Punjab Pulse Bureau
Spotlighting the systemic abuse of religious minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan
The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) organised a two-day virtual conference titled “CAA: A Lifeline for Religiously Persecuted Minorities” on November 21 and November, 22, 2020. The objective of the Conference was to highlight the daily atrocities and discrimination that minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are being subjected to, especially so in Pakistan.
With hundreds attending the live audience and video replay views that have crossed over 50,000, the conference is among the first to draw attention to how India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) provides a much needed relief and a voice to some of these groups.
In his opening remarks, Nikunj Trivedi, president of CoHNA, shared the dire situation of religious minorities and the apathy of various human rights organizations toward them. More than 1000 minor Hindu, Sikh and Christian girls are kidnapped, forcibly converted and married off each year, while blasphemy laws are used to target religious minorities and subject them to unprecedented abuse, and places of worship are destroyed or converted into commercial properties.
Richa Gautam, President of CoHNA’s Colorado chapter, moderated a moving session featuring Dr. Omendru Ratna, founder of Nimittekam, a NGO helping Pakistani refugees; Colonel (Retd) Jaibans Singh a reputed geo-strategic analyst and social worker and Mr. Ashok Karmaker, Esq., Chairman of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, USA.
Dr. Omendra Ratnu spoke of the extreme hardship and the existential threats driving refugees to flee Pakistan. Explaining Nimittekam’s work, an emotional Dr. Ratnu shared the story of a Hindu migrant from the “Dalit” community, who, when asked why he didn’t just convert to Islam to save himself, replied “How can we abandon the faith of our ancestors?” “These are the people who are the upholders of our faith and I call them ‘Sahodaras’ or brothers,” said Dr. Ratnu.
Refugees from Pakistan in India
Col. Jaibans Singh outlined the situation of the Sikh communities in Afghanistan; he traced their historical connect with the region that goes back to the 17 century and the fact that they lived there with honour till recent times when their persecution in the hands of the fundamentalist Taliban began. The Sikhs have now been forced to leave the country and the final exodus has come about in September of 2020.
Col Jaibans Singh also spoke of the different levels of atrocities being committed on Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and Jain communities in Pakistan. While the Sikhs and Hindus are being literally forced to leave the land, the Christians are being retained to do the menial jobs but terribly persecuted nonetheless. Col. Singh explained the legal nuances of the CAA by highlighting that it was not a new law but an Amendment (addition) to an existing law. Hence, no facility given to refugees under the Indian Constitution has been removed, the additions only make it easier for the refugees of aforementioned communities to seek citizenship in India in view of their very critical situation in the Indian neighbourhood. He called upon the global community to recognize that the CAA as a a humanitarian law and nothing else. “India is one of the oldest civilizations and legislation of the CAA is in line with the civilizational ethos of our country,” he said.
Declaring himself “a refugee in exile,” Mr. Karmaker shared his own personal story and the struggles to get the world to heed the cries of those facing persecution in Bangladesh. He thanked the Indian government for CAA and discussed how the United States and other countries need to do more.
The second day featured a power packed panel with Ms. Subuhi Khan, an Indian Supreme Court lawyer, writer and activist, along with Ms. Priyanka Deo, deputy editor of TV9. Ms. Khan, an Indian Muslims with deep knowledge of Indian laws and the constitution, emphasized that the Indian government’s decision to pass the CAA was within constitutional boundaries and that the law was an inclusive effort to help those whose religious existence was at stake in neighboring countries. Busting several myths around the fear and propaganda created by those with alternative agendas, Ms. Khan emphasized that India is a pluralistic nation welcoming all religions and ethnicities since millennia and that the world must stand against those who want to create an Islamic state by driving out religious minorities. “Opposing CAA is like opposing humanity,” she said.
Ms. Deo, whose earlier videos discussing the CAA and other related topics have become tremendously popular, stressed that CAA has absolutely no impact on India’s Muslim citizens and does not force them out or into detention camps. As an investigative journalist, Ms. Deo had also exposed certain false reports carried out by popular news outlets such as Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal and others regarding the Modi government building camps to detain Muslims. “I ask them, please show me where these camps are and they have no answer,” remarked Ms. Deo.
Highlighting the pervasiveness of propaganda around CAA, Ms. Deo concluded: “It makes one question what one has been reading over the years. I am thankful for the power of social media which has given an alternative to citizens to call out facts. Citizen Journalism will play a big part in Indian journalism going forward.”
Following this, a panel of students from USA, Canada and the UK discussed the impact of rampant Hindu-phobia on their daily lives. The participants highlighted how the relentless one- sided propaganda around CAA has led to questioning of India and Hinduism itself and resulted in psychological stress and cyberbullying. Cautioning parents and adults watching the panel, the students shared that today’s kids can no longer afford to ignore such geopolitical matters and just focus on getting good grades, for these issues attack the core of their traditions and religious identity.
CoHNA, in partnership with Dphelion also released a song called “Haven,” inspired by the plight of Hindu, Sikh, and Christian underage girls in Pakistan. Through the song ‘Haven’, CoHNA aims to bring attention to the apathy and silence towards these gross human rights violations and hope that the world takes notice. Check out CoHNA’s CAA Resource page (cohna.org/caa) to find these and other shareable facts.
CoHNA is a grassroots level advocacy organization dedicated to improving the understanding of Hinduism in North America by working on matters related to the Hindu community and by educating the public about Hindu heritage and tradition.
For more information, please visit –
Website – https://cohna.org
Twitter – www.twitter.com/cohnaofficial,
Facebook – www.facebook.com/cohnaofficial
Instagram – www.instagram.com/cohnaofficial.