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HINDRAF or Hindu Rights Action Force ( ; Tamil: (இந்து உரிமைகள் போராட்டக் குழு (Hindu Urimaigal Poratta Kulu) / மக்கள் சக்தி (Makkal Sakthi)) is a coalition of 30 Hindu non-governmental organizations committed to the preservation of Hindu community rights and heritage in a multiracial Malaysiamarker. The group has led agitations against what they see as an "unofficial policy of temple demolition" and concerns about the steady encroachment of sharia based law.

In late 2007, several prominent members of the HINDRAF were arrested, some on charges of sedition; following an enormous rally organised by HINDRAF in November, the charges were dismissed by the courts. Five people have since been detained without trial under the Internal Security Act.

Demands in HINDRAF Memorandum

1. End 50 years of violations of the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

2. Try to End Racism, Islamic extremism and Malay privileges on the 50th year golden jubilee celebrations of Malaysian independence.

3. Call for affirmative action plans for all poor Malaysians including ethnic minority Indians.

4. All 523 Tamil schools to be made fully aided government schools.

5. All the aforesaid to e handled directly by the UMNO-controlled government and for UMNO to stop playing politics through the "Mandore" (Supervisor) system by abdicating Indian problems to the MIC.

6. 20% of the government top most level posts are reserved for the Indians for the next 15 years.

7. The UMNO-controlled government makes public and is transparent on all the aforesaid affirmative action plan including specifying the Indian beneficiaries thereto.

8. Stop the indiscriminate and unconstitutional demolitions of Hindu temples.

9. Stop the victimization and direct discrimination by the Police and all other state authorities of the Indians.

10. The UMNO-controlled government forms with immediate effect a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Kampung Medan mini genocide.

11. All homeless Malaysians are to be provided affordable homes and not low-cost flats by law.

12. A Race Relations Commission Act and an Equal Opportunities Commission Act to be enacted to end direct discrimination and racism in both the public and private sectors.

13. A minimum of 20 opposition members of parliament are elected exclusively by the Indian community to represent their interest at the highest political level.

14. Appeal to refer Malaysia to the world court and international criminal court for crimes against it’s own ethnic minority Indians.

Events

Arrests in October 2007

On 30 October, four HINDRAF Group fellows and human rights , namely M. Manoharan, P. Uthayakumar, P. Waytha Moorthy and S.Ganapathi Rao, K.Ulaganathan (their silent leader), were arrested and detained for taking part in the demonstration against the demolishing of a Hindu Shrine in Kuala Lumpurmarker. However, they were acquitted due to a lack of evidence of incitement and sedition.

Human Rights Forum

A series of peaceful weekend forums were organized throughout Malaysiamarker to increase the awareness of Hindu human rights by HINDRAF. A previous forum held near central Kuala Lumpurmarker had been disrupted by the Royal Malaysian Police, according to HINDRAF .Subsequently, HINDRAF appealed directly to the Inspector General of the Malaysian Police in an attempt to ensure future forums went on peacefully.

Arrests in November

On 23 November 2007, three HINDRAF, P. Uthayakumar, Waytha Moorthy, and V.S. Ganapathi Rao, were arrested and charged under the Sedition Act. However, in a series of repeated arrests and releases, the courts could not prove that they had incited racial hatred. The only evidence against them were unreliable translations of their Tamil speeches into Bahasa Malaysia presented by the Attorney-General's Chambers, which the courts deemed as unverifiable. Eventually, they were all acquitted due to a shaky prosecution and the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing or crime.

Petition and rally

On 30th August 2007, a class action on behalf of Malaysian Indians was filed at The Royal Courts of Justicemarker in Londonmarker to sue the UK Government for US$4 trillion (US$1 million for every Malaysian Indian) for bringing Indians as indentured laborers into Malaya, "exploiting them for 150 years" and thereafter failing to protect the minority Indians' rights in the Federal Constitution when independence was granted. As the group, which represents mainly working class Indo-Malaysians, could not afford the legal fees required, a petition was circulated with 100,000 signatures to be presented to Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom to appoint a Queen's counsel to argue the case.

HINDRAF organized a rally on Sunday, 25 November 2007 to submit the petition at the British High Commission. Malaysian police refused to grant a permit for the rally, and set up roadblocks in Klang Valley along roads leading up to the rally to screen motorists entering the city center and identify potential troublemakers. They also advised the public not to participate in the rally, and arrested three leaders of HINDRAF.

The police roadblocks started the week before the rally to create massive traffic jams across the city and the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur[575831]. The Malaysian Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang of the DAP pointed out that this high-handed act by the police was unnecessary as it caused major inconvenience to everyone[575832].

On the morning of the rally, an estimated twenty thousand people gathered near the Petronas Twin Towersmarker in Kuala Lumpurmarker, carrying life-size portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Mahatma Gandhi, to indicate the nonviolent nature of their protest. Five thousand members riot police dispatched to the scene used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds. 136 people were arrested.

Al-Jazeera's coverage of the event [575833] showed police officers using tear gas to disperse the protesters. A few hundred protesters and three police officers were injured [575834].

The protest at the Batu Caves resulted in minor property damages [575835], although the Hindu temple itself was not damaged[575836].

HINDRAF later claimed to have faxed the petition to the British High Commission staff. However, as of 28 November, the British Envoy had not yet received any petition from the HINDRAF, though they did say they had received some unspecified information by fax.

Response from the Government

Malaysian prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned that the government will invoke the Internal Security Act against the demonstrators if they needed. The prime minister further criticised the demonstrators, after he made a promise that he will listen to everyone even if they have unpleasant words to say, the government of Abdullah also attempted to link terrorism with the Hindraf rally via the media.

As of 11 December 2007, the HINDRAF leaders were all acquitted by the judicial courts due to lack of evidence and a flimsy prosecution case against their allegations. In order to contain the movement while not being able to charge them according to valid evidence-based legal processes, on 12 December 2007 Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi personally signed the detention letters to imprison the HINDRAF leaders under the ISA for two years, in which their detention terms are subject to infinite renewal. The reason given for this arrest was that the HINDRAF leadership has had links with international terrorist organizations such as LTTE and also supposedly militant organizations in the mould of RSS in India. The invocation of the ISA to capture the HINDRAF leaders was seen as a strategic move by the UMNO government to arrest the momentum generated by HINDRAF.

The UMNO lead Government has threatened the Malaysian Indian community with sweeping arrests under the Emergency Act and ISA (similar to Operasi Lalang of the 1987, which targeted anti-BN elements in Malaysia, mostly of Malaysian Chinese extraction). This hardline approach is also softened by the MIC reconciliatory approach to blunt HINDRAF's thrust as the champion of the Malaysian Indian community.

Response to the Detentions

Even as the Prime Minister started threatening to use the ISA against the HINDRAF leaders for bringing Malaysia's racist policies out into the open for all to see, foreign news outlets criticized Badawi's lack of initiative to tackle the root cause of the problem[575837][575838].

The detention without trial of the HINDRAF leaders drew negative comments in the foreign press about Badawi's administration and the poor way that they are handling the issue[575839][575840].

The Democratic Action Party, DAP, has vowed to challenge the detention of the HINDRAF leaders[575841][575842]. Despite the arrests, the Opposition and most of the Malaysian NGOs were unfazed and continued to challenge UMNO's deconstruction of democracy in Malaysia. The United States had also voiced their disapproval of this latest round of ISA arrests[575843].

The official HINDRAF website at http://www.policewatchmalaysia.com has been allowed by Malaysian ISPs again, after a brief ban. However this site is constantly plagued by faults and downtime. In response to the ban, sites such as http://www.hindraf.org, http://www.myhindraf.com were spawned to maintain awareness of this movement, in addition to the many blogs available. The movement started in Malaysia, has grown global and now has following in UK, Australia, Canada and USA.

There has also been candlelight vigils at Hindu temples throughout Malaysiamarker to protest the detention of five leaders of the HINDRAF. This was condemned by Malaysian minister Samy Vellu.

War of the Roses

The Rose to the PM campaign was mooted to present a humanistic element in HINDRAF's campaign. The central focus of this campaign was the delivery of a rose, as a symbol of love and compassion, to the Malaysian Prime Minister at the Malaysian Parliament by Vwaishnavi Wathya Moorthy (aged 5). This symbolic act was to occur on the 16th February 2008, but the Malaysian Lower House was dissolved for the Federal Elections on the 13th February 2008.

In a dramatic show of force, the police fired teargas and targeted water cannon at several hundred ethnic Indians at the centre of Kuala Lumpur. More than 200 people were detained by the authorities after being attacked by the police near the site of an Indian temple.

The Impact of HINDRAF on the 12th Malaysian General Elections

The 12th general Election showed how HINDRAF had become a significant trigger for a major change in the course of the country. The general dissatisfaction with the regime ruled by UMNO which had been brewing for some years was the kerosene and Hindraf Rally of the 25th of November was the tinder that sparked off the kerosene into a major explosion in what has come to be called a Political Tsunami in Malaysian politics.

The ruling UMNO led government lost its two thirds majority in Parliament and came close to getting just over half the seats in Parliament from the Peninsula. HINDRAF which had barely existed for 3 years up to that time, and which was barely known up till August 2007 suddenly had caught the mood of a large proportion of Malaysians, not only Indians and Hindus but the Chinese and a sizeable section of the Malays as well, causing a major upset in the process.

The process of significant change was indeed triggered by HINDRAF and the country finds itself at this time requiring to change but held back by the continuing conservative policies of the government.

HINDRAF declared illegal

After several warnings by the Malaysian government HINDRAF was officially banned on October 15, 2008, confirmed by Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.

In a statement issued at the ministry, Syed Hamid said the decision to declare HINDRAF as an illegal organisation was made following the ministry being satisfied with facts and evidence that showed HINDRAF had and was being used for unlawful purposes and posed a threat to public order and morality.

“Based on powers vested under Section 5(1) of the Societies Act, HINDRAF from today is declared an illegal organisation,” he said.

He said the order was being made as a result of monitoring and investigation on the organisation’s activities by the Registrar of Societies (ROs) and Home Ministry, since Hindraf’s inception.

The status of Hindraf movement, which had been declared illegal in Malaysia, will be reviewed if the organisation makes an appeal to the Home Ministry to reconsider the status.

More Detentions by the Malaysian Government

On October 23, 2008 a group comprising eight men, three women and a child, were arrested by the police after they tried to hand a memorandum to the Prime Minister's office. The memorandum called for the release of the five Hindraf leaders from detention under the Internal Security Act.
 It was discovered that Hindraf leader P.Waythamoorthy's six year old daughter was amongst the people arrested.


Government Releases HINDRAF leaders from ISA Detention

The remaining three Hindraf leaders and 10 others were freed from detention under the Internal Security Act but Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein declined to give reasons for the release. The three Hindraf leaders are P. Uthayakumar, T. Vasanthakumar and Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M. Manoharan. Two others were among 13 freed when Datuk Seri Najib Razak became prime minister on April 3, 2009. Self-exiled Hindraf leader P. Waythamoorthy said that the release of Hindraf leaders was a blatantly obvious move to divert the attention of the public from the Perak fiasco. “We are not thankful for the release of our lawyers under the ISA unless the government fulfills the 18 point demands that were submitted to the government in 2007,” he said in a statement from Londonmarker.

On May 17, 2009 Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar reiterated his stand not to return to the Kamunting Detention Camp despite being served a notice instructing him to return before the detention camp’s advisory board. It is learnt that the notice indicated the government’s intention of revoking his early release, due to his refusal to obey the conditions set for his release.

Formation of Makkal Sakthi Party

Several key HINDRAF members led by former HINDRAF national coordinator R.S. Thanenthiran have formed a new political party called Makkal Sakthi which they say will remain neutral and strive to meet the aspirations of the Indian community. However there have been accusations of the involvement and blessing of UMNO and Barisan Nasional the speed in which the new party has been registered by the Malaysian Registrar of Societies has raised questions about its expected political alliances.

See also



References

  1. Hindu group protests "temple cleansing" in Malaysia
  2. Asia Times
  3. Reuters.com
  4. Hindraf memorandum to UK Prime Minister :: Bernama.com
  5. 4 HINDRAF Founding Lawyers Arrested
  6. POLICE ATTEMPTS TO SABOTAGE HINDRAF FORUM IN SEMENYIH ON 6.10.2007
  7. Hindraf seek IGP protection for nationwide forums / assemblies
  8. [1] Subscription Required
  9. Time
  10. Cops forced to use tear gas, water cannons
  11. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/11/28/nation/19597270&sec=nation British envoy: No petition received
  12. The Straits Times: US defends peaceful protests in Malaysia
  13. Malaysian minister slams pro-Hindraf campaign - Yahoo! India News
  14. The Hindu : Front Page : Hindraf’s ‘roses campaign’ thwarted
  15. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080216/wl_asia_afp/malaysiaprotestsrights_080216164742
  16. Malaysia: Police Break Up Ethnic Indian Rally, Detain More Than 120 People | My Sinchew
  17. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/10/15/nation/20081015184431&sec=nation
  18. http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/legal/general_news/hindraf_declared_an_illegal_organisation.html
  19. http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/news_lite.php?id=364772
  20. http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/10/23/nation/20081023194129&sec=nation Hindraf members arrested in front of PM’s office
  21. http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Friday/National/2384293/Article/index_html Hindraf 11 held over illegal assembly
  22. http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/14190/84/ Waythamoorthy's wife, daughter and 10 other Hindraf supporters detained


Notes

  • Jawan, Jayum A. (2003). Malaysian Politics & Government, p. 43. Karisma Publications. ISBN 983-195-037-2



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