Stop Hindu Genocide NYC holds their first protest in Queens

Suporna Das, Web Editor

The Stop Hindu Genocide NYC organization held its first protest in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, Queens on Oct. 29 in response to increasing anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh.

The organization is led by two college students, both of whom wished to remain anonymous for fear that their actions in New York City will affect their family back home in Bangladesh. For this reason, they will only be referred to by their pen names, Cynthia and Ranita.

“Our mission is basically to advocate for the rights of Bengali Hindus because unfortunately, they can’t stand up for themselves so it’s our duty and responsibility to do that for them,” Cynthia, a biology major at a SUNY, said.

In Bangladesh, Hindus comprise only about 9% of the entire population. As the minority, Hindus constantly face violence from the Muslim majority in Bangladesh.

In the United States, the overall Hindu population in the United States is about 0.7% as of 2021. The Bangladeshi Hindu population alone is much smaller.

“The reason why I wanted to gather this community is not just for a sense of unity,” Ranita, a political science major at a CUNY, added. “But more so because I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing the voiceless go voiceless.”

This year, the violence became especially intense after a recent Facebook post of the Islamic holy book being disrespected at a Hindu temple circulated throughout social media this past October.

Protests like the one organized by Stop Hindu Genocide NYC are a response to the disregard for Hindu rights in Bangladesh. Members of the Bangladeshi Hindu community are especially angry at the government’s compliance with that violence, as the Hindu minority continues to live in fear.

In response to the increased violence, Bangladesh asserted that it is a secular country. To Stop Hindu Genocide NYC, this is not enough.

“[Hindus] are not treated the way they should be treated,” Ranita said. “And they never get the proper protection when the government’s job is to protect the people, is to represent the people. But it’s not done right.”

Because Stop Hindu Genocide NYC believes that the younger generation will be the ones to take charge of the country’s future, its first protest consisted of and was led primarily by those that identify as millennial or Generation Z.

“The protests are going really well because I wasn’t expecting so many younger generations and people of my age,” Shourav Mandal, a computer science major at Lehman College, said. “I’m really proud of being a part of this process.”

The protesters gathered for four hours at Diversity Plaza to shout chants, deliver speeches and hold up banners and signs.

Chants such as “stop killing Hindus, Bangladesh, Bangladesh” and “protect the minority, they’re our priority” reverberated through the block.

Stop Hindu Genocide NYC handed out “fact sheets” recounting significant moments in Bangladeshi Hindu history to bystanders and onlookers.

Many Bangladeshi Hindus are aware of the censorship and lack of knowledge surrounding their culture. For many of those involved, the protests are not just a way to demand rights for the Hindu minority involved but also to spread more awareness on an unspoken topic, according to Stop Hindu Genocide NYC.

On social media, the Hindu genocide in Bangladesh rarely gets any traction despite the fact it has been an issue since before the establishment of the secular constitution in 1971.

However, due to the lack of improvements over the past decades, the leaders of Stop Hindu Genocide NYC said they don’t believe it is enough to just spread awareness. They said that it often only reflects performative action, which does not help a movement to keep moving.

“You should also be doing,” Ranita said. “You should also be researching. You should also be looking into charities and foundations that you can support back home. You should actively see how we can make a social change because awareness is a good stepping stone but it can only lead you so far.”

Bangladeshi Hindus are typically the only ones trying to raise awareness, according to Stop Hindu Genocide NYC. However, its leader said that anyone can support the cause, even if they are not Bangladeshi Hindus.

For situations like this, Stop Hindu Genocide NYC stresses the importance of having empathy rather than sympathy.

Ranita, who works two jobs on top of being a full-time college student, said she believes that if someone is truly passionate about an issue, they will somehow make the time for it.

As the organization moves into potentially becoming a larger non-profit, it is looking for more people to join its team that are willing to take on an active role.

It recently created an Instagram page, where they will highlight protest efforts and reach out to new recruits.

For anyone interested in joining the efforts or learning more, Stop Hindu Genocide NYC encourages them to reach out to their Instagram page @stophindugenocidenyc.

Stop Hindu Genocide NYC plans to hold more protests, with another coming up in about two weeks. It said that it refuses to let the momentum of this issue to die down and is hopeful that this will be just the start.