Hindus are pluralistic in their beliefs and accept the myriad means of worship and prayer available to human beings seeking spiritual enlightenment. Hindu minorities living in countries throughout South Asia and other parts of the world are subject to varying degrees of legal and institutional discrimination, restrictions on their religious freedom, social prejudice, violence, social persecution, and economic and political marginalization. Hindu women are especially vulnerable and face kidnappings and forced conversions in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. In several countries where Hindus are minorities, non-state actors advance a discriminatory and exclusivist agenda, often with the tacit or explicit support of the state. Persecution by state and non-state actors alike has led a growing number of Hindus to flee their country of origin and live as refugees
India has a dismal record with regards to the treatment of women, gays, lesbians, and transgender people, all of whom suffer social ostracization, legal persecution, and honor killings for their gender and sexuality. The rise of Hindutva militant organizations like the BJP, RSS, VHP, and BD fuels a culture of violence in India that has exacerbated the situation for minorities in the country. ASMT has been singled out for persecution by Hindutva elements for their progressive stance on LGBTQ rights and gender equality.
Centuries of Muslim invasion devastated India’s architectural heritage, particularly with respect to Hindu temples. Today, the largest Hindu temples are located in South India (Tirupathi, Madurai, Tanjore) or in the eastern state of Orissa. These regions remained outside Islamic rule for most of their history. Meanwhile, the traditional heartland of Hinduism in the Ganges river valley (modern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) as well as Sindh and Punjab feature no major large Hindu temples, most of which were destroyed during the Muslim conquest of India from 1000-1300 C.E. Many of the historic temples of major Hindu sites at Ayodhya, Kannauj, Mathura, Multan, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Thanesar and Prayag no longer exist.
The desecration of Hindu temples continues till the present day. Sacred deities are stolen and smuggled out of India, temple lands are illegally occupied, and temple sculptures are destroyed and disfigured by the very government body in charge of the management and control of temples and their respective endowments. In fact the Madras High Court acknowledged the dismal state of Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu when it stated:
“Many temples constructed at least 1,500 years ago or much before the temples recognized by UNESCO are in ruins. Even the daily rituals are not performed. Some temples remain closed throughout the day with no one to even light the lamps.”
Out of hundreds of thousands of temples across 56 kingdoms, only a fraction remain in previously Hindu territory. The rest were systematically destroyed, looted and shut down in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. In places like Afghanistan Hindu temples have been virtually erased from the archaeological record.
The plight of Hindu minorities is particularly concerning as these vulnerable groups remain marginalized and subject to discrimination, violence, social prejudice and harassment. Hindu women are particularly vulnerable and targeted for kidnapping, rape and forced conversion. The most egregious and systematic violations human rights take place in former Hindu nations where Hindus are now minorities such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Pakistan. Serious human rights violations against Hindus have also been reported in Bhutan, Jammu and Kashmir, Fiji and Sri Lanka.
Nepal, the world’s last Hindu kingdom, fell to secularization in 2007 due to pressure from Maoist forces. The Maoist takeover has resulted in the destruction of temples, closing of Sanskrit schools and the loss of cultural and religious identity of Nepalese Hindus. The secular government has banned ancient Hindu monastic orders in cases such as the Pashupatinath temple where a 300 year old lineage of service by temple priests was broken with their forced expulsion.
Linguistic genocide is a central aspect of cultural genocide. The UN 1948 International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of The Crime of Genocide cites the following:
“Any deliberate act committed with intent to destroy the language, religion or culture of a national, racial or religious group on grounds of national or racial origin or religious belief, such as (1) Prohibiting the use of the language of the group in daily intercourse or in schools, or the printing and circulation of publications in the language of the group; and (2) Destroying or preventing the use of libraries, museums, schools, historical monuments, places of worship or other cultural institutions and objects of the group.”
Sanskrit is one of the world’s most ancient and complex languages. The Sanskrit language was termed as Deva-Vani, or language of the Gods. The term ‘Sanskrit’ is derived from the conjoining of the prefix ‘Sam’ meaning ‘samyak’ which indicates ‘entirely’, and ‘krit’ that indicates ‘done’. Thus, the name indicates perfectly or entirely done in terms of communication, reading, hearing, and the use of vocabulary to transcend and express an emotion. An extraordinarily complex language with a vast vocabulary, it is still widely used today in the reading of sacred texts and hymns.
Islamic and British Invaders destroyed the ancient Gurukul education system thereby removing the oral tradition of the Guru-disciple relationship and preventing the widespread transmission of Sanskrit across the Hindu population, Sanskrit slowly morphed into a language spoken only by limited linguistic scholars and historians. Generations of Hindus were robbed the opportunity of learning directly about their cultural identity, poetry, science and religious scriptures and were instead forced to rely on sanitized English translations that often served to enforce colonial narratives. Rather than learn their indigenous language, Hindus were instead compelled to undergo an English education to better conform to British rule. Sanskrit and the Gurukul system of education continue to be suppressed in modern India.
In addition, the destruction of libraries, ancient universities and ancient manuscripts on science, vedic mathematics, ayurveda and astronomy contributed greatly to the linguistic genocide of the Hindu people. One such example was the throne of knowledge, Nalanda university and temple complex.
Nalanda University was the ancient center of higher learning, located in Bihar (in the ancient kingdom of Magadha), is India’s second oldest university after Takshila. Spread over an area of 14 hectares and accommodating 10,000 students, it was a principal seat of learning from fifth century CE until the Turkish invasion of 1193, attracting students from as far as Tibet, China, Greece, and Persia. According to accounts by pilgrim monks from East Asia and other historians, the curriculum in Nalanda University included study of the Vedas, mathematics, logic, Sanskrit grammar, medicine and more subjects in every field of learning. The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported to have housed more than 9 million manuscripts.
Nalanda was ransacked and destroyed by Turkish Muslim invaders, under Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193 AD. The library burned for three months after the invaders set fire to the buildings. The Muslim invaders ransacked and destroyed the monasteries and massacred all Hindu monks, teachers and students. Nalanda is but one example of Hindu art, history, literature and spiritual teachings being put to the flame in an exercise of linguistic genocide and book burning on a scale without historical parallel.