HINDRAF – Manifestation of ‘Makkal Sakthi’ in Malaysia
In the backdrop of ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’, the Tamilnadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi had called upon the ‘Tamil’ diaspora to invest in the state saying that the state had a stable economy and he had also assured his government’s support to them. His statement was read out at the ‘World Tamils Economic Conference Tamils Diaspopra Meet’ organised by Madras Development Society and inaugurated by the state’s Finance Minister Anbazhagan. Anbazhagan was of the opinion that ‘Tamils’ world over have been intent on protecting the interests of their ‘caste’ or ‘community’ than that of their ‘language’.
President of The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) Dato Seri S Samyvellu conveying his displeasure over the lack of strategic links between the Tamils in Malaysia and the people of Tamilnadu, suggested the creation of a ‘portal’ so that a communication link could be established to facilitate economic development. Also, a delegation of Malaysian Indian Congress members met the Tamilnadu Youth Congress leader Mayura Jayakumar, who is neither a political entity nor an intellectual of any merit to discuss the ‘political and economic situation’ in both countries!
What the outcome of the above said ‘meets’ is anybody’s guess, but the point to note here is that, not even a word was uttered about the plight of the ‘People of Indian Origin’ (PIO) in Malaysia, who have been fighting against all odds for their fundamental rights and the MIC members including their president Samyvellu have not bothered to take up the vital issue with either the Union government or the State government! The Chief Minister and the Finance Minister, who have waxed eloquent on the ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’ of ‘Tamils’ settled abroad, have also ignored with contempt the predicament of Indians in Malaysia, forgetting the fact that ‘Tamils’ form a majority of Indians there.
The reasons for the utmost contempt shown by both the MIC and the Tamilnadu government for the plight of PIOs in Malaysia are plain and obvious! One, the Malaysian Indians have come together under the banner ‘Hindu Rights Action force’ (HINDRAF) and two, MIC is nothing but a ‘crony’ of the UMNO led fascist government of Malaysia. It is a known fact that the Dravidian politicians of Tamilnadu have an aversion for anything ‘Hindu’ and expectedly they have turned a blind eye to the troubles including racial discrimination, human rights and fundamental rights violations faced by the PIOs in Malaysia. It is also a known fact that the MIC has been taking care of only its self-interests for the last so many years and if it had really worked for the welfare of the Indians, HINDRAF would not have born.
Birth of HINDRAF
HINDRAF has just observed its first anniversary and the events, which led to the birth of HINDRAF, have been extremely painful. It is of paramount obligation for every ‘Indian’ to remind himself/herself of those painful events in order to extend at least moral support to the Indians settled in Malaysia for hundreds of years. The Indians have been taken to Malaysia by the British as ‘indentured’ labourers during the 1800s and as per the Indian culture, they built temples at all their habitats and the temples were built mainly for the Tamil Deities ‘Devi Mariamman’, ‘Kali Devi’ and ‘Bhagwan Murugan’ and village deities like ‘Ayyanar’ and ‘Muniswarar’, as most of them were Tamils. As all of them have been taken as labourers, their economic upliftment has been rather negligible and even now, after two hundred years, two thirds of the Indians (8% of the populace) settled in Malaysia are reeling in poverty. They have been continuously discriminated against and they have not been provided with opportunities of progress. Even after Malaysia attained independence and became a Republic on 31 August 1957, the Indians could not see the light of the day as Islam was declared as the National Religion of Malaysia – 60 to 65 percent of the populace is Muslims – despite being a ‘secular’ country.
As the country has been slowly and steadily giving way to Islamic fundamentalism of the Wahabbi order, the discrimination against Indians (Hindus) and their suppression increased in manifolds leading to the birth of HINDRAF due to the following facts:
Thousands of temples have been demolished, forcibly relocated, deities forcibly removed. The approximate number of temples demolished since 1985 is over 10,000.
HINDRAF has filed about 90 police reports and submitted 74 memorandums to the Attorney General, but no action has been taken on them so far.
No job opportunities in government as well as private sectors.
Business licences have not been given.
Seats have not been provided in Universities and no scholarships for Indian students.
The ethnic Indians (Hindus) were allegedly not allowed to perform religious rites even during funeral times.
No allocation in the budget for the welfare of the ethnic Indians who are reeling in poverty.
Coming under the banner of HINDRAF, the Indians had filed a ‘$ 4 Trillion’ lawsuit in London, in August 2007, demanding compensation from Britain, as Britain was responsible for settling their forefathers in Malaysia. Close on the heels of filing the lawsuit, HINDRAF organised a protest rally, democratically, on 15 November 2007, in the streets of Malaysia, in which thousands of people have participated braving the police actions. But since the police controlled the protest with a heavy hand, the Hindus again organised a huge protest rally on 25 November 2008 to give a petition to the British High Commission in accordance with the lawsuit filed in London. More than 100,000 people participated in the rally fearlessly facing the water cannons, tear gas shells and jets of water laced with eye-stinging chemicals for more than five hours and many people were beaten and dragged into the trucks. One protester died of heart attack in the melee. Dozens of activists were arrested on charges of attempted murder and sedition! Five leaders of HINDRAF, P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, V Ganabatirau, S Kengadharan and Vasantha Kumar were detained under Internal Security Act (ISA) without any trial.
The Federation of Human Rights Organisations of India (FHROI) condemned the Malaysian government for its barbaric and undemocratic act of trying to crush the civil disobedience movement of the people of Indian origin and conducted a demonstration in front of the High Commission of Malaysia in New Delhi and presented a memorandum to that effect.
Support from US
The United States of America called on Malaysia to allow freedom of expression and assembly and condemned the crackdown of Abdullah Ahamad Badawi’s government and made a note of it in their ‘Annual Human Rights Report’. The US Congress Commission also expressed concern and urged President Bush to raise the issue of Temple Demolition with Malaysia and insist for their protection.
Ironically, the UPA government of India, which took immediate action and expressed its concern on events like the publication of Mohammed Cartoons by Danish media, the hanging of Saddam Hussein and the plight of the families of terror suspects in the wake of UK blasts, had just not bothered to move even an inch over the plight of millions of ethnic Indians suffering in Malaysia. Even after four days of the attack on, and, arrest of, ethnic Indians, the government had not bothered to express concern over the atrocities committed by the Malaysian authorities. Initially all the political leaders of Tamilnadu including the Chief Minister have brought the seriousness of the situation to the attention of the central government, but to no avail. The Mlaysian Minister Nazri Aziz had insulted the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for writing to our Prime Minister, by commenting that ‘Malaysia is not Tamilnadu and Let Karunanidhi lay off from this issue and mind his own business in Tamilnadu’. Even after this, the center had not opened its mouth!
When Hindu Munnani leader Ramagopalan along with Hindu activists conducted a protest demonstration earlier over the demolition of Temples in Malaysia, in front of the Malysian High Commission here in Chennai, the state government arrested him and his supporters. Neither the Chief Minister nor the other ‘Tamil’ leaders opened their mouth then, as they presumed that the issue was concerned with only ‘Hindu Temples’. Now, when the HINDRAF protests in Malaysia caught the attention of the international community, they suddenly realised that they have a ‘vote-bank’ issue similar to the Srilankan Tamil issue!
While Chief Minister Karunanidhi, due to obvious reasons, projected this as an issue of ‘Tamils’ in a show of ‘lip service’, the ‘Tamil’ minorities (Muslims and Chrsitians of Tamilnadu) were conspicuous by their silence both here in TN and in Malaysia as well. None of the minority organisations in Tamilnadu, which hit the streets for Danish Cartoons, US’s Iraq invasion, Saddam Hanging and Davinci Code, etc, had bothered to lend even moral support to their ‘Tamil Brothers’ in Malaysia. It was shocking to see the Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee giving sermons that Malaysia is a friendly state and all that, while refusing the members to raise this important issue in parliament. The ‘secular’ mainstream media also had not shown the importance, which this issue deserved. Later on the Tamilnadu Chief Minister and other Dravidian leaders distanced themselves from the issue after realising that the Malaysian Indians were fighting under a ‘Hindu’ banner and that the MIC has been against HINDRAF. Also a section of ‘Tamil’ chauvinistic ‘litterateurs’ of the Dravidian order came from Malaysia with a deliberately wrong message that everything was fine with Indians.
At this juncture it is pertinent to note that the ethnic Indians form 15% of the populace, similar to the Muslims of India, and while the Muslims are treated very well in India with special privileges, the Indians are discriminated in all sectors in Malaysia. Another point is that the Malaysian Indian congress, like the Indian National Congress has not done anything constructive at all for the welfare of the Hindus, since independence!
General election in Malaysia
Meanwhile, the ruling National Front coalition, which has been enjoying absolute power since independence, failed to sustain and fell shot of two-third majority and the opposition alliance captured a third of parliament and secured control of five states in the general elections held in March 2008. This was mainly due to the tactical voting of the ethnic Indians. Also for the first time, the MIC tasted defeat and Samyvellu lost his seat. HINDRAF leader and Advocate M Manoharan, who contested the election from the prison, won the Kota Alam shah assembly seat, but the government refused to release him to perform his constitutional job.
Support from UN
Param Cumaraswamy, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, wrote to Malysian Home Minister Syed Hamid Akbar urging for the release of Manoharan in the interest of justice and harmony and asking the government to unite Manoharan with his wife and family and allow him to serve his electorate, which voted him to the assembly.
Sufferings and human rights
The arrested HINDRAF leaders and activists have not been extended the required facilities in prison as well as to have a trial as per the law of the land. For example, HINDRAF leader P Uthayakumar has been suffering from various health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and skin ailments and he has also been diagnosed as a heart patient, but the authorities have denied him medical treatment. On hearing his ‘predicament’, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) without being prompted rushed to hold an ‘inquiry’ which was held behind closed doors at Kemta prison, met all the Hospital staff, prison staff, Special Branch, Doctors and everybody else except Uthayakumar and cleared the Malaysian government authorities by speaking on his behalf, that he was happy with the treatment and medication given to him, without even getting evidence from him. The said ‘inquiry’ was concluded within 3 hours and the Human Rights Commissioners held a Press conference the next day to reveal their ‘findings’. So much for Human Rights in Malaysia!
HINDRAF Chairman P Wayata Murthy, who is in a self-imposed exile, has been traveling worldwide to gain support for the movement and he has been successful in internationalising this issue. While all Hindu organisations have been extending their moral support to HINDRAF and their fight against the oppressive Malaysian government, the Tamilnadu Chief Minister has not responded even to the ‘personal’ request made by Wayata Murthy, when both of them met in Chennai. It is extremely sad that in Tamilnadu, the people have totally ignored the plight of their brothers in Malaysia. But, Hindu Munnani’s support has come as a blessing in disguise and this is the only outfit in the state, which has been fighting for the rights of ethnic Indians in Malaysia right from the beginning. The outfit conducted yet another demonstration in front of the Malaysian Consulate in Chennai on 8 January 2009 and scores of activists courted arrest along with their leader Ramagopalan. They also submitted a memorandum to the Malaysian Consulate. The fact that the film personalities from the tinsel world, who have extended their support for the Sri Lankan Tamils, have turned a blind eye towards the Malaysian Tamils and totally ignored their sufferings, go to show the sad state of affairs in the film industry. Ironically these stars and actors travel to Malaysia every year to earn fame and money by conducting the so-called ‘art show’, the latest one performed after the birth of HINDRAF! They didn’t mind accepting shamelessly the hard earned money of the Malaysian Tamils without even a token gesture of support for their cause.
It would be most appropriate to end this article with the ‘moving’ but ‘confident’ words taken from Uthayakumar’s New Year message, which he had sent from the prison on 1 January 2009: At Kemta prison, life is a predictable routine. The only highlight is that, my mother, fiancée, sisters, children and family visit every week without fail. I read and write for about 12 to 13 hours every day. I get to sleep on a one-inch thin mattress on the cement floor and this has caused in me suffering lumbar spondylosis and arthritis. I can no longer even jog slowly after this one year. I cannot squat without pain in my knees and backbone. I have all sorts of ailments from blood pressure to diabetes. My heart condition has been described as hyper kinetic and I am given to understand by my ‘outside’ doctor friends that I may have suffered a silent heart attack. I also suffer from two kinds of skin diseases as a result of allergy and idiopathic gutted hypomela. My pre existing diabetes has got worse especially when I was denied my diabetic medication.
I am happy to hear and read that the ‘People Power’ (Makkal Sakthi) peaceful struggle is still going on strong. There may be ups and downs and many frustrating and demoralising moments especially when we are up against the might of the whole UMNO controlled Malaysian State machinery. Our single biggest success as of date is that the Hindu temple demolishment at the rate of one Hindu temple every week being demolished (Tamil Nesan 30/10/08 at pg 3) has stopped at least for the moment. I take it that every day of my incarceration will keep the spotlight on the critical Indian problems in Malaysia both locally and internationally. I had decided to ‘go for broke’ because I very strongly believe in the cause I am fighting for and I have no regrets. UMNO will not change. We will have to rid UMNO in the 2012 / 2013 general elections.
LONG LIVE PEOPLE POWER MAKKAL SAKTHI!
MAY THE NEW YEAR BRING A NEW ERA IN OUR STRUGGLE TO BE FREED FROM THE CLUTCHES OF OPPRESSION AND SUPPRESSION OF THE UMNO LED GOVERNMENT! MAY ALL OF YOU LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY AND ENJOY A PROSPEROUS BRIGHTER NEW YEAR WITH YOUR FAMILIES AND LOVED ONES. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.
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