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Atrocities on Hindus catch US Congressmen's attention

PTI | ByLalit K Jha (HindustanTimes.com), Minneapolis
Jul 14, 2005 08:19 PM IST

They have expressed concern over alleged human rights violation of Hindus in other countries, reports Lalit K Jha.

Two senior US Congressmen, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Gary Ackerman, who are also the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, have expressed concern over alleged human rights violation of the minority Hindus in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh and the State of Jammu and Kashmir as well.

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Stating that there is a need to raise voice on this issue, the two Congressmen have Wednesday endorsed the report on the status of Hindu human rights in Bangladesh and Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir, which gives details of alleged atrocities against the minority Hindus.

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"The human rights violations that are occurring against Hindus must no longer be ignored without reprobation," Lehtinen observed, after reviewing the report prepared and released by the Tampa (Florida)-based Hindu American Foundation on July 13.

Titled "Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir: A survey of Human Rights 2004", the 71-page report is a compilation of media coverage and first-hand accounts of alleged human rights violations perpetrated against Hindus because of their religious identity in these areas.

Making observations after reading the report, Lehtinen said: "Hindus have a history of being peaceful, pluralistic and understanding of other faiths and peoples, yet minority Hindus have endured decades of pain and suffering without the attention of the world."
 
In his quick reaction, Ackerman stressed the fundamental nature of religious freedom and supported the concept of the annual report produced by Foundation, which is mainly run by the second generation Hindus.

"The Foundation has done some important work in this regard by compiling their 2004 Survey of Human Rights by helping to defend the rights of Hindus around the world to practice their religion without intimidation and by shining a light on those who would take away their religious freedoms," Ackerman said.

Applauding the efforts of the Hindu American Foundation for bringing awareness to this issue, Lehtinen said: "I look forward to working with it to help address this scar on the international human rights community."

Ackerman, on the other hand discussed the obligation of the U.S. Congress to speak out against international human rights abuses.  "By working alongside organizations such as the Hindu American Foundation, we can help to ensure violations to religious freedom are documented, and challenged across the world," he said.

The Hindu American Foundation president, Mihir Meghani, said the report would now be an annual affair.

He observed that human rights violations against Hindus are repeatedly being ignored by the rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and also  government commissions like the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that routinely fail to specifically highlight the plight of Hindus in the regions where they comprise a minority.

The report urged the international community to "compel' the governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to respect the human rights of Hindus as an urgent priority.

The report refers to the alleged anti-Hindu atrocities that have accelerated after the ruling Bangladeshi National Party-Jamat-e-Islami coalition government came to power.

Meghani said the Foundation leaders were gratified by the Congressional support for the report.

A congressional resolution emphasizing various aspects of the report is being actively discussed, he said.  Both the Congressmen Lehtinen and Ackerman pledged to continue working with the Hindu American Foundation on these human rights issues, Meghani said.

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