Sunday, March 10, 2013

Burma on My Mind: A Documentary

I spent a year between 2010-2011 shooting a documentary about the Gorkhali diaspora in Myanmar and Thailand. The documentary looks at a diasporic community deeply entrenched in Burma, both through their history as well as their love for the country.

It also features the rising tensions between newly converted Gorkhali Theravada practitioners who are pressuring Hindus and Mahayani Buddhists to convert to the state-sanctioned religion. The movement appears more political than religious, and it is also new. Religion was one domain that was untouched by the state from the Sixties till very recently, allowing people to continue to worship in their own manner, undisturbed.

Burma's rising intolerance regarding religious freedom is disturbing from many vantage points,  not the least of which is that the teachings of the Buddha always regards non-violence (ahimsa) as its central tenet. Pressurizing those from other sects or religions to adopt the state religion goes against everything the Buddha taught.

Burma would open up to a more democratic mode of governance shortly after I left the country. Political prisoners were freed, and new newspapers flourished. But that moment also brought the tragedy of the Rohingyas, whose homes and communities were burnt in Rahine state. As Burma shifts from one historical moment to the next, lets hope it will retain the best of what existed inside this beautiful country. The history of religious diversity and freedom is one of its greatest legacies, and I hope that will be nurtured in this new moment.

Click here to view the documentary on Youtube.