Courtesy: Hindu American Foundation
Washington, D.C. (June 21, 2012)
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) commemorated World Refugee Day yesterday by drawing attention to the plight of Hindu refugees and displaced persons throughout the world. The Foundation marked the occasion by writing directly to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), urging it to address the escalating crisis facing Pakistani Hindu refugees living in India. It further called on UNHCR officials to oversee the protection and shelter needs of Balochi Hindus internally displaced within Pakistan by violent conflict and religious oppression.
Celebrated annually on June 20, World Refugee Day provides an international stage 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.
"Today, as the international community observes World Refugee Day, we have a unique opportunity to support and empower the millions of refugees suffering in silence throughout the globe," said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF's Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights. "We have a responsibility to not only advocate on their behalf, but also work collectively towards finding durable and lasting solutions solutions to address their needs."
Kalra highlighted the plight of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, and stateless Hindus of Indian origin in Malaysia in a blog for Beliefnet, entitled All Refugees are Created Equal.
Moreover, HAF noted that there have been significant Hindu refugee populations uprooted from their homes in Bhutan and Sri Lanka. In Bhutan for instance, more than 100,000 Bhutanese Hindus of Nepali descent were stripped of their citizenship and forced to leave Bhutan under the "One Nation, One People" policy aimed at forced homogenization of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. For years, the Bhutanese Hindus languished in UNHCR camps in Nepal, but many have now been resettled in a number of third-party countries, including the United States.
The Foundation also used World Refugee Day as a platform to announce its nationwide film tour by Indian filmmaker, Rahul Riji Nair, to showcase his new documentary, The Human Boundaries. The critically acclaimed documentary, inspired by Hindu spiritual leader and Art of Living founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, highlights the plight of a group of Pakistani Hindu refugees living in the Dera Dhuni Baba refugee camp near New Delhi.
"The Human Boundaries is a crucially important film for the American public to see," said Jay Kansara, HAF's Washington, D.C. based Associate Director. "It breathes life into the human emotion and anguish of persecuted Pakistani Hindu men, women, and children desperate to remain India, but in constant fear of deportation."