According to The Times of India, in 2010, 28,000 girls and women “went missing” from West Bengal. The newspaper fails to say who the victims were or who kidnapped them.
Who knows what may have happened to them, who will speak for them? And, who has been rescuing these “missing” aka kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted, and trafficked girls and women? So far, mainly free-standing Christian groups in Iraq and Hindu religious groups in India. And both groups are very clear that it is radical Muslims who have done the kidnapping.
Governments, both Western and Eastern, are loath to say so and are not officially involved in such heroic rescues—or, for that matter, in the rescue of persecuted Christians. Individual progressives, leftists, feminists, who write about “oppression” and condemn sexual violence towards women, still fear to tread on such dangerous ground.
His supporters describe him as “a voice of Unity among Hindus,” as a man who has spent his lifetime rescuing girls in West Bengal, India, who have been kidnapped and trafficked. Recently, he saved a 14 year old minor girl named Tuktuki Mondal, who was kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists and reunited her with her parents. Her story made international headlines.
Tapan Ghosh has a global vision. For example, last year, in August, of 2014, during the Gaza crisis, he helped to organize a major pro-Israel rally which drew 20,000 people. This was the largest such rally held outside of Israel. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs all took part in the rally. In his words, “India and Israel, being surrounded by tough neighbors, are united in peace. The values of democracy, gender equality and mutual respect is what binds the Hindu and the Jewish communities. We value life more than death and that's what unites us all.”
In 2010, Tapan Ghosh told me that Americans must realize “that the war on Islamic terrorism cannot be won without curbing religious extremism amongst the Muslim masses, be it in the suburbs of Detroit or Delhi or villages in rural Bengal.” He believes that the kidnapping and trafficking of Hindu girls is part of a campaign to “uproot indigenous Hindus from their ancestral lands.”
Tapan Ghosh just completed his second tour in the United States. Here is our conversation. I only hope and pray that he succeeds in his venture and that others follow in his noble footsteps.
Q. Hello and welcome back to America. How was your trip?
A: I was invited to attend the Global Dharma Conference in New Jersey where I gave a lecture on the human rights issues in India, primarily in eastern India. Starting from New York, I have travelled to Dallas, Washington DC, Chicago, Houston and finally San Jose in the Bay area to spread information and garner support for our movement. Along the trip, I’ve had the pleasant opportunity to meet a lot of fellow Americans who are equally concerned about the spread of radical Islam worldwide.
Q. Your last visit to US was in 2011. How much has changed in India and the world and also in terms of Indo-American relationship?
A: A lot actually! The entire Middle-East is in turmoil and America is now directly engaged with more Islamic countries than ever. Previously, Islamic terrorism was essentially confined to Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. Now, the whole region from Libya, Egypt and Yemen seems to be on the boil and the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria may make it boil over. Even moderate nations like Turkey and Malaysia seem to be moving towards conservative, Islamic forms of governance. ISIS is without doubt the most brutal organization after the Nazis and their shocking, barbarian tactics appears to draw Islamists from the world over.
Q. Islamic terrorism in general has been well noted but how have women from other faiths specifically suffered from Islamic extremism? How bad has this been in the Indian context?
A: Women in the Indian subcontinent have suffered the worst consequences of Islamic rule which has lasted for centuries. Rape, honor killing, the kidnapping of minors, forced conversion and other atrocities are the “normal” way of life for countless women in South Asia. In the worst such cases, like in the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh, the Pakistani army used the rape of Hindu women as a tool of subjugation and as psychological warfare. Unfortunately, very little is known and reported about this in the western world. However, the recent exposure of grooming gangs in UK consisting entirely of Muslim men of mostly Pakistani descent that targeted white girls has shone a spotlight on this issue. Similar problems have been reported in other European nations too.
Q. Sadly, pimps and traffickers exist among men of all races and ethnicities and women suffer accordingly everywhere. However, I agree that this is part and parcel of radical, political Islam as it is moving in the world. In their view, infidel women are meant to be sex slaves. today. How does this phenomenon take place in India?
A: Probably due to increased awareness about women’s rights, things have become more sophisticated and women are now increasingly being trapped using the emerging phenomenon of love-jihad. Like grooming gangs, grown up Muslim men, many already married, trap innocent women from other faiths for marriage by deceiving them. After the women elope, they become aware of the reality, including that of polygamy, forced conversion, confinement, marital rapes, trafficking, forced prostitution and so on. Although in many cases, deception is not required and the victims are straightaway kidnapped. From our experience, few women can escape once they get entrenched in Islamic families or get trafficked into other nations. In specific instances, high courts in India have given strict verdicts to tackle this menace although law enforcement agencies have done little due to political correctness and electoral compulsions.
Q. How do you and your organization respond to such instances of love-jihad?
A: When the girl is a minor and the parents approach us, we immediately get the police and administration involved in rescuing the minor as it is illegal in India for minors to leave without parental consent. In many cases, where the police are non-cooperating, often due to political pressure, we petition the courts to direct them to take action. Efforts by Hindu Samhati to recover and rehabilitate many victims have received worldwide attention and praise. However, if the woman is not a minor, there is very little we can do other than raise awareness on the issue and advise the society in general to be more careful about the issue.
Q. Woe to any Hindu girl the moment she turns 18 years old! Can you tell us more how a rescue attempt is carried out by Hindu Samhati? What do you do and how?
A: Hindu Samhati gets involved when a parent or close relative approaches us for help, typically after having knocked every door of the government for help with no success. After gathering facts on ground on the authenticity of the incident, we mobilize ground support and stage mass protests before police and administration to pressure them to recover the girl and prosecute the culprits. Our success depends to a large extent on the victim’s courage and the commitment of her relatives and hence psychological counseling plays an important role. Depending on the socio-economic background of the victim, we arrange for lawyers, medical treatment, provide security to the family if they are being threatened. We act as a liaison with other governmental and non-governmental agencies that are entrusted to deal with these cases, like the National Commission for Women. In many cases, we undertake a more extensive campaign in the national and international media to force law enforcing agencies to act. Hindu Samhati’s success in recovering 14 year old Ms. Tuktuki Mondal is one recent example. However, fighting cases of love-jihad is a two stage battle where the second stage begins after recovering a girl and is a longer term, strenuous task.
Q. What happens if the girl refuses to accompany you? How frequently does it happen?
A: Quite often the girls refuse to come out of their captivity due to intense psychological pressure from their captor. This includes threat to her life, to her family members as well as the social stigma of having been raped and confined. More so, when the girl comes from impoverished background and the captor is from higher socio-economic group or is politically well connected. Most unfortunately, the woman often prefers to individually suffer than to endanger the lives of her family members. If so, it is virtually impossible to recover them even with the support of law enforcement agencies. I’m personally aware of many such cases.
Q. What kind of help do the victims need for proper rehabilitation?
A: First and foremost the victims require social acceptability that is often difficult to obtain in a conservative society like India. After recovery, medical assistance is required immediately as the victims have been sexually assaulted. Psychological counseling to help overcome the mental trauma is equally important and takes longer to heal. Very often, the victim is from a poor family and financial assistance is provided. In cases where the victim has to be relocated away from her native place, Hindu Samhati gets involved in a longer term rehabilitation process requiring significant economic assistance. Our activists also provide legal and logistical support to the victim and her family. We are critically dependent on our well-wishers for funding and global support to sustain the movement.
Q. How do you deal with the psychological aspects of rehabilitation, feelings of guilt and shame?
A: This is personally the most difficult step in the process and each case is unique. In addition to providing physical security, financial support, and social integration, we undertake extensive counseling of the victim. In many cases, direct, personal counseling by previous victims of love-jihad who have been rescued by Hindu Samhati activists is most effective.
Q. In cases the family does not accept the girls, what do you do?
A: Wherever parents approach us for help, they usually take the responsibility post-recovery and we do help them if required. However, in many cases, the parents do not get involved due to the social stigma and then we take responsibility to make sure that the victims get a good future and a new family. Sometimes these girls have become part of the Hindu Samhati’s activism and they help spread awareness of what happened to them to many potential victims.
Q. How many girls have you recovered so far?
A: Hindu Samhati has recovered over 300 minor girls and women but the numbers do not do justice to the social impact that our work has had. Hindu Samhati’s work has helped build social confidence and security in rural Bengal in addition to exposing the role of Islamic groups’ involvement in forced conversions and trafficking. We follow up regularly on the rehabilitation of the women, who we call our daughters, and organize occasional reunions with them to strengthen our bonding.
Q. How long have you been involved in this activism and how satisfied are you with the results?
A: We started working on this in 2008. Given the general condition of women in communally sensitive parts of rural India, I must say that this is among the most important activities of the Hindu Samhati and is a cornerstone of our existence. In spite of our inadequate resources, we are extremely satisfied with the progress so far although there is so much more we should strive to do.
Q. As a life-long field activist, what would be your key message to the western world?
A: Libya’s erstwhile dictator Gaddafi once said that Europe will be conquered by the Muslims without swords, guns or war. He was hinting about a demographic change sweeping European nations. The invasion of India began long back and many stretches of the subcontinent have already been ethnically cleansed. It is high time that concerned people in the western world join hand with their counterparts in the east to counter this civilizational threat, else we will suffer the same consequences even though it may take a few more decades or centuries longer in some cases.