the actual sufferers of the ordeal.
The reports, especially of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan highlight the miserable condition of minorities like Hindus and Sikhs whose population has been dwindling consistently in these Islamic nations. Forced conversion, denial of basic rights, restricted freedom to practice religion and abductions and killings of minorities have plagued the neighbouring nations.
While Pakistan’s Constitution provides equal rights to all citizens on paper, the reality is, religious minorities like Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmadis even Shias – are treated as non-citizens in the country. Religious tolerance in Pakistan has steadily declined. The data collected in the census of 1998 revealed that Hindus constitute just 1.6% and Christians 1.59% of the total population of Pakistan.
Minor girls from the minority communities are targeted by the Muslim-dominated population in a bid to convert the remaining population. According to Asian Human Rights Watch reports, each month there are at least 20-25 cases of kidnappings and forced conversion of Hindu girls in Sindh region of Pakistan. According to a report released by the Movement of Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, up to 300 Hindu women are forced to convert and marry Muslim men every year in Pakistan.
Major form of violence perpetrated against religious minorities is in the form of physical attacks, killings of popular community leaders from the minority, destruction of cultural symbols and places of worship, honor killings, rapes and acid attacks.
Making use of blasphemy as a legal way to persecute minorities, mobs attack homes, businesses and religious places belonging to the Hindu and other minority communities. Highlighting the recent gross human right violation in Pakistan, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had expressed concerns when Hindus and Christians were denied food amid coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan.
A “secular” nation at the time of formation, Bangladesh, in just 4 years after gaining independence, removed the word secular from the constitution and included verses from the Quran, thereby, declaring it as an Islamic country. Violence against religious and ethnic minority women remains a popular tool by Islamists in Bangladesh to attack and dominate the minorities.
When the globe was reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, between January to August 2020, 889 cases of rapes and 191 cases of attempted rapes out of which 41 girls/women were murdered after rape and 13 committed suicide were reported.
The Hindu population in Bangladesh is soon depleting from 23% in 1951 to 9% in 2017. As per a study, at the present rate of persecution, there will be no Hindus in Bangladesh in the next 25 years.
Since the past seven decades, there has not been a single decade without large-scale violence against religious minorities, violation of their religious right to practice faith, abductions, rapes and killings of their girls, desecration of their religious places and symbols. Around 400-500 Hindus are forced to leave the country every day. According to a Minority Rights Report, 8.1 million Hindus are ‘missing’ as per the records between 1964 to 2001, which makes it 219,000 people annually.
An environment of animosity has been created to make the minorities feel like second-class citizens including calling Bengali Hindus ‘Malaun’, a slur that means accursed people. Moreover religious sanctions to kill kaffirs have led to increased violence against the minorities.
It is interesting to note that, our neighbor Afghanistan does not recognize or define the term ‘minority’ in its constitution, let alone making any special provisions for them. As per the July 2011 UNHCR report, around 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus lived in Afghanistan in 1990. However, persecution of Hindus and Sikhs has increased drastically in recent years, forcing most of them out of the country. As per a South Asia State of Minorities Report, 2018, their numbers have been reduced down to a mere 220 families.
Reports suggest an increase in restricted freedom to follow a religion, forced conversions, abductions and killings. The report also highlights the despicable act of snatching creamation grounds dedicated to the minorities.
The Taliban regime has released orders for the non-Muslims which forbids non-Muslims from building places of worship but allowed them to worship at existing holy sites; forbade non-Muslims from criticizing Muslims; ordered non-Muslims to identify their houses by placing a yellow cloth on their rooftops; forbade non-Muslims from living in the same residence as Muslims; and required that non-Muslim women wear a yellow dress with a special mark so that Muslims could keep distance from them. In addition to the daily economic and social discrimination, sometimes manifesting as physical and verbal abuse, freedom to practice their religion has also been curtailed. Kabul, once home to eight Sikh places of worship or gurdwaras, most stand destroyed at present. Hindu women were forced to wear burqas against their will.
To add to it, the Afghan government has not been submitting state reports concerning socio-economic and political rights of minorities, women and children to international human rights conventions and organizations.
Rising radicalism in Indonesia has had repercussions on Hindus, Buddhists, Christians women and children. In the last two decades, the country has witnessed a strong influence of inter-religious conflicts. Large-scale conversions have been carried out by Islamic seminaries forcefully in the region of West Papua and other islands where there is a predominance of other non-Islamic adherents.
For the last decade, Indonesia has witnessed increasing supremacy of Islamic religious authorities, creating hurdles by making rules to prevent inter-religious marriages, and making them more pro-Islamic. There has been an attempt to re-Islamize the country and the fundamental rights of women have been crushed under Sharia law.
Indonesia has also rejected the seventy-five recommendations of the United Nations’ member countries recommendations to improve Indonesia’s human rights violations. They ranged from the draconian blasphemy law to death penalty, however, the Indonesian government’s shut the discussion by declaring the recommendations as “hard to accept” for the country.
Malaysia recognizes Islam as the state religion, making it difficult for other religions to practice their faith freely. Over the past few decades, Malaysia has made a huge transition towards the Wahhabi philosophy. The Saudi Arabia funding to the Malaysian government, especially under the Najib Razak government, led the country towards a more hard-line stance on matters related to religion and social life.
Religious conversions have increased over the past few years making minorities a vulnerable group. In a strange law system, the Islamic Shariah law runs along parallel tracks with the civil court laws. This means that if a dispute arises between a Muslim and non-Muslim, the Shariah court can intervene and take the matter into its hands to safeguard a Muslim even if he/she has committed an offense against a Hindu or any other minority.
Since the communist government of China has occupied Tibet in 1951, it has adopted severe crackdown measures and flooded Chinese soldiers and paramilitary forces in the region. The atrocities committed against the local population is beyond belief.
Tibetans are being deprived of their rights to use their language in terms of teaching their children in their own language, forceful imposition of atheism, criminalizing peaceful assembly, association and protests, prolonged pre-trial detentions of Tibetan activists to extract forced confessions used to sentence them to harsh punishments, restrictions to practice their religion and a complete crackdown on journalistic freedom. There are just a few highlighted issues from the report indicating the grim condition of the local community.
The Center for Democracy Pluralism and Human Rights report has also raised concerns over the status of human rights and religious minorities in Sri Lanka. Talking about the civil war, the report suggested that at least 100,000 people lost their lives and 20,000 Tamils disappeared in the 26-year-long civil war.