Archive for April, 2009

Black money haunts Congress

Black money haunts Congress

S Gurumurthy

The manner in which a bold initiative to unearth Indian black money lying abroad was aborted by the then Congress Government in the 1980s was suggestive. Then, as now, the party leadership acted as if it had skeletons to hide

Switzerland was accused of giving shelter to black money and there has been a lot of inflow of such wealth from India and other countries of the world.” This is not Mr LK Advani speaking in an election rally but the Swiss Ambassador to India briefing the media in New Delhi last year. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of Indo-Swiss Friendship Treaty. Admitting that Indian black money gets hoarded in his country, he added that the new law in Switzerland would not stop it but control it “up to a certain limit”.

The Swiss diplomat authentically answered the first of the FAQs, that is, whether lots of Indian monies are really stashed away in Swiss banks. Swiss banks are not the only secret destination. There are 37 such shelters in the world, says US Inland Revenue. The secret owners of the monies operate in secrecy — venal businessmen, corrupt politicians and public servants, drug lords, and criminal gangs like the D-company. These slush monies are the financial RDX for terror, besides weapons of mass destruction of national and global finance. That there is secret money is no more a secret. Only the amounts and the owners of that money are secret.

But how large could be such stolen Indian wealth hoarded in Switzerland so far? Specific estimates of this later. Before that, here is a side show, but a relevant one.

An apology would be in order. For, I figure in this show. In late 1980s, at the behest of an English national daily, while investigating a corporate scam, I had attempted to trail the Indian currencies stashed abroad. In the course of the probe, I had contacted Fairfax, a US investigative firm. Impressed by its skills, I persuaded the Government of India to engage the firm for the task. Fairfax agreed to work for a slice of the black wealth uncovered by them as fee. According to the Swiss sources then, the Indian money stashed in Swiss banks was estimated around some $300 billion. That was enough to excite the Fairfax to go for the kill.

But, soon my efforts landed me in jail on March 13, 1987, when the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested me on charges that later turned out to be bogus, but were enough to stop the probe. The whole nation knew then that real reason why rulers struck was their fear that the probe had targeted the Bofors pay-off and secrets monies of the ruling family abroad. Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, moved honest and bold civil servants like Vinod Pandey and Bhure Lal out of the probe and eventually sacked the then Finance Minister VP Singh, who had authorised the efforts.

The chain of events that followed led to corruption emerging as the major issue in the 1989 poll in which Rajiv Gandhi, who had wiped out the Opposition in 1984 election, was defeated, and VP Singh became the Prime Minister. But there is a big lesson in these developments that often goes unnoticed. And that is the way the bold national interest initiative to unearth the Indian black wealth abroad was aborted clearly confirmed that the ruling party was mortally afraid of any probe into secret monies abroad. This fear haunts the Congress even today. That is why the 1987 episode is relevant now.

Now cut to the main story.

Illicit monies are the dirty outcome of modern capitalism. But, after the 9/11 terror attack, the United States realised that not just the buccaneers in business but terrorists like Osama bin Laden could hide their funds in secret havens and use them to bomb the world. Campaigns against dirty money as high security risk commenced with the path-breaking research done by Raymond W Baker, a Harvard MBA and a Brooking scholar. His research was published in a book titled Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System in 2005.

This set off intense debate in the US as the exposure linked dirty business and black money with terror and national security. Raymond Baker had estimated, using authentic data, tools and reasons, the tainted wealth stashed in banks at $11.5 trillion to which, he found, one more trillion was getting added annually. He added that in the process the West was getting an annual bounty of $500 billion from the developing countries, including India.

Global Financial Integrity, a global watchdog headed by Baker to curtail illicit money flows, has recently brought out detailed estimates of the black money hoarded in secret havens from different countries. GFI research shows that during the period from 2002 to 2006, annually $27.3 billion was stashed away from India, making a total of $137.5 billion for the five-year period (the Executive Report of GFI in http://www.gfip.org on ‘Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries 2002-2006’ Economists’ version). That is, in just five years, Indian wealth amounting to Rs 6.88 lakh crore was smuggled out of India. This gives clue as to how much Indian money would have slipped out of India in the last 62 years, particularly during the Nehruvian socialist regime when the income tax (97.5 per cent) and wealth tax (almost equal to the income earned on investments) together constituted double the income earned!

It is undisputed that the Nehruvian socialist model had forced huge sums of Indian money out of India. So the amount of Indian black money stashed away in the last 60 years — estimated at from $500 billion (Rs 25 lakh crore) to $1400 billion (Rs 70 lakh crore) — do not seem to be wide off the mark. Economists call it flight of capital. This is the Indian people’s money stolen away from them.

See the consequence even if part of it is brought back. A portion of it would make India free from all external debts which is now over $220 billion; India will transform into an economic superpower; some 10 or 15 Indian Rupee could buy a US dollar which today 50 Indian Rupees cannot. A litre of petrol on our roadside would cost some Rs 15 or even less, against today’s 40 plus; the cost of imports in rupee terms would be down to a third or half; India’s entire infrastructure needs can be funded; India will become so energy efficient and cost-competitive that exporters may need no sops at all; India will lend to — presently it borrows from — the world. India’s housing can be funded at affordable cost; rural poverty can be wiped out… The list is endless.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/170858/Black-money-haunts-Congress.html

Getting India’s money back from Tax Havens Congress caught in its own web

Getting India’s money back from Tax Havens Congress caught in its own web

– Dr. Arun Shourie

Stupefied by the strong endorsement all across the country of the demand that the money looted from India must be brought back, the Congress has tied itself in knots. Its spokesmen – led, as will be clear from the arguments they have advanced, by four lawyers – have given five reactions:

Why is Mr. Advani taking up this matter now, on the eve of elections?

The GE-20 meeting was not the proper forum for taking up the issue.

There is doubt about the figures.

Why did the BJP government to replace FERA by FEMA, and thereby make the offences compoundable?

Is Mr. Advani not unwittingly alerting those with illegal money abroad to spirit it away from Switzerland to other tax havens?

What was the NDA doing when it was in office? In any case there is doubt about the figures.

The reactions betray panic as even the littlest reflection would have shown the “arguments” to be indefensible. Let us consider them one by one.

Why is Mr. Advani taking up this matter now, on the eve of elections?

The fact, of course, is that Mr. Advani took up the matter with the Prime Minister in April last year. He wrote to Dr. Manmohan Singh soon after it became known that the Government of Germany had succeeded in obtaining names of persons who had stashed money in the LGT Bank in Lichtenstein. The reply that P. Chidambram, the then Finance Minister, sent him showed that the Government intended to do little except keep going through the pretence of taking some steps. Soon thereafter, we were alarmed to learn that a senior official of the Finance Ministry had written to the then Indian Ambassador in Germany not to press the Germans for release of the names of Indians in the list that they had obtained from Lichtenstein — lest the Germans take offence and conclude that they were being pressurized and their bona fides were being questioned! [This information was later confirmed by report filed by Amitabh Ranjan in The Indian Express of 31 March 2009.] Subsequently, we took up the matter in Parliament also. And yet the evasion, “Why now?”

The GE-20 meeting was not the proper forum for taking up the issue.

This customarily self-serving rationalization was put out by one of the Congress party’s lawyers and spokesmen. At this very time the party was trying to insinuate that, actually speaking, the Prime Minister had taken up the matter at the G-20 Summit. As its spokesmen could not point to any statement he made either at the Summit itself or even at the press meet the PM had held after the Summit, they drew solace from a passing reference to the matter in the speech he had made at the dinner hosted by Gordon Brown.

In any case, if the G-20 Summit was not the right forum for taking up this matter, how is it that in the communiqué that the G-20 leaders issued on 2 April 2009, in paragraph 15, entitled, “Strengthening the Financial System,” they pledged themselves “to take action against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens. We stand ready to deploy sanctions to protect our public finances and financial systems. The era of banking secrecy is over. We note that the OECD has today published a list of countries assessed by the Global Forum against the international standard for exchange of tax information”?

Were they also, in the view of the Congress party, acting inappropriately when they made such a strong commitment in their communiqué at the Summit?

And recall that no sooner had they issued the threat of imposing sanctions that countries which had been black-listed by the OECD that very day began declaring that they would indeed sign up on the agreement to exchange tax information, and that includes evasion.

In any case, there is doubt about the figures.

As is its custom, the Congress is trying to cover up the basic question of the money which has been looted from India and is lying in tax havens, by raising questions about the precision of figures and estimates. This is exactly the kind of legalisms with which persons like Mr P. Chidambaram and other legitimizers were fielded to cover up the loot from Bofors. In its paper, “Overview of the OECD’s Work on International Tax Evasion,” the OECD itself lists studies that state that there are $1.7 trillion to $11.5 trillion which are today parked in tax havens. This paper of the OECD has been widely reported in the Indian press. The basic point is: even if the amounts are just a few scores of billion dollars and not one and a half trillion dollars, why should they not be brought back to India? And the fact is that other countries, much smaller countries with none of the pretensions of being a “super power, have succeeded in getting their money back. Even as of October last year, when the OECD released its paper, little Ireland had succeeded in recovering almost a billion Euros through an investigation into offshore banks.

Given that even small countries like Ireland have got money back, is it not a shame, is it not an outrage that, as of yesterday, 18 April, 2009, The Times of India, should be quoting the Swiss Ambassador to India as stating on record that till now, the Swiss Government has received no request – not even a request – from the Indian Government?

The real question is different: can the money looted from India be brought back to the country when the attitude of the government continues to be as determinedly inactive as that of the present Government?

Can the Government which allowed Ottavio Quattrochi to take his money out of banks – where it was lying frozen on court orders – be trusted to bring back the loot that is lying in Swiss banks and other tax havens? Can the Government which prostituted the CBI so that he may get away from Argentina be trusted to bring the loot back?

Why did the BJP government to replace FERA by FEMA, and thereby make the offences compoundable?

Again, the Congress is relying on the short memory of its audience. The fact of the matter is that no one had been pressing more for the replacement of the harsh provisions of FERA than the Congress itself. The changes were being contemplated since 1996. The demand for doing away with the harsh provisions came to a crescendo during the Government of Mr. VP Singh when FERA came to be used for interrogating captains of industry – like Mr. S.L. Kirloskar – under harsh circumstances. As news reports of that period themselves indicate, FEMA which was approved by the Government in July 1998, was on the lines of a draft which had been prepared under the leadership of the preceding finance minister, Mr P. Chidambaram. Even today, you can go to the website of Rediff-on-the-net, go to their dispatch of 25 July, 1998, on “FEMA, Money Bills: Cabinet nods, Parliament’s turn next,” and you will read, “The Bills were broadly on the lines of a draft prepared under the leadership of then Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambram.”

In any event, there is no mystery about the reasons on account of which the law was changed. They are well set out in the following passage:

“Until recently, we had a law known as the Foreign Exchange (Regulation) Act. Its object was to conserve and augment the forex reserves of the country. The way to hell, it is said, is paved with good intentions. Like many well-intentioned laws, FERA paved the way to disaster. FERA created a flourishing black market in foreign exchange. It brought into the economic lexicon the word ‘Hawala’. Illegal forex transactions became the fuel for the growth of crime syndicates with trans-border connections.

“FERA also became a tool of oppression. Successive governments persisted with FERA and added COFFEPOSA and SAFEMA. International markets do not respect draconian laws that run counter to common sense. India’s reserves, far from being augmented, dwindled at an alarming rate… Mercifully, FERA was buried finally on May 31, 2000.”

When and where was this written? In an article that appeared The Indian Express on 25 August 2002. Who wrote the article? None other than P. Chidambaram!

Is Mr Advani not unwittingly alerting those with illegal money abroad to spirit it away from Switzerland to other tax havens?

Another clever little statement by yet another clever lawyer of the Congress party! Would the looters who have stashed away money in tax havens from India still need to be alerted after Germany got the names from Lichtenstein as long ago as last year? Would they still need to be alerted after Germany offered to furnish the names to governments that asked for the names? Would they still need to be alerted after the United States got the names from the leading bank of Switzerland, UBS in February this year, and got it to submit to paying a fine of $ 800 million to boot? Would they still need to be alerted after the G-20 leaders, including Dr. Man Mohan Singh as the Congress would like to remind us, declared their determination to get the tax havens to disgorge the names? But such is the confusion in the Congress party and such the brilliance of its lawyers that all it can do is to seek to deflect the nation-wide demand for getting the loot back from tax havens by such witticisms!

What was the NDA doing when it was in office? In any case there is doubt about the figures.

Leaders of the Congress party would be better advised to ask, “During that very period, what was the Congress party doing, what were its lawyers and leaders doing, to thwart the efforts of the NDA Government to uncover the names of persons who had looted the country even on defence deals like Bofors?” But even if the NDA had done nothing – whether on terrorism or money abroad – is that any reason for not hurrying to avail of the unique opportunity that has arisen now?

Even while replacing FERA by FEMA, the NDA Government made sure that it would have an additional two years to file prosecutions under FERA. And it filed as many as 2000 cases against those who were under investigation before FERA lapsed. The reason for doing so, a reason that is well known to lawyers in the Congress party, was that, when a prosecution is filed it is adjudicated according to the law which prevailed at the time at which the case was filed. These are the very cases which the Congress later on did not pursue.

The fact of the matter is that it is now that the unique opportunity has arisen to get the loot back: Germany has succeeded in getting the names; the US has succeeded in getting the names; the G-20 leaders have pledged themselves to ensure the end of bank secrecy; countries that had hitherto refused to share the requisite information are pledging to do so – within a week of their names being published by OECD in the list of countries that were dragging their feet on the question, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Philippines and Uruguay pledged to enter into the relevant agreements.

Conclusion

There is a real fight ahead: a fight in the national interest, a fight that will have to be waged doggedly to get the names from the tax havens and to get the amounts back to India – as tax havens will not easily part with their route to lucre. And not all countries will be eager to wage the fight – so many rulers in Africa, in Latin America, to say nothing of the prince lings of China – will be loath to see the fight succeed. So, determination and leadership will be required of India, and persistence, and forging alliances with civil society in Europe and elsewhere.

Nor are bilateral agreements any substitute to multilateral pressure. With close to seventy tax havens, decades will pass before agreements are concluded with each haven, even as money is spirited from the haven that has signed up to the one that is holding out.

As has been correctly emphasized, a consensus is already emerging across the country. Leaders outside the political realm, parties such as the CPI(M), SP, BSP, JD(U), AIADMK have all demanded that the Government act energetically to get the names from the tax havens and to get back the amounts. Instead of quibbling, the Congress would be well-advised to endorse the consensus, and act on it. Not joining secular forces on even so secular an issue?!

I am not a PM candidate – says Modi

http://paramnews.com/
In an exclusive interview with ParamNews.Com, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi shares his view about current economic crisis and how to tackle against terrorism.

Q: What are your views on Global economic slowdown?

Narendra Modi:It is a financial tsunami which has originated in the US and Europe and has started impacting India also. Wherever there is inflation, the Centre blames international scenario but when it comes to economic slowdown, they try to outrun it by claiming that India is safe. The central Government needs to be proactive in handling the crisis. The industries, finance companies and insurance sector have been impacted due to the global economic turmoil. A vacuum has been created. Terrorist groups and drug mafias are waiting for this opportunity to enter into the Indian market to pump in their ‘dirty money’. If it’s so happens, they can gain command on the Indian economy

Q: What are your views on UPA Government underplaying current economic crisis?
Narendra Modi: “UPA Government has failed completely in handling economic crisis in the country. Issues of price rise, economic policies, corruptions and scams (satyam fraud), mismanagement of fund, and to tackle Bangladeshi infiltration. Congress had been surviving by creating problems in the country and insecurity and fear in people’s mind.” Congress has not only become weak and old but a burden for the people, I appeal to the voters “to reject the old party and choose BJP which can solve all their problems, including terrorism and unemployment.”An old Congress can not change the fate of the youth,” he said and pleaded for a young BJP government committed to peaceful and steady development of the country.

Congress in its manifesto before the last election had promised to provide 1.5 crore employment. But unfortunately, about 5 lakh people have lost their jobs recently due to faulty policies and mismanagement. While UPA had been crippled after several of its constituents quit the alliance, “people are virtually sitting in a sinking boat”.

Q: Where do you see Gujarat in five to ten years down the line?

Narendra Modi:Gujarat will be different from other states because our development focus is not Ahmedabad-centric. Ahmedabad is good for marketing Gujarat. It may get the right branding in the next couple of years. But we want uniform development of Gujarat. We want to make Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and other cities strong pillars on which Gujarat will stand. Plus, we are building new cities, like the financial city. Then there will be a nano-city exclusively for units researching or using nano-technology. We are planning a knowledge city, on the lines of Nalanda or Taxila, as an education hub. We are also planning a health city with modern medical infrastructure. We need to create satellite cities around major cities to speed up the expansion of the mother city. Another new concept I am working on presently is called ‘rurban’. It is a big village with a rural soul and an urban feel, having all the amenities that a city can strive for. But the soul would remain that of a village.

Q: How far is Terrorism seen as a threat in realizing the dream of Vibrant Gujarat?

Narendra Modi: Terrorism is not Gujarat’s problem alone. It is a problem for entire humanity. The need is for the right thinking world to isolate terrorism and unite to fight it. There should be a joint strategy to combat terror. In India, all governments, people, media and intelligentsia should come together. It’s like war. Nobody talks about intelligence failure in a war situation. There should be one voice against terror. We need zero tolerance on terror.

Q: Most of the people have started seeing you as the ideal prime minister of the future?

Narendra Modi: There are two ways to harm a person. One, you can give that person less work than what is he is capable of doing. Second, you can show him big dreams which he is not capable of achieving. You fire his ambition so that he ventures out and gets finished. In my past, many CMs were shown dreams of becoming PM. I pray to all my well wishers not to make me a sacrificial lamb. I am happy doing what I am doing.

Rupee mail – an interesting one!



NGOs, Teesta spiced up Gujarat riot incidents: SIT

NGOs, Teesta spiced up Gujarat riot incidents: SIT

14 Apr 2009, 0413 hrs IST, Dhananjay

Mahapatra, TNN

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/NGOs-spiced-up-Gujarat-riot-cases/articleshow/4396986.cms

New Delhi: The Special Investigation Team responsibile for the arrests of those accused in Gujarat riots has severely censured NGOs and social activist Teesta Setalvad who campaigned for the riot victims.

In a significant development, the SIT led by former CBI director R K Raghavan told the Supreme Court on Monday that the celebrated rights activist cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings.

Many incidents of killings and violence were cooked up, false charges were levelled against then police chief P C Pandey and false witnesses were tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents, the SIT said in a report submitted before a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam.

* A pregnant Muslim woman Kausar Banu was gangraped by a mob, who then gouged out the foetus with sharp weapons

* Dumping of dead bodies into a well by rioteers at Naroda Patiya

* Police botching up investigation into the killing of British nationals, who were on a visit to Gujarat and unfortunately got caught in the riots

Rohtagi said: “On a reading of the report, it is clear that horrendous allegations made by the NGOs were false. Stereotyped affidavits were supplied by a social activist and the allegations made in them were found untrue.”

Obviously happy with the fresh findings of the SIT which was responsible for the recent arrests of former Gujarat minister Maya Kodanani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel, Rohtagi tried to spruce up the image of the Modi administration, which was castigated in the Best Bakery case by the apex court as “modern day Neros”. He was swiftly told by the Bench that but for the SIT, many more accused, who are freshly added, would not have been brought to book .

The Bench said there was no room for allegations and counter-allegations at this late stage. “In riot cases, the more the delay, there is likelihood of falsity creeping in. So, there should be a designated court to fast track the trials. Riot cases should be given priority because feelings run high having a cascading effect,” it said and asked for suggestions from the Gujarat government, Centre, NGOs and amicus curiae Harish Salve, who said the time had come for the apex court to lift the stay on trials into several post-Godhra riot cases.

While additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam agreed with the court that public prosecutors should be selected in consultation with Raghavan, counsel Indira Jaising said there should be a complete regime for protection of witnesses as the same government, which was accused of engineering the riots, was in power now.

Salve said that he would consult Raghavan and let the court know about a witness protection system for post-Godhra riot cases. The court asked the parties to submit their suggestions within a week.

India and Israel: Common Allies; Common Targets – By Dr. Richard L. Benkin

India and Israel: Common Allies; Common Targets

By Dr. Richard L. Benkin

Along with the United States, India and Israel are the nations most prominently in the crosshairs of Islamists everywhere. Superficially, the two countries could not differ more: population, area, poverty levels, urbanization, and so forth. Their more essential commonalities, however, make them natural allies against the same enemies: genocidal Islamists from the outside; and a politically ascendant moral weakness from the inside.

They came into being within a year of each other shortly after World War II. Both waged a protracted resistance against European occupiers, which along with the post war collapse of the British Empire won both peoples independence on their ancient soils. Neither birth was without trauma, however. Both nations faced partition demands from South Asian Middle Eastern Muslims who refused to live under Hindu or Jewish leadership. Though it was a blatantly racist demand, the international community capitulated and offered to partition the new countries. While it did not even debate the legitimacy of these Muslim demands, we can only imagine how it would have reacted if the situations were reversed and Jews and Hindus refused to live in Muslim countries. Quite differently if history is any guide. Ancient Jewish communities in newly created Syria and Iraq were in immediate danger, yet found no protection or even support for autonomous status.

In South Asia, Muslims accepted the partition, and the largest and most rapid migration of people in history that accompanied it; while exact figures have been elusive, estimates of at least 30 million people are considered reliable with an additional 500,000 killed. Thus were born the nations of Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, part of which later became Bangladesh. Yet, Muslim leaders to this day do not recognize India’s legitimacy as a Hindu country. They argue that since there were periodic Muslim leaders in the pre-British era, the entire nation is Muslim in accordance with Muslim law.

Whether out of pique, overconfidence, or religious hatred, Middle Eastern Muslims rejected partition. They vowed to destroy the Jewish state and carry out a massive genocide. Several Arab nations jointly tried just that, but newborn State of Israel prevailed against all odds and with the hostility of that same international community. The Muslim Arabs miscalculated badly, something they would do again and again. Several subsequent Arab attempts at genocide were equally disastrous, despite international passivity (save the United States in 1973). Instead, Muslim race hatred was rewarded with massive amounts of aid and an attempt to re-write some sort of historical legitimacy for the Arabs. The Muslims of the Middle East, like their South Asian brethren, still refuse to recognize this non-Muslim state’s right to exist.

As a result, both nations face the danger of a potential fifth column. Indian Muslims hold clearly identified “Muslim” political positions, often at odds with “Hindu” ones; and a large part of the Israeli Arab community has made clear its loyalty to Arab positions that undermine the Jewish state. Moreover, both Israeli Jews and Indian Hindus need to wake up to the fact that, no matter how just their cause or how defensive their actions, they cannot expect anything but opposition to their fight against radical Islam from all but an oppressed minority of Muslims. The goal of Islamists and their clients remains the same for India and Israel: their total eradication and replacement by an Islamic State. For decades, Arab states made no secret of their intention to destroy Israel; some still do. Europe’s always lurking Antisemitism made marginalizing the world’s only Jewish state easy; India is just too big. The Muslim states tried aggressive warfare against both nations, but failing at it time and again changed tactics so that Israel and India face terrorist attacks by their surrogates. Israel has had to deal with terrorism longer, and many Indians believe that the success of Israeli counterterrorism makes it a model for them. But the most curious and significant fact is that both nations have the power to destroy their enemies; yet, both nations refrain from doing so.

Neither country needs to suspend the rule of law or otherwise become like their enemies to succeed; they are better than that and need to remain so. Their enemies make it clear that they can’t wait to get their hands on some weapons of mass destruction so they can use them against these two great democracies. On the other hand, both India and Israel have had them for decades and have never used them. Alone they can achieve success, but together they could be an indomitable force against Islamist terror and the nations that support it. Moreover, they both have to cast out the same demons and follow the same strategy for it to happen.

First, stop pandering to the enemy, both inside and outside of the country. Indians call it pseudo secularism. Israelis just call it appeasement. Both democracies bend over backwards to show the world that they are sensitive to their Muslim minorities; but let’s remember that they are minorities in both countries. While free governments have no moral right to deprive them of basic rights or of social or legal equality. But that same system of morality does not require the majorities—Hindus in India, Jews in Israel—to show their compassion by giving into every alleged slight, merited or not.

Second, be unyielding in goals and principles. Leaders in both Israel and India (as well as many in the United States) have a basic misunderstanding how our enemies and their potential allies—who also are out potential allies—understand our actions. Too often, they confuse “understanding” with moral relativism. For instance, neither they nor their cohorts in Europe spoke of “the white man’s burden” to bring civilization to the rest of the world. Yet, how different is that discredited concept from an Imam’s call to bring the rest of the world under Islam or peoples of all faiths under Sharia law? And they have never publicly condemned that imperialistic and racist policy. For decades, democracies have prided themselves on inclusion and lowering barriers that previously limited interaction among ethnic and religious groups. Yet, in India, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, Muslims are given free reign to apply Sharia law in various matters even if it conflicts with natio
nal principles of freedom and decency. Those leaders who believe they are showing their compassion are showing nothing more than weakness. For if we are willing to look the other way when our enemies routinely violate our principles we claim to hold dear, we appear to have no principles at all—something that Islamists claim in order to seduce converts to their cause.

Third, characterize the enemy with the inflammatory rhetoric that accurately reflects what they are. Imagine even one Jewish Sabbath service at which the Rabbi exhorts the congregation to seek out all Muslims and slaughter them; even imagine an Israeli Rabbi saying the same thing about all Arabs. You can’t; it doesn’t happen. And we know that because if it did, there would be world wide outrage, newspaper condemnations, cries or outrage from every human rights NGO, and maybe even a UN investigation. Rabbis and the Israeli government would be even quicker to condemn it. Yet, the converse occurs every Friday at mosques throughout Israel—that’s every Friday—official PA and other Muslim radio stations even carry those racist and murder-inciting statements. But the Israeli government does not issue equally loud condemnations or apply laws against incitement to religious hatred (which it surely would apply to Jews). It does not protest to the United Nations or to the various
Arab governments that claim to be “peace partners.” Why not? Every time a Muslim leader—secular or religious—uses the language of hate, Israeli, Indian, and US leaders must loudly condemn it as such. Call on Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN to investigate it. Plaster every airwave with our outrage and the indecent statements of imams and tyrants. Remain strong together and others will join. Make those who would rather skulk away in silence stand in front of television cameras and justify hatred again and again and again until their duplicity and moral cowardice force a change.

Recently, I was part of a US Congressional briefing about minority oppression in Bangladesh. When I rose to spoke, I expressed my own outrage that I was the first speaker to call the action against Bangladeshi Hindus what it really is: ethnic cleansing. I also asked if there could be any doubt that Bangladesh’s Vested Property Act is racist? Yet, no one calls it what it is. Every time that hated law is mentioned, it should be described as the “racist” Vested Property Act. Every time the plight of Bangladesh’s Hindus is noted, it must be called ethnic cleansing. Our enemies use hyperbole all the time to paint themselves as victims, and the world buys it. How much more important is it that we use the same language to describe events that actually fit it!

Fourth, reject outdated perspectives and the self-interest of governments in trouble. Indian and Israeli governments both seek approval from Europe like it is some sort of moral arbiter in this world. Yet, Europe’s one consistent response to evil has been silence; appeasement. Indian leaders especially need to drop their Euro-centric bias. For Europe has never modeled moral behavior in the face of immorality. All of Europe either participated or was complicit in the Nazi holocaust of the Jews; it did nothing to stop genocide in its former African colonies of Nigeria (Biafra), Rwanda, the Sudan, and in countless other places where the body counts have been ignored. Can we really expect Europe to do anything but express regret after Israel’s 6 million Jews are murdered; or after there are no more Hindus in Pakistan or Bangladesh?

Moreover, we have seen weak governments in both countries choose the course of appeasement in the false hope of strengthening their own position. In India, the left-center Congress Party has entered into agreements with Indian communists upon whom they are now dependent. In Israel, a Prime Minister facing imminent indictment has just concluded a deal that broke Israeli pledges never to release terrorists who had Israeli blood on their hands. Indians and Israelis must let them know that in an effort to save their own skins, they are willing to sell out their children. And they must do so with profound outrage.

Fifth, use the military power at your disposal to dispatch those who are killing your own children—and generally calling those who do heroes!

One final bit of perspective. Some years back, my mother, wife, and daughter were enjoying a meal in a Jerusalem pizza parlor. Several weeks later, an Arab terrorist walked into that same pizza parlor and exploded a bomb, murdering 15 people including seven children. I realized that if my mother, wife, and daughter were there that day, the people who dispatched the murdered would have rejoiced in their deaths; and further that anyone who would rejoice in the death of my mother, wife, and daughter, is an enemy with whom peace is impossible.

And the time to act on that realization is now; tomorrow might be too late.

Why no outrage over persecuted Hindus?

Why no outrage over persecuted Hindus?
By Richard L. Benkin

Hindu women celebrate a religious festival inside a tent set up for the occasion in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The number of Hindus has radically decreased in the predominantly Muslim country, with many fleeing to India to escape persecution. (Photo/Kamrul Hasan)

Chicago, IL, United States, — There have been several attempts at genocide since the middle of the last century. European Nazis murdered 6 million Jews in the 1940s. In the1960s Fulani-led Nigerians slaughtered around 1 million ethnic Ibos who formed the Republic of Biafra. Three decades later, majority Hutus murdered almost 1 million Tutsis in Rwanda, and Serbs did the same to about 10,000 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Ethnic Arabs are still killing non-Arab Sudanese; so far over half a million.
These crimes grabbed the world’s attention – albeit too late and only after the bodies were piled too high to ignore. The United Nations issued proclamations and sent aid through its human rights and refugee organizations. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others loudly condemned the perpetrators, documenting the atrocities and raising money for their aid programs. Several international celebrities took on highly visible roles and massive protests worldwide gave vent to peoples’ outrage.
Yet there is another case of ethnic cleansing in numbers that dwarf these crimes, a-genocide-in-the-making, that has been proceeding for decades with little more than the occasional whimper. When Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971, Hindus made up almost one in five of its citizens. Today, they are less than one in ten. Demographers and others estimate that approximately 20 million Bangladeshi Hindus have disappeared.
Twenty million people are missing, and many more are at risk – but no George Clooney or Angelina Jolie has stood up; no declaration has come from the United Nations, despite its mandate to stop such atrocities. Even the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has done nothing to help the victims, though several organizations have documented their suffering.
The international human rights industry, too, has been silent. Amnesty International has devoted pages upon Web pages to the United States and Guantanamo and spends a high percentage of its resources criticizing Israeli democracy. Its current cover story is about Shia Muslims being “treated like second class citizens.” But to date it has shown no stomach to oppose what could be the worst case of ethnic cleansing in our time. The last time AI or Human Rights Watch gave the Bangladeshi Hindus even passing mention was in 2006.
This is not the first time the world has ignored mass murder in South Asia. Toward the end of the Bangladeshi war of independence, Pakistani troops and their Islamist allies slaughtered between 2 and 3 million mostly Hindu Bangladeshis – noncombatants, women, children and the elderly. All manner of brutality from mutilation to ritualized gang rape accompanied the carnage, but the world still remains silent even when the victims’ descendants cry out for justice.
NATO sent troops into Kosovo when thousands were at risk but did nothing to save millions in East Bengal. Hindu refugees flood West Bengal, India, and live in semi-legal squalor, but the UNHCR refuses to recognize them as refugees. Earlier this year I visited almost two dozen extra-legal camps in West Bengal and saw these people’s need for help.
Several refugees and others attribute this disparity to religious bias. Fear of terrorist reprisals, the lure of petrodollars, and a rigid political correctness prevent many from taking a stand against Islamists, according to one Indian activist. But he and others blame “our own nature” that mitigates against activism and tolerates corruption.
As I told Indian journalists, “Everyone in India seems to know about the Bangladeshi Hindus, but no one is doing anything about it.” The actions of Bangladeshi Islamists, while atrocious, are not unexpected. However, their treatment by Indian Hindus is surprising.
Imagine refugees barely escaping with their lives, leaving murdered loved ones behind. They described crossing into the largest Hindu nation in the world, but found no welcome in the arms of their co-religionists. Instead, they were “treated like trespassers,” and given no aid or shelter. They reported being forced into camps, where their captors took advantage of then no less than did their Islamist tormentors.
In West Bengal, refugees testified that locals let them squat on the land, but in exchange they were forced to attend communist rallies. They received voter’s cards only to be told that officials of the Communist Party of India/Marxist would fill them in for them. But if anyone else desired the land, the refugees would be ejected; something I observed firsthand.
Today an economic and military powerhouse, India has yet to advocate for the thousands of victims streaming across its borders. It has never pressed the case of the Bangladeshi Hindus before any international body. If it has protested the ethnic cleansing to Bangladesh, it has done so meekly.
Moreover, this great nation seems content to cede the integrity of its borders. Several refugees testified that even now Islamists from surrounding villages and from Bangladesh attack them with the knowledge of West Bengal officials.
Once the CPIM got wind of my visits to the camps, we would alter our itinerary to arrive before the local commissar intimidated refugees into silence about anything that might embarrass the communist government. In one camp their tactic appeared to work. We were about to leave when one elderly woman stood up, with a commissar looking on, and said, “I’m not afraid of anybody,” and began to talk about the ongoing attacks.
Is the Indian government’s silence little more than a ploy to keep votes, a reflection of its pseudo-secularist policy? If it is, that does not explain the silence of those parties that have no chance of gaining significant numbers of Muslim or communist votes, such as the Bharatiya Janata Party and other rightwing parties. Why are they not championing the Bangladeshi Hindus, and using this as a rallying point for all Indians who recognize the immorality of remaining silent while others are oppressed?
In my travels in West Bengal, when I offered to act with others to protest what is happening there, the response was almost always, “People are afraid.” That made sense when we were speaking with refugees who have known nothing in the way of protection or the law. But this was the answer of Indian citizens, often people whose organizations claim to be working for the refugees.
In my advocacy for the refugees in the West, I encounter skepticism from those who question India’s silence if things are so dire; who question why there are few public protests; who ask, after hearing about attacks inside India, why none of the 800 million Indian Hindus have traveled to these camps to defend the victims against Islamist aggression.

(Dr. Richard L. Benkin is vice president of Gallagher Bassett Services in Chicago, Illinois. He is also U.S. correspondent for the “Weekly Blitz,” published in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and special advisor on Bangladeshi affairs to the Washington D.C.-based Intelligence Summit. He has written numerous essays and commentaries on the Middle East, Bangladesh and South Asia. He can be contacted at drrbenkin@comcast.net. ©Copyright Richard L. Benkin)