Culture Change e-Letter
against children, women, and minorities
by Jan Lundberg
world is mostly unaware of an ongoing tragedy of human rights in a nation least able to withstand such unproductive and dangerous strife.
Bangladesh has endured much bloodshed and mistreatment of innocent
civilians as part of the age-old conflict between rich and poor classes of
if this were not enough, environmental catastrophe has been scheduled -- not
just by the failed leaders of the region but by global industrial society.
Roots of the conflict
Muslims of Bangladesh and the original Pakistan are actually the close
countrymen and brothers of Hindus in both Bangladesh and India, divided
originally by the caste system whereby upper caste Hindus stimulated the
creation of separate classes of people (who became Muslims as a last resort).
most people would agree from occasional world headlines on Kashmir fighting or
nuclear weaponry in the region, the partition of India into a Hindu-dominated
nation and a Muslim-dominated nation did not solve the tension between the two
groups of Indians. What is less
known is that this class-hatred and blood-feud state of affairs involves
massive ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh. Shockingly,
India does almost nothing to protect Hindus in Bangladesh for reasons we
explore in this Culture Change Letter.
Hindus and Muslims of India and Bangladesh are far from resolving their deep
differences and animosities. There
may not be a political solution possible, so the discrimination and violence
may rage on just as it has since the partition between Pakistan and India
occurred in 1947.
this moment gang
rape and other atrocities by certain Muslims are common against minorities, mainly Hindus,
in Bangladesh. The
dehumanizing of an entire group of people, who follow a different religion and
social system, is not invented out of thin air.
The genesis and roots of todays strife in Bangladesh have to be
understood on several levels: inequality between the sexes, overpopulation,
the caste system, and human nature involving vengeance and counter strikes.
of refugees have had to leave Bangladesh especially since the genocide of 1971
by then-West Pakistan, such that the minority population has plummeted from
37% to 9% since 1940. The
population growth rate has started
to decrease, but this is largely because of emigration to India. The future of minorities in Bangladesh is very bleak due to
the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the increasing alienation of peoples
along religious lines.
have been identified as the main perpetrators of massive human-rights crimes
today in the Bengal Basin, but there are deep-seated factors in peoples
hearts and minds that cause senseless violence.
example, the treatment of lower-caste people and minorities by Hindus
historically created the need for millions of people on the bottom of the
social pyramid to embrace Islam. Hindus,
according to Dr. Rashbihari Ghosh, of the International Institute of Bengal
Basin, have been engaging in an undeclared jihad against their own people
even before the birth of the word jihad.
Dr. Ghosh goes on to explain that despite the rich culture and heritage
of India, the Hindus are born divided and may be the most disorganized
people anywhere, while not being disorganized as the most systematically
racist regarding caste. All the gods and religions joined together
cannot prevent bloodshed unless we sincerely commit to establish a secular and
multicultural society. Even then
it could be difficult to build a humane and pluralistic society because of
chronic mistrust, he believes.
lets down its Hindu brethren in Bangladesh for two reasons: there are trade
considerations between the countries, and besides, the Hindus in Bangladesh
may be written off as either a matter of victims being just poor and lower
caste, or to avoid confrontation with neighboring Muslim countries.
As the Indian media and government do not make a fuss, it may come down to the
moral clout of the United States whatever remains of
it in this time of its unholy war against Iraq and perhaps Islam.
This hope seems pathetic when India could stop the atrocities in
Bangladesh in one hour if it wanted to do so.
rights cannot simply be assured by edicts or elections, so on-the-ground
reforms are pursued that better peoples lives.
One of the main projects of the IIBB is to alleviate arsenic poisoning
in the Basin which accounts for 150,000 deaths per year.
that instance we see the ecological basis for suffering that also extends to
land management, industrial pollution, and the obvious problem of too many
people drawing upon limited resources for food, shelter and general
subsistence. Ultimately, there is
no social justice without economic justice.
There is no economic sustainability without wise management of
peoples relationship with nature. The
indigenous knowledge of the regions peoples, such as in the use of bamboo
and other resources, must be respected in the face of development pressures
flowing from the influence of outside entities such as foreign governments and
Harvested paddy, St. Martin's Island, Bangladesh / photo by Tom Allwood
change is a huge threat to all places such as low-lying Bangladesh, due to
average sea level rise which has begun. More
intense storms and harder rainfall are a function of climate distortion and
disturbed patterns of air and water currents.
natural gas is present in commercial quantities in Bangladesh of interest to
India, for example such a short-sighted energy source as a contribution to
the greenhouse effect has to be considered for the long-term good of the
regions future generations.
the West must come a more compassionate and less greedy ethic for cultural
survival around the world: the more that local economies and ecosystems are
appreciated, the greater the hope for using the lands resources in peace.
When resources are not stretched thin by too many people consuming the
bounty of the land and waters, human rights can be assumed intact (unless there
is an outside threat from an exploitative would-be invader such as the former
Today Bangladesh suffers from its reputation as the most corrupt nation in the
world, worse than Haiti -- three years running. Clearly, a fundamental and
imaginative approach to solving human rights is called for, under the
to the U.S. Empire, some individuals resist its excesses from within, and pay a price. Archer Blood was consul general of East Pakistan in 1971 and when
he saw genocide there by West Pakistan, he tried to have U.S. policy react
humanely. This was thwarted by Henry Kissinger, who was busy trying to
please the Chinese for Nixon. Blood did get the word out, however, which
was detrimental to his career. I knew him in Greece and back in the States
after most of his foreign adventures. Under Carter he was in charge of the
Indian embassy, but I missed him there as he had gone off to Afghanistan when
the Soviets invaded in 1979. For a hero's obituary, see this Knight
Ridder story which calls him a hero of Bangladesh. The U.S. could make amends
to the nation by involving itself in human
rights for Bangladesh, if such help could be trusted.
must get more attention soon, rather than wait for a global-warming disaster
from freak weather or sea-level rise. The world needs efforts such as George
Harrison's successful Concert for Bangladesh of over three decades ago.
the Nobel Peace Prize winners can agree that the objective for all peoples
human rights is peace, but there must be peace through strength particularly in
protecting minorities. Dr. R.