Media queen and rights activist Oprah Winfrey once said that if Black-Americans don’t speak up for Black-Americans, then who will? Lots of truth to the statement, but unfortunately the 2.2 Million Hindu-Americans do not have more than a small handful of national celebrities to speak up for their rights or issues.
A few days ago, I came across a tweet by the UK based Hindu Human Rights organization on Kal Penn. And, I was once again plagued with the unanswered question of when will the Hindus actually start caring about fellow Hindus? The winner of MasterChef, Kal Penn AKA Suresh Modi really feels strongly about the Palestinians. In fact, he feels terrible.
Kal Penn proved his love of Palestinians by donating $25,000 which he won as prize money to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) which is a non-profit organization working in Gaza and Syria. Penn justified this by asserting that he wanted to donate to an organization that “directly helps those facing impossible hardships, especially refugees.” Indeed Penn believes that the media does not pay enough attention to the human suffering created by terrorism. But there is one other group of people suffering from the enormities of religious intolerance and extremism that the media not only pays scant attention to, but entirely ignores. So, perhaps, could Penn be so ignorant as to not know that his coreligionists are the worst affected when it comes to religious intolerance? Around the World, mainly in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Islamist ailment has afflicted minority Hindus for decades. And yet, Penn is not able to help build awareness campaigns in this area, let alone make public acknowledgements.
Due to the further radicalization and religious intolerance of majority-Muslim Pakistan, the Hindu minority has found it difficult to live a life free of peril. Bangladesh does not perform any better as regards human rights of the minorities. In 1947, Hindus comprised 31% of the population in what is now Bangladesh; today their numbers have plummeted to less than 8%. These percentages in absolute terms would indicate that Bangladesh has seen one of the worst cultural and human genocides in modern times, where millions were attacked, killed, raped and forcibly converted. Jihadi violence is on the rise, and the Bangladeshi government has chosen silence as a method of response even after 45 years of the large genocide of minority Hindus in 1971. As a result of incessant attacks, thousands of Hindus have been massacred, raped and forcibly converted to Islam. Thousands more have fled to India and are eking out a meager existence.
But Pakistan and Bangladesh are not the only countries that have veritably become deathtraps for the Hindu minority, Jammu and Kashmir too has thrown up its own horrific saga of the indigenous Kashmiri Hindus (also referred to as Kashmiri Pandits) who have become internally displaced persons in their own homeland after they were hounded out by Islamists in 1990. Kashmiri Hindus had their properties destroyed, women were raped, people were looted, and murdered in the most inhuman ways imaginable. And still, no one cares. Sadly, not even the Hindus seem too concerned about the miserable conditions their coreligionists have to live in.
I often contemplate issues concerning the Hindus. I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that individuals like Kal Penn are not the problem, but merely a symptom of a severely lackadaisical attitude the Hindus proudly display as a sign of their tolerance and secularism and liberality. Please define the above three terms, before using them so liberally. Kal Penn himself claimed that he is opposed to Prime Minister Modi’s purportedly “conservative politics,” because he is a “big fan” of “religious diversity, women’s’ rights, and LGBT rights” which is actually far from the truth as Modi has developed some of the most accepting policies towards women, minorities and LGBT India has seen. Perhaps Penn should conduct a case study, or better yet, hop on a flight and go to many nations in other parts of the World, including some the US’s closest allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and then he will really understand what it means when women are not given basic rights, when individuals from the LGBT community are executed for their sexual orientation, and religious diversity is non-existent.
But to give Penn the benefit of doubt, we can perhaps assume that he does not know the plight of the Hindus from Bangladesh, from Pakistan, and from Kashmir. But whose responsibility is it to educate him and others like him? The parents? Fellow Hindus? The fact of the matter is that Hindus need to wake up and take control of the negative prevalent narrative about them, and they can begin by making their children aware of not only their splendid heritage, but also their history, and the grave challenges that confront their very existence. The Hindu population is slowly but surely dwindling in its own homeland and in territories that were once part of its civilizational cradle. Scant attention is payed to this horrific saga by Hindu groups, and even less attention is given by the media and those NGOs purportedly working for the upliftment and dignity of all humans.
Another point is that other minority celebrities that have global following are almost always known to help their own communities, while also helping other global activist campaigns. Take Wyclef or Akon for example, both are known to help their native countries and communities (Haiti and Africa) with strong conviction. Till date, no Hindu-American or Western Hindu celebrity/figure in the public eye has helped a Hindu charity, sadly.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Hindus do not care for fellow Hindus more. But okay fine; Kal Penn donated to a charity far from his roots. Who cares? The point of this writeup is to call attention to the reality that Hindus can be great advocates for everyone else’s problems, except their own. But at least acknowledge that your community…your own identity…your very existence is in grave danger. That’s all.
Adity is an average Hindu-American girl that completed her University studies in Law in New York and has a passion in global human rights for women & communities often ignored by the media.