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Malaysia: Desperate Indians seek Mother Country's help
Jaishree Balasubramanian | December 09, 2007 18:50 IST
Having "exhausted" all legal avenues and other channels against alleged marginalisation, Hindraf, spearheading the protests by ethnic Indians in Malaysia, has appealed to New Delhi to stop the "ethnic cleansing" in the Muslim-dominated nation.
"Hindraf had exhausted all legal avenues and all channels. So we are going international. Now I want to go to mother country (India) to ask for help, what else can we do, where else do we go," P Uttayakumar, a founder member of the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf), said.
The lawyer-turned activist said ethnic Indians were by and large "fear riddled, timid and scared", but the largest-ever demonstration by the community last month showed that they wanted to be free from years of oppression and be heard.
"To me it is 50 years of marginalisation, suppression and oppression. It has been years of permanent colonisation of Indians in Malaysia. The floodgates just broke with the demonstration," Uttayakumar said.
Sitting behind a desk piled up with files and with the statuette of a blindfolded woman carrying scales of justice, Uttayakumar said the government was persecuting Hindraf for leading the protest.
"That is why they are persecuting and prosecuting Hindraf supporters," the lawyer said as his phones continuously rang.
He defended his statement about "ethnic cleansing of Indians in Malaysia" which had sparked angry reaction from the ruling party saying the situation was worse than the one in Bosnia where members of a community were selectively killed.
"In ethnic cleansing 'a la Malaysia' it is worse because you are living and suffering," Uttayakumar said. Uttayakumar alleged that Hindu temples were relocated near sewerage tanks and Indians were not given opportunities or had no upward mobility.
A police crackdown on at least 10,000 people during the November 25 protest against the alleged marginalisation of ethnic Indians had sparked uproar with India summoning the Malaysian envoy.
The Malaysian government has vehemently rejected allegations of discrimination against the community with Minister of Works Samy Velu, himself an ethnic-Indian, saying that the unemployed members were either "lazy or choosy". He also alleged that were lured by money to join the anti-government protest.
Uttayakumar, however, denied that the large turnout at the rally could have been prompted by people's hopes of getting a million $1 each.
"The November 25 rally caught the government by shock. I believe they would take stock but to what extent we have to wait and see," the Hindraf founder said, adding "we are asking for a change in mindset. We want to meet the prime minister."
"We will close down Hindraf if anyone can show that we promised them millions of dollars," he said.
Uttayakumar said the 31 Indians arrested on charges of attempted murder after the protest near Batu caves "did not make any sense".
"These people were all inside the temple praying and 500 policemen were outside. How could 31 people attempt to murder one policeman," he asked.
The protesters wanted to march to the British High Commission to hand over a memorandum. The memorandum blamed the British for bringing Indians to Malaya 200 years ago as indentured labourers and exploiting them.
"The memorandum asked the British Government to give the ethnic Indians in Malaysia British citizenship or give four trillion US dollars in compensation," Uttayakumar said. This amounts to almost one million dollars per Indian in this country.
He felt India could help ethnic Indians secure seats in Medical and IT institutions there and offer scholarships to Malaysian Indians for IT training. He added that he was proud to be a Malaysian Indian.