Indians on the march, ignore at own peril

by P Ramasamy

Last Sunday, more than 10,000 Indian Malaysians converged in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to raise concerns about their religious, ethnic and democratic rights.

The gathering organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) was meant to draw the attention of the government to their socio-economic plight.

There have been demonstrations by Indians in the past. Workers in plantations and urban areas have periodically demonstrated against employers over living and working conditions.

However, demonstrations against the government were hardly seen until last Sunday – and it was the biggest every organised by Indians.

The fact that Hindraf, a coalition of more than 30 Indian groupings, could mobilise so many Indians from all over the country is testimony to the general unhappiness and frustration among the community.

They demanded an end to ethnic discrimination, for better employment prospects and for respect of their religious institutions.

Since political independence in 1957, Indians whose forefathers came from south India as labourers in plantations and urban centres have felt that they have been marginalised by the policies and programmes of the Umno-controlled government. Indian marginalisation and discrimination became a big issue after the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced in the 1970s to address Malay socio-economic grievances in the aftermath of the 1969 racial riots.

Over the last two decades or so, the government’s vigorous implementation of the NEP has invariably resulted in Indians not getting decent employment in the public sector. It has resulted in a lack of opportunities in the private sector and, with growing emphasis on Islam, has affected the religious and cultural practices of Indians, the majority of whom are Hindus.

The demolition of temples on grounds of these are illegal structures has contributed to alienating the community. Indians think this is related to over-zealousness on the part of state Muslim officials to emphasise the Islamic aspect of the administration.

It is on record that some of the temples that were removed or destroyed were built more than 50 years ago. Earlier this year, two days before Deepavali, a Hindu temple in Shah Alam, Selangor, was destroyed by the combined force of the police and city officials [as part of a wider exercise that saw a settlement and a surau also torn down]. Even the MIC’s intervention could not save the temple.

Watershed reached

While the Indian community’s complaints stretch back a few decades, it was the removal of temples by state authorities in recent years that have inflamed ethnic and religious sentiments. Moreover, the MIC’s inability to articulate and rectify the grouses has meant that Indians have sought to support other Indian-based organisations such as Hindraf.

The formation of Hindraf was basically to address the community’s plight. To attract wide publicity for the cause, the coalition filed a US$4 trillion legal suit against the British government for abandoning the interests of the community in the aftermath of political independence.

Hindraf might not think it possible to win the legal suit, but is using it as a grand strategy to raise the profile of Indians and to embarrass the Malaysian government.

In essence, this demonstration by Indians was an expression of pent-up frustration over ethnic and religious discrimination. The general sense of alienation needed just a trigger and the destruction of the Shah Alam temple, two days before Deepavali, galvanised Indians to express their dissatisfaction in the form of a mammoth demonstration.

This indicates that Indians have reached the stage where they are not prepared to listen to the MIC leadership. The party has lost some of its credibility as the voice of the community. By being too dependent on Umno, it has strayed from articulating the serious political, economic, social and cultural concerns of Indians.

Indians seem to have sent a message to the government that they are prepared to defend their rights. During the demonstration, many of them carried pictures of Mahatma Gandhi to emphasise the peaceful nature of their struggle.

While demonstrations in the past centered around the struggle of the working class, Sunday’s rally was composed of Indians from all classes – the working class, petty middle class, professionals and business community.

It appears therefore that Indians Malaysians have finally awoken from their long slumber. Unless and until the government genuinely addresses some of their grievances, Indians might be inclined to further their agitation.

  1. #1 by max2811 on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 11:13 am

    It will need a very strong reason for UMNaziO to give up the NEP. There is so much money to be taken, so many contracts, so many jobs given, so many university places, scholarships, new mosques, new schools, buying houses at 5% discount, right to bully, no effort needed in acquiring 30% of a company, no need to work hard, no need to study hard, no need to repay loans, kickbacks. A railway gatekeeper can become a millionair just by being UMNaziO. It’s their Utopia! All they need is to be a bumiputra.

    Just a mediocre student can become a minister. They don’t even need good results to become a medical student. Look at their matrikulasi syllabus. Shocking when compared to STP.

  2. #2 by Justice Jomo on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 11:22 am

    Just to confirm P Ramasamy’s observation that the demonstration was fully supported by the Indian middle classes. My friends who were there in the HINDRAF rally included successful insurance agents, lawyers, bank staff, lecturers, civil and electrical contractors vis-a-vis MP Devamani’s “type of people”.

    We all felt the same that we have been discriminated for far too long for the very reason of being born as Indians; and we were also very certain that MIC is no longer relevant for the Indians.

  3. #3 by budak on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 11:23 am

    Malaysian Indian and Chinese being systematically discriminated and marginalised… whose fault… ask yourself… please dont “rape” your own childs future and the beloved land anymore… VOTE BN OUT…!

  4. #4 by Jong on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 11:34 am

    Send out the tremors, it’s now or NEVER! Malaysians, let’s stay united, vote the thieves OUT!

  5. #5 by shaolin on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 12:56 pm


  6. #6 by sec on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 3:55 pm

    The Hindraf rally give a tremendous impact to BN government which is not kongsi kuasa within the component parties; it is only kongsi money for the leaders to acquire more wealth.
    The Umnoputra steal the opportunities of poor kampung Malay.
    The MCA sold Chinese right to the UMNO for personal interest.
    The MIC Samy Vellu- the biggest mosquito in Malaysia such all races blood; the toll rate forever increase.

  7. #7 by Joetan on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 4:46 pm

    The non-malays tears meant nothing to the arrogant UMNOputras.
    They will continue with their discriminate polcies despite all the cries for justice. Their greeds will never end. These UMNOputras wants to be rich and powerful without any hard work but only imposing these discriminate policies on the minorities.[deleted] We cant also count on their stooge like MCA and MIC to highlight the non-malays desperation cries for justice. We can only pray for the opposition parties and the international help to pressure these UMNOputras to change their discriminate policies.

  8. #8 by k1980 on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 5:04 pm

    “There is a very real risk of radical groups taking over the movement if the Malay government persists with its racially discriminatory policies”
    Angry ethnic Indians who marched in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to protest race-based discrimination in Malaysia carried portraits of Mahatma Gandhi as a symbol of their non-violent struggle.

    “But if their genuine grievances continue to be ignored, (Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers leader) Velupillai Prabakaran could soon replace Gandhi as their inspiration,”

  9. #9 by oknyua on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 5:29 pm

    P Ramasamy,

    I have some very close friends who are Indian descend. None, I say again, none had any good comment about the Toupee. Yet he is elected again and again and the whole MIC seemed to adore, not adore, but worship him. It’s beyond my undersanding.

  10. #10 by shaolin on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 6:34 pm

    The Indians got all the ill-treatments from the Govern-
    ment, the fate of all Non Malay Minority Groups is NOT
    any Better or may be worse..!!

    Except that the UMNOputras have NOT pull down all
    the temples yet…!!

    It is Not only ill-treating, the matter has become
    Religious Issues too…!!!

  11. #11 by Jonny on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 6:50 pm

    Yes, I think MIC and MCA are now irrelevant.

    The only thing i know of MCA is Micheal Chong, Cupid Dating, Life-Long learning.

    MIC? Maika shares only I know of.

    I’m not at the Hindraf peace gathering does not mean I do not support and sympathize. Well, MIC and MCA is just getting more and more irrelevant.

    Look at here:

    I thought the Govt got all the money to open up multiple super corridors.

    No money to relocate build a new chinese school?????

    Where has all the peruntukkan gone? Or there never was one in the beginning? That is the reason why the Chinese community is self-sufficient – they support and give back to the education needs.

  12. #12 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 8:49 pm

    talking about Maika, i remembered some of my staff who were still paying for their loans from one of the banks that gave them the loans after Maila went ‘kaput’. They had to do it with their pension money! Why? because one of their Indian ‘boss’ literally forced them to take the Maika shares!!
    Having left them so many years I wonder if they are still repaying their loans. As I have noted before, to the Indian community, you all have yourselves and your only HERO to blame for the last 20 plus years!! So long HE is there to represent your INTERESTS, there would be no change, EVER!!

  13. #13 by cheeran70 on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 9:12 pm

    Today, as I listened to the 8.00 PM Bulletin Utama with my ‘Big Ears’, I felt like wanna puke. Our PM was very emotional claiming himself to be a good muslim and always respect other religions and beliefs. Fine. I accept that. But, that alone is not enuf. Does UMNO respect other religions and beliefs? That was the first question that came to me as I listened our PM reading out the accusations HINDRAF placed against the Government. A lot of denial and play of ‘low tone’ was seen. All because they have strong ‘gatekeepers’ who allows their strong presence in front of the mike goes undeterred by anyone, while keeping the Oppositions (not necessarily the political parties but all those who oppose the BN) across their small perimeter of weekly or monthly news paper/Journals with the words ‘ONLY FOR MEMBERS’ printed in one corner of the paper. Our PM, Badawi has failed to explain the temple demolition issue, which I would say the avalanche of the HINDRAF’s demonstration. Being a Muslim means, be just to every citizen irrespective of race and religion. Majority of NON- Malays are not asking for the BUMI-PUTRA (ironically both BUMI and PUTRA are from ancient India language, SANSKRIT. Bumi = Earth, PUTRA – son) special privileges to be revoked, but only pleading that the Article 153 not be used to isolate the non-bumis from Economy, Education, Medical, Loan procurement, Vocational Trainings, Religions and Beliefs etc. For me, any attempt made to disrespect another man’s culture, beliefs or religions and his/her right to practice them is no less than ethnic cleansing. Man is made up of his culture, religion, language, beliefs, education and economical strength. Void of all these, man is nothing but a mere existence, an accidental one too. Don’t give us what you have, just don’t take anymore from us. That’s all my hope. There is something amiss regarding the Hindraf gathering. The government is playing down the issues brought out by Hindraf to a mere criminal stature. Lets think why, all these people gathered there against the government. Unless the government chose to ‘tutup satu mata’ and pretend that everything is all right and in order from A to Z.

  14. #14 by undergrad2 on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 9:58 pm

    “Indians on the March. Ignore at your own Peril”

    If this does not carry very strong racial overtones, I don’t know what does! Shouldn’t it have been “FREEDOM on the March. Do not ignore us”?

    I thought it was supposed to be a peaceful march but the threat if not overt is covert. Most will say it is the former. Threats in any form overt or covert is self-defeating – assuming the purpose is to get public attention to their plight and nothing more.

    Peace loving Malaysians are wary of anarchists among the demonstrators who have their own agenda. Their primary concern is not to an end to the marginalization of ethnic minorities in this country.

  15. #15 by undergrad2 on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 10:01 pm

    You won’t see this among say Mexicans demonstrating in the streets of Los Angeles “Mexicans on the March. Ignore at your Peril”

  16. #16 by undergrad2 on Saturday, 1 December 2007 - 11:14 pm

    “…but only pleading that the Article 153 not be used to isolate the non-bumis from Economy, Education, Medical, Loan procurement, Vocational Trainings, Religions and Beliefs etc.” cheeran70

    Taking this approach would remove the emotional element and make Malays more comfortable and not feel insecure about their own future. It becomes less confrontational and the game moves away from that zero-sum game that is being played again and again by leaders who only care for their immediate political future rather than the interest of the nation they now lead.

  17. #17 by Cinnamon on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 12:08 am

    Let’s get it straight. The crowd at KLCC was around 50,000. That is despite a large number were stopped from coming, example there were a few thousand locked at Batu Caves Temple.

  18. #18 by chgchksg128 on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 12:38 am

    Read what Bangkok Post columnist said of the Hindraf and racial discord in Malaysia.

  19. #19 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 2:30 am

    To revisit the issue of whether the HINDRAF (or BERSIH) demonstrations are legal or not legal, lawful or unlawful, without the police permit as required under the Police Act, here is EARNEST’s view on the issue:

    “Since the Constitution by Article 10(2) permits Parliament to enact laws like the Police Act to restrict Freedom of Assembly based on considerations of public security and order, the Police Act becomes perfectly and legally valid – unfaultable for its restricting of free exercise of the right of assembly under article 10(1)(b), such restriction not being in contravention of the Constitutional provision under Article 10(1)(b) on Freedom of Assembly. I cannot make it any clearer to you. If the Police Act is valid and unimpugnable by the Constitution, then the Bersig/Hindraf Rallies without a permit from it are illegal or unlawful.”

    I would like to put these questions to EARNEST which require a “Yes” or “No” answer:

    Q1. Should you organize a public demonstration tomorrow without the police permit as called for under the Police Act, would not the demonstration then be illegal.

    Q2. Should it be illegal since it is without a police permit, would you go ahead with it in any case?

    Q3. Would that not make your action unlawful?

    Q4. Could you then be arrested for breaking the law?

    Q5. Would your act of going ahead with the demonstration be wrong because it is illegal and the action unlawful?

    (NOTE: If your answer to all the above is “Yes” then there is no issue).

    If your answer to Q5 is “No” then

    Q6. Would your act then be right because conscience requires that you break the law for a greater good?

    Here I would like to quote what our PhD student Lee Wang Yen from the world’s second ranking university i.e. University of Cambridge has had to say earlier:

    “For those who have weighed the good that can come out of this illegal gathering against the potential damages and injuries and found that on balance the illegal gathering is still a greater good, they will and should support the gathering….”

  20. #20 by DarkHorse on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 7:08 am

    Good to know Lee is back!

  21. #21 by wits0 on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 7:25 am

    Bolehland lost it’s stealth mode in internal affairs with the recent events. (High time too!) There seems little chance of staying below the International radar screen henceforth.

  22. #22 by DiaperHead on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 10:56 am

    Where these Injuns marching? I thought Custer took care of it a long time ago.

  23. #23 by ktteokt on Sunday, 2 December 2007 - 3:12 pm

    The way things are going, not only Indians are going on the march but the whole of the nation’s citizens who have been deprived will join the march. Things have gotten far enough. The PM said he will be fair, so how can you be fair if the NEP is maintained? This is equivalent to treating Malaysians as NUTS!!!!

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