Human Boundaries, Human Rights
World Refugee Day is a day to pay tribute to the more than 42 million people forcibly displaced as a result of violent conflict or persecution. UNHCR's theme and campaign for this year, "Refugees have no choice. You do," emphasized the powerlessness and vulnerability of refugee populations. Recently, HAF Director Samir Kalra highlighted the plight of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, and stateless Hindus of Indian origin in Malaysia in an essay entitled "All Refugees are Created Equal."
Kalra is the Foundation's Senior Human Rights Fellow, and helps create the annual Foundation's Hindu Human Rights Report. The idea for the report was conceived of when organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch might have had a paragraph in their reports dedicated to issues in Kashmir, and things going on in other places such as Malaysia were virtually non-existent. Now, this annually-released report documents violations against Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora. HAF sought to provide voice to those Hindus who were not being heard. The latest report covers violations against Hindus in seven countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago—and the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, with coverage of both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as Hotspots of Trouble. The idea came from a sense of responsibility and social justice that the founders of HAF had, grounded in the Hindu principle of dharma—one translation of this Sanskrit word is justice.
As Hindus, we at the Foundation believe in our collective responsibility to provide protection to individuals who have limited personal power and resources to argue their case, and whose basic human rights are trampled upon daily. Much like the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, the call to "repair the world," or the biblical proverb "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute," Hindus are called to fulfill their dharma through the yoga of action—and advocacy.
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.