Human Boundaries, Human Rights
As a human rights organization that advocates for Hindus in America, the Hindu American Foundation is also concerned with the rights of others around the world, particularly when they are impacted by American policy and actions that our nation takes. As Hindus, we are more likely to be aware of the unfair treatment to other Hindus around the world. And it is our dharma to take care of our Hindu brethren. A film tour with movie maker Rahul Rijji Nair and his documentary, The Human Boundaries, was an obvious fit for HAF's advocacy goals, and as an Executive Council member of HAF, I was fortunate to be able to organize an event in southeastern Michigan to highlight the suffering of Pakistani Hindu refugees in a camp on the other side of the world.
The Human Boundaries is a 35-minute documentary on the life of 151 Hindu refugees from Pakistan who entered India in September 2011 with a one-month tourist visa. Systematic violence, rampant discrimination, and widespread restrictions on religious freedom have led thousands of Pakistani Hindus to seek refuge in India in recent years, and the movie highlights the plight of one group who sought refuge in India. Sheltered in a camp on the outskirts of New Delhi, these refugees faced deportation once their visas expired.
The event in metro-Detroit, as it did in most of the various metropolitan regions where it was screened, had an audience mostly from the Indian-American community. In the audience were a few people from the broader community, like MI Roundtable's Director of Programs Steve Spreitzer, which gave me hope that we can work together to promote social justice both locally and internationally. The screening enabled people to hear directly from Rahul Nair, and to ask questions.
Nair, who draws inspiration from Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, said the title refers to the "boundaries drawn across the human conscience." His narration of how he came to film the movie and what happened afterward was simple and moving: the film was shot in a highly restricted and sensitive environment inside the refugee camp; he and a few friends used minimal equipment over three days to get footage that would tell the story of this group of refugees. The resulting documentary traces the difficulties they had to face in Pakistan, life inside the camp, and fears arising from their status: the Indian government has failed to recognize the majority of them as refugees or grant them asylum. Some in the audience questioned why HAF has put the Indian government in a negative light, but Associate Director Jay Kansara explained how HAF has urged the Indian government to provide formal legal status to Pakistani Hindu refugees. I reiterated the goal of advocating for Pakistani Hindus who are seeking refuge in India: we are trying to bring awareness to the plight of refugees, so that policies and actions can be taken to remedy the untenable situation. It is an issue of social justice and human rights.
In fact, HAF commemorated World Refugee Day by announcing this national film tour of the Human Boundaries this summer. Drawing attention to the plight of Hindu refugees and displaced persons throughout the world, the Foundation urged the UN Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to address the escalating crisis facing Pakistani Hindu refugees living in India and also requested UNHCR officials to oversee the protection and shelter needs of Balochi Hindus internally displaced within Pakistan by violent conflict and religious oppression.
Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist, wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework. You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.