HAF Sends Letter to USPS to Address Raksha Bandhan Mailing Issue

Minneapolis, MN (August 27, 2010) - The Hindu American Foundation sent the following letter to the USPS Postmaster General, Jack Potter, after receiving numerous complaints that envelopes containing rakhis for Raksha Bandhan were undeliverable or delivered open without the rakhi.
Dear Postmaster Potter,
I write to you on behalf of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) with regard to an issue of mail being tampered with and/or undelivered during the time of the Hindu holiday, Raksha Bandhan.
Each year around August or September, millions of Hindus around the world and hundreds of thousands within the U.S. celebrate Raksha Bandhan.  This popular holiday celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters.  Sisters tie a rakhi (decorative sacred thread or amulet) on the right wrist of her brothers (often including distant cousins and friends considered honorary brothers) with prayers for his protection and well-being.  In return, brothers give their sisters small tokens or gifts of appreciation.
In modern times, when families and extended families rarely reside in the same city, let alone same country, Hindu women throughout the U.S. and around the world utilize the U.S. postal system, many times entirely domestically, to ensure that their rakhis reach their intended recipient in time for this special holiday.  Rakhis, which are similar to friendship bracelets, can vary from the simple to the ornate with embellishments of beads, sequins, ribbons, bows and other ornamentation.
Raksha Bandhan this year was on August 23, and over the past few weeks, our offices have received complaints that envelopes sent by some of these Hindu Americans through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) were either being return as non-deliverable, often with a stamp indicating “non-machineable” or they were receiving information from the recipient that the envelope was delivered open (cut at the seam) and without the rakhi.
While we understand that heightened security measures, including the machining of mail, have been placed in response to past attempts to use the USPS to commit acts of terror, the non-delivery and/or tampering of mailed rakhis is posing a substantial burden on the Hindu community’s right and ability to celebrate this important religious holiday.  Perhaps these incidents are isolated anomalies, but in contrast, many of these same Americans have faced no issues in sending greeting cards with three-dimensional ornamentation which arguably may incur the same machinability issues.
We felt it worthwhile to provide you information about Raksha Bandhan and bring your attention to the delivery issues so that we may work with you towards finding a solution.  Could a special note be written on the envelope by senders to ensure intact delivery? Should mail be sent from a physical post office so that the sender may indicate the nature of the contents of the mail to a USPS employee?  Could information regarding this holiday and as provided in this communication along with time of year in which it falls be shared across the USPS system?  We welcome your response, including perhaps an advisory statement, to inform our membership and members of the Hindu American community at large of any special instructions before next year’s Raksha Bandhan.
HAF is an advocacy organization seeking to provide a progressive voice for over 2 million Hindu Americans.  By educating and interacting with leaders in public policy, government, media and the public at large, HAF highlights issues facing the Hindu American community, including a facilitating a better understanding of Hinduism and supporting religious liberty.