(Photo: Chan Wei See)
Nearly seven weeks after the November 25 rally, is it not the time to revisit and reflect on Hindraf’s strategies and approaches? Malaysiakini columnist Helen Ang has written a two-part postmortem analysis (and here) of the watershed rally.
Below is my take on the related scenarios.
Without any doubt, the Hindraf Rally is one of the milestones in the history of ethnic relations in Malaysia. As many have witnessed and aptly described, it has liberated the minds of many Indian Malaysians, which for 50 years have given the most loyal support to the UMNO-led coalition.
I doubt the arrest of its five leaders under ISA will kill the movement. It certainly has not killed the spirit of countless Hindraf supporters out there.
In fact, BN may soon regret the arrest of Hindraf 5. By depriving their ethnic leaders, it has paved way for the angry Indian grass-roots to seek political expressions beyond their ethnic boundary.
Mind you, Anwar Ibrahim and his party are not the only non-Indian political force standing to gain from this. I was told that a PAS rally recently in rural Selangor attracted a crowd of 1,500, of which 1,300 were Indians.
Logically, the more the Hindraf rank-and-file do so, the more rational it would be for the BN to release their leaders so that hopefully they will keep the cause Indian and prevent it from merging into a Malaysian one demanding for across-the-board changes.
Such hope may be slim and unrealistic as most political dissidents will only be more anti-BN rather than pro-BN after detention under ISA.
Beyond personal vengeance, this may explain why Mr Nallakarupan is now busy attacking Anwar and PKR when almost all Indians I have spoken to are pointing their fingers to MIC and UMNO.
Also, no one knows yet what would the political impact of Mr S. Krishnasamy’s murder be. (May he rest in peace and may his family find strength in their grief.) That may change many things too.
If nothing can arrest the attrition of Indian support for BN, UMNO now may really regret for taking it for granted for the last 50 years. We may for the first time have a semi-united opposition camp that is more multiethnic than the BN. This would severely weaken BN’s legitimacy and value as the inter-ethnic arbitrator and ultimately the legitimacy and capability of UMNO to rule this multiethnic country.
Take stock at this point and look back – how should we value the Hindraf rally? Is there anything that could have been done to make it more successful – says, making it the Malaysian version of March on Washington in which members the oppressed minority walking side by side with their brethrens and sisters from other communities?
Some think that the articulation should have taken a completely non-communal approach because the marginalization of Indians is in fact a class issue. Others would argue that Indians across classes are discriminated, reducing it to a pure class issue fails to address the multifaceted pointers of marginalization: religious (Hindu), cultural (Tamil-speaking), economic (middle-lower class) and it may also fail to awaken and activate the masses.
If you value the Hindraf rally more than a sudden outburst of emotion suppressed for decades, if you expect it to live up to the spirits of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, there are serious questions of principles and also of strategies to ponder.
One important question to start off is to look at how dissidents and critical views coming from friends were treated amongst Hindraf supporters.
In the blogsphere, Haris Ibrahim was the opinion shaper who objected the rally for two grounds: firstly, it ethnic appeals; and, secondly, his fear of an ethnic riot ala May 13, which he later apologized for.
He suffered a smear campaign for his objection. The simplest explanation for his objection of the rally: he is a Malay. Many Malay commentators did condemn Hindraf. But here you have a Malay – Haris would explain that he is only genetically half-Malay and psychologically see himself only as a Malaysian – who drove hundred of kilometers to defend a Hindu temple from demolition.
How could we come to such a simple reasoning that one’s ethnic and cultural background must determine how one would think and act? Are we fighting UMNO’s ethnic politics with an UMNO-like mentality?
If you value the Hindraf rally more than a sudden outburst of emotion suppressed for decades, if you expect it to live up to the spirits of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, I invite you to read Helen’s excellent pieces (and here) which also discuss the link between the demonization of Hindraf and the campaign to boycott mainstream media.