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British MPs to Ask Foreign Secretary to Intervene Against Harassment of Kazakh Hindus

by Ramesh Kallidai

Posted October 26, 2007

British MPs from the three major parties will be requesting the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband to speak to the Kazakhstan President to stop the harassment and human rights abuse against minority Hindu communities in that country. They made this promise at an event organized by the Hindu Forum of Europe at the House of Commons on 22nd October where two Kazakh human rights activists, Yevgeniy Zhovtis and Ninel Fokina made a presentation on how Hindu houses have been selectively targeted for demolition and a Hindu temple confiscated by a Kazakh Government that they claim is 'increasingly modeled on the totalitarian style of the older Soviet Union'.

Despite international pressure, the local Government in Kazakhstan has decided to demolish houses belonging to 100 Hindus without following any procedure, protocol or observance of human rights. Riot police moved into Hindu properties and demolished them on 21 November 2006 and again on 15 June 2007 to render Kazakh citizens homeless simply because they were Hindu, while people of other faiths living in the same area have no problems and continue to live without any form of discrimination. This was followed by an official order of the government to demolish the Hindu Temple and the dairy farm of the community. The Temple continues to be under threat and the authorities could come at any time to demolish it. Despite flagrant disregard for minority faith communities and blatant violation of human rights, Kazakhstan is seeking to Chair the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a body that safeguards human rights in Europe.

British MPs have now promised to take up this issue with the Foreign Secretary as well as the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. They plan to table an Early Day Motion to seek support from other MPs.

"The human rights abuse against Kazakh Hindus is shocking," said Virendra Sharma MP, who was one of the hosts of the event. "It is important that international institutions and world governments begin to understand the scale of abuse against minorities like Hindus and Baptists that is taking place in this country."

"Freedom to practise one's religion is an absolute right," said James Clappison MP who was also hosting the event. "We cannot just stand back and do nothing when women and children are being rudely thrown out of their homes into the streets during freezing winter conditions."

Referring to the Kazakh Government's official stand that the dispute was a legal matter, Sarah Teather MP, another Parliamentary host for the event commented, "Laws are made to uphold human dignity. If they allow minority communities to be persecuted, then it is clear that they need to be changed."

Faith leaders form the Sikh, Buddhist and Christian communities responded to the presentations made on the abuse in Kazakhstan.

Anne Noonan from the Catholic Bishop's conference said, "Catholics have also faced plenty of problems in Kazakhstan. UK has made a huge progress in dialogue between faith communities and we have a real model here which we can present."

"How can Kazakhstan bid to Chair the OCSE when its human rights record is so appalling?" asked Sudarshan Bhatia, President of the Hindu Forum of Europe. "The judicial system of the Republic of Kazakhstan has passed rulings which do not reflect the constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and severely affects the lives of the Kazakh Hindu community. These rulings allow the government to evacuate the Hindus from their home, destroy their homes, and confiscate their properties."

"We want the world to wake up and hear what is happening to the Hindu community in Kazakhstan," declared Hari Halai, Vice President of the Hindu Forum of Europe. " The Kazakh government is determined to grab the land belonging to the temple because of the property is now worth twenty

times more than it originally was. Human rights activist have pointed to a growing nexus between the mafia and the government in which the vulnerable Hindu community has been made a victim."

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain said that the Kazakh Government had set up a Commission to enquire into these issues. "But it reached no conclusion, had no representation of Hindus and collapsed without any just discussion," he added. "The Supreme Court heard cases about Kazakh Hindus in their absence without serving them notice or allowing their lawyers to argue their case in complete viloation of their human rights. We hope that this discussion in the House of Commons will focus attention on the women and children who were dragged out of their lawful homes and left out in the cold winter for the simple reason that they were Hindus."

"We do need to do something more proactive," said Raj Joshi from the Society of Black Lawyers. "An Early Day Motion is not going to achieve much. We need to ask the Foreign Secretary to consider imposing economic sanctions and political isolation on rogue nations like Kazakhstan. They will only listen if it hurts."

C B Patel, Chair of the Hindu Forum of Britain's Patrons Council requested the Members of Parliament to take up this issue in earnest. "We have seen what can be done when Hindus come together as they did for the Hare Krishna Temple Defence Movement. We must gather our forces in a similar way for this event is just the beginning of this fight."

The Defend Kazakh Hindus campaign is supported by the Hindu Forum of Europe, Hindu Forum of Britain, Hindu American Foundation, Hindu Forum of Belgium, Hindu Council of Holland, Italian Hindu Union, Federation of Hindu Temples in France, Hindu Council of Africa, Hindu Council of Australia, Hindu Conference of Canada, National Council of Hindu Temples UK, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. .

-Ends-

For more information contact Sanjay Mistry on 07810 368772 or Ramesh Kallidai on 07915 383 103


Editor's notes:

The Hindu Forum of Europe is the representative body for British Hindus in Europe. It is the first point of contact between the European Parliament, European Commission and other EU institutions and the Hindu communities in Europe. Members of the Hindu Forum of Europe include the Hindu Forum of Britain, National Council of Hindu Temples UK, Hindu Council of the Netherlands, Hindu Forum of Belgium and the Italian Hindu Union.

Human Rights Advocate, Zhovtis is a member of the Coordination Council of oppositional Social-Democratic Party of Kazakhstan. In 1992-1996 he served as Vice-president of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. Under his directorship, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, a non-governmental human rights organization, has been monitoring the situation with human rights and civil liberties in Kazakhstan since 1993. Zhovtis produced more than 150 publications on the problems of democratization and economic transformation, human rights situation and the rule of law in Kazakhstan. He extensively lectures in the universities of his country.

Fokina was Co-chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of Kazakhstan from 1989 to 1991. In 1992-1993 she served as a member of Kazakhstan President's Advisory Council. In 1994-1998 she was an advisor of the executive director of the Soros Foundation in Kazakhstan. Since 2004 she has been a member of Commission for Human Rights under the President of Kazakhstan. Since 1991 she has served as Chairperson of Almaty Helsinki Committee, which is a full member of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Vienna. Almaty Helsinki Committee is engaged in public monitoring of observance of the human rights standards, civil liberties, justice, national security structures, policy, judiciary and penitentiary reform, protection of private property, minorities'rights, equal opportunity and non-discrimination.