Have you ever been so disturbed by a social issue that it led you to hop on a motorbike and head on a countrywide mission to learn and help the oppressed network? Well, we have come across one such person, who recently visited Vizag as part of an expedition. Kiran Chukkapalli, an avid social activist, in November 2020, embarked on a journey from Kanyakumari on a quest to learn and research about the refugee network hailing from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other neighbouring countries. Dhanya Kanth recently got in touch with Kiran Chukkapalli to know more about his experiences and initiatives to better the lives of refugees in India.
What inspired you to take up this journey?
From a very young age, I was exposed to the culture of helping the ones in need in whatever capacity possible. With my grandfather serving as a police officer and my father actively participating in socio-political activities, the issues faced by the minority communities in our country had made everyday discussions in our household. While the principles followed at my home were agreeable, I always thought the implementation could have been better. My mother, who knew exactly what was to be done, enrolled me into a defence academy and subsequently encouraged me to invest time in an Ashram in Rishikesh.
As a founder of Think peace and upon working for the Adivasi community’s upliftment for over 10 years now, I have gained the experience I believe will help me further in tackling this international human rights crisis.
How would you describe the current refugee situation in our country?
We all know that our leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru once said on record that India will always be home for all the Hindus or Sikhs left out in East/West Pakistan. Although true, refugees face a lot of challenges legally and politically, forcing them to succumb to poverty. There are very few platforms that address the issue and even if they do, only the communities traveling from Pakistan are talked about, while those coming from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are left to fend for themselves. Because of this vacuum of ignorance, the campsites are extremely inhabitable with no proper electricity or water supply.
What infuriates me the most is the harsh and humiliating conditions the women and children are put through which leads them to seek refuge in India. As fellow humans, I believe it’s our responsibility to help them live a dignified life.
What changes do you think should be brought forth for the betterment of refugee camps?
For any issue to be acted upon, the largeness of the situation should be kept before the people in general. For example, everyone is aware of the Syrian refugee crisis. Today, we see a significant change in the crisis. Despite the fact that the emergency in India is quite a few decades old, there hasn’t been any change. To be fair, the Indian government has a lot on its plate right now. I’m extremely fortunate to have a great team of Thinkpeace World in helping me create awareness regarding this situation among the general public. We are even coming up with a team called Refugee Aid which will solely research this matter and bring forth a case study based on selective campsites throughout India.
How would the proposed changes help the refugees in India?
For the people residing in campsites at this moment, we are looking at better living conditions, legal aid, and workshops on women entrepreneurship, helping them get back on their feet in the coming 3-5 years. Apart from that, we are also working on how to help minorities stuck in other countries. facing humiliation and religious persecution, escape that lifestyle and settle in India.
Covering close to 9500 km, starting from the west coast through the Northeast part of India, living with the refugees, being their listening aid, Kiran Chukkapalli says that the refugees, as a collective, have taught him how to smile through pain and suffering. He adds that he no longer fears about what life has to offer.