Media Release – Kazakhstan Hindus Fear Further Attacks
By Anuttama Dasa
For Immediate Release Date: November 27, 2006
Contact: Anuttama Dasa, 301 299-9707,
email@example.com Office: ISKCON Communications, 10310 Oaklyn Drive, Potomac, MD, 20854
Almaty, Kazakhstan—After government officials destroyed thirteen homes of Hindu families and sent men, women and children homeless into sub-freezing temperatures in this Central Asian republic last week, members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, a Vaishnava Hindu movement, are fearing further attacks against their temple, and the remaining homes of believers.
On November 21, busloads of riot police accompanied by bulldozers destroyed homes of Hare Krishna members and threw personal possessions, clothing and furniture into the snow and mud. Women with infants stood by helplessly as bulldozers and hammer-wielding riot police destroyed their homes. Human rights officials, trying to gain access to report on the demolition, were blocked by police.
Kazakh officials have sought possession of the Hindu homes and a larger
100-acre parcel through court maneuvers and threat of force. Krishna members as well as independent observers have denounced the legal maneuvers as cover-ups for government-sponsored persecution and a land-grab, possibly tied to members of the ruling family of this autocratic state.
Ninel Fokina, of Almaty Helsinki Commission, told Forum 18, a human rights news agency, that while 13 homes were destroyed under court orders, “the adjacent houses of other people who do not belong to the Society for Krishna Consciousness were left untouched even though their title deeds have the same status”. Andrei Grishin, of the International Bureau of Human Rights and Law, had his camera forcibly confiscated when he tried to document the destruction, and was told by a government official, the Hakim (Governor) of the Yetisu district, who oversaw the attack, that the Hakim would personally “crush his eyes.”
Ironically, Kazakhstan has advertised itself widely as a nation that supports religious liberty, and it is vying for Chairmanship of the OSCE, an international organization of 50-plus nations focused on human rights. The Kazakhstan embassy in Washington, D.C., regularly spends tens of thousands of dollars on public relations campaigns, buying advertisements on television and in leading newspapers like the Washington Post, to prop up their nation’s fledgling reputation.
“The demolition of homes of innocent Hindus is outrageous,” said Sonia Chopra, of the United Hindu Jain Temple Association in Washington, D.C. “The hypocrisy of the Kazakh government is becoming evident, and should not be tolerated by persons who value religious freedom.”
The British Parliament passed an Early Day Motion condemning the “harassment of and discrimination against Hindu minorities” in Kazakhstan just days before the recent demolition. They called on Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev to personally intervene.
Other religious minorities, including Protestant Christian groups have suffered discrimination in Kazakhstan as well. For more information, please visit forum18.org.