Join Helen Ang in Revisiting the Hindraf Rally

Hindraf by Wei See(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.



5 responses to “Join Helen Ang in Revisiting the Hindraf Rally

  1. Principle, Direction and Steps
    The Slogan didn’t Match
    and Communication been bad!
    The Rally Bersih tries to lead
    to Fairness for ALL regardless of Race, Religion and Parties.

    Hindraf started with Race and Rights of Hindus at large.
    Even Haris wanted to help
    but Bersih afraid the big gap.
    In fact, both are on Human Rights track!!

    If they had communicated well and find Human Right the point to match,
    Bersih could had easily join to take Hindraf was fighting Human Rights but showing the problem they have instead!
    Hindraf could take the Rally as a continuation of Bershih walk but giving example of what they got!

    Many were concerned with the safety of Hindus

    Few try to find the similarities to match both Bersih and Hindraf
    so co-operation should be expected.

    If both have been promoting on same Principles and Direction and step to take,
    UNMO has to take both as a whole and not dividing the two instead!

    The same mistake is happening between DAP and Anwar.
    Both had not confirmed on similar Principle and Directions they will work!

  2. The Hindraf objectives cannot be met without removing all racist and religious bigotry, religious freedom for all including muslims, an independent judiciary, independent EC, independent ACA, the IPCMC, meritocracy and an FTA with the US and EU . Hence a thoroughly malaysian human rights and economic freedom agenda across the board which requires a massive restructuring.

    In other words back to the 1957 constitution without Article 153 and forward into the future with an economy freer than HongKong, which is currently the most free in the world.

    To put it another way, Hindraf and the Indians are an American, EU, China and India beachead on malaysia’s polity! Watch for these nations and our neighbours to go hard on Malaysia. What have Indians got to lose?

    Apart from elected MIC officials, there is hardly an Indian who is not supportive of Hindraf. As long as the Hindraf 5 is in, and Waytha is out in exile, Hindraf is alive. The govt is keeping it alive.

    The main contribution of Hindraf is that it has emboldened the malays and chinese who are moving to the opposition, knowing that the political equations has changed irreversible. Now everyone wants to register and vote, as suddenly it is now meaningful. Not just Chua Soi Leck has been caught with his pants down. It needs to be said that despite the DAP, right now the chinese have been caught offguard and are on the wrong side. They have been asked, with whom do you stand? Because a new non racist malay-indians nexus is being formed!

    Indians will not be a part of BN, a malay-chinese nexus! They have opted out of this old race based political formula, the end result of which was the marginalisation of Indians.

    the contrast of a “new non racist Malay-Indian nexus” vs the old “Malay-Chinese nexus” within BN is excellent.

  3. Simple Principle , Simple Law and Simple System to work
    Human Rights to start – Constitution must clearly state!
    Simple Law – in wording that everyone understands!
    Simple System – can easier set and control!
    How many job the government have? To have so many ministers as heads?

    Principle – accountability, transparency and responsibility. AG should have more power to take.

    Independent Judiciary – AG of this part must know their responsibility to take.
    ACA should cover IPCMC, or a number of Disciplinary would have to be set!

    FTA only when you are strong to trade, or, industry and agriculture could be smashed!

    Only an efficient government and society with open minded people with responsibility (ethics) can take up challenge of globalization to come!

    The concessionaires, communication, taxes, bully governments and social security in gray give it a stillbirth!!

    Only when People can put Race and religion to their own with Human Rights by Laws away from politics can start the future of Malaysia.

    Understand the Principle, direction and steps of a Fair GE, the first step to many positive changes ahead!

  4. Seeking Accountability, Hindraf – Downing Street 1st February 2008

    It was a real eye opener, reading all those earnest posts from bloggers. HINDRAF was roundly criticized, because it spoke up for Hindus!
    “Why not all Indians?”
    “Why not all non Muslims?”
    “Why not, all Malaysians who oppose this, amoral UMNO led dictatorship?” they ask.
    The realization that the Tamil poor, the poorest of the poor, their desperate plight does not even impinge on the radar of consciousness of the vast majority of the people of the country let alone the UMNO government and its MIC stooges was indeed heart rendering! The abiding melancholy that haunts the Tamil poor does not seem to register with the masses.
    Do the populace not understand the pain and anguish, of the Hindus, in seeing those who hold their race and religion in contempt; send in their hateful ‘storm troopers’ to raze their temples? Do they not see the humiliation and insult, of their place of worship being destroyed to give way to massage parlours and prostitution dens? Do they not understand the mocking offers to site their place of worship on/by/beside sewerage plants?
    Do they not recognize the systematic ‘ethnic cleansing’ (of not, just Hindus but) non Muslims from participation in the Nation’s, educational and institutional arenas, based on economic, nationalist and racist claims to the land and power (‘Ketuanan Melayu’)?
    Yes! Ethnic cleansing is more then genocide. In Bosnia and Herzegovina it began just this way, – they did not – just wake up one morning and decided to do away with fellow citizens of a given race and religious group.

    And yes! It is a Hindu issue, but as Martin Niemoller put it;

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.
    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.
    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.
    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I wasn’t a Jew.
    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

    So I hope fervently, that this is, but one small step towards accountability and justice for the many.
    Many bloggers too, laughed, ridiculed and express outrage at the law suit the HINDRAF has put before the British Courts. I think that the law suit was truly ingenious and inspiring. It has mobilized the Tamils; it has globalized their plight. They no longer want to be hapless victims crying in the wilderness.

    J. Pirenne in his ‘History of the Universe’, published in Paris in 1950, wrote ” In the middle of the seventeenth century the riches of Asia were incomparably greater than those of the European states. Her industrial techniques showed a subtlety and a tradition that the European handicrafts did not possess. And there was nothing in the more modern methods used by the traders of the Western countries that Asian trade had to envy. In matters of credit, transfer of funds, insurance, and cartels, neither India, Persia, nor China had anything to learn from Europe.”

    For almost 200 years, there was a systematic transfer of wealth from India to Europe. Although Britain may have been the primary beneficiary, it’s allies in Europe and the new world benefited no less. British Banks used their Indian capital to fund industry in the US, and elsewhere in Europe. The industrial revolution and the development of modern capitalism was based on the colonization of India (‘the jewel in the crown’) and the rest of the world. It was the forced pauperization of the colonized world and the vast network of indentured Indian labour that allowed nations such as Britain, Europe and the US to industrialize and “modernize”.

    Here then, is the explication of the vulnerability of Tamils to the colonial onslaught – especially so after the famines (1877- 1880) which led to the exodus of indentured labour to Malaya.
    It was indentured labour from Tamilnadu that carved out the vast tracks of land from jungles and swamps, to cultivate rubber. Rubber was not a native plant to Malaya. Mile upon mile, in the most inhospitable terrain and weather the Tamils toiled. Hostile conditions and diseases like Malaria killed many. The same, with sugar and tea plantations. Malaya was from then on the largest, producer of rubber and exporter of tin in the world. The roads and the railways to transport all these commodities were the product the back-breaking toil of Tamils.
    Abolition of the Slave Trade of Black Africans is often presented as being the result of a grand moral crusade that shook Western thought; but the reality is it continued with Indians from the subcontinent, in all but name.
    Surely it is our right to seek accountability. The departing British left us with Article 153. The social contract is meaningless and obsolete. All we are left with is the ‘insolence of power’ that the ruling UMNO elite, daily demonstrate to the detriment of its non Muslim and Muslim population and the country at large.
    A Nation’s greatest resource are her people – ALL OF HER PEOPLE! I hope we are not too late.

  5. copy

    MALAYSIA: AN ORANG UTAN LET LOOSE IN PARLIAMENT,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Hon’ble Ms Baleka Mbete
    Parliament South Africa
    Cape Town

    Mr Ian Harris
    The Department of the House of Representatives
    PO Box 6021
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Ms Geradine Tan
    Snr Programme Director
    938 LIVE Mediacorp

    Ketua Pentadbir
    Parlimen Malaysia
    Jalan Parlimen
    Kuala Lumpur 50680

    Your Excellency,
    Greetings. May peace and prosperity accompany you always.

    A member of the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional, Bung Mokthar Radin exhibited an obscene sign with his fingers during a session of Parliament. This barbarian did not care that there were ladies in the chamber. Please take into account the mentality of these types if you have any business to do with the Parliament of Malaysia.

    We are told that the the chimpanzee and the gorilla are in danger of extinction. You would be doing us a favour by taking away this orang utan, shutting him up in a cage and allowing him to interbreed. This expedient may avert the extinction of the two species.

    Thank you

    r m
    kuala lumpur, malaysia

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