Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hindraf - Bane Upon The Nation

By Dr Chandra Muzaffar, in Tehran Times.

No single episode in Malaysian society in recent years has had such a negative impact upon Indo-Malay ties as the actions and allegations of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). Its reckless, scurrilous allegations have hurt and angered a lot of Malaysians in all walks of life.

It is utterly ludicrous to accuse the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) government of embarking upon the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Indian community. Is there an organized, systematic attempt on the part of the state to eliminate the Indian minority, which is what ethnic cleansing is all about? Do Hindraf leaders even understand the term and what it implies?

By the same token, how can one talk of the marginalization of the entire Indian community? While it is true that 2.9 percent of Indian households live below the poverty line -- the national average is 5.7 percent -- aren’t Indians well represented in the middle and upper echelons of society? They constitute 11.5 percent of the professional and managerial class, which is above the percentage of the Indian population in the country, which stands at 8 percent.

For a community which does not command a majority in any parliamentary or state constituency in the country, Indians are not only members of parliament and state assemblies but also occupy places in the federal government and in most state executive councils (state cabinets). They are executive council members even in those states where the Indian component is less than 5 percent of the population. Would a government that is bent on marginalizing and cleansing Indians accord such a significant role -- in relation to its population percentage -- to the community in national and state politics?

If the government pursued a goal as diabolical as ethnic cleansing, would the principal language of the Indian Malaysian community, namely Tamil, be a medium of instruction in the government-managed national primary school system? Would Tamil be a language medium in the public broadcasting system? Would Deepavali, the main religious festival of Indian Hindus, be observed as a national holiday? Would a community that has been completely marginalized and is threatened with ethnic cleansing be able to practice their religion and their culture in relative peace and harmony? If Hindus are facing annihilation, how does one explain the glaring fact that in the state of Selangor, on a per capita basis, there are more Hindu temples than mosques and suraus (small prayer halls) put together? The total Hindu-Indian population in the state is about one quarter of the total Malay-Muslim population.

Even on the demolition of a Hindu temple in Shah Alam on November 15, 2007 -- the one issue that triggered a massive emotional backlash against the government -- Hindraf leaders and their supporters have been less than honest. It was not widely made known within the community that the temple was on private land and that the developer had offered cash assistance to the temple committee to build a new temple on an alternative site. The temple was not the only place of worship that was brought down; a surau was also demolished. In most instances, when temples or other places of worship are forced to yield to development projects, alternative sites are made available.

As structures, temples in particular are somewhat problematic since a number have been constructed without obtaining prior approval from relevant local authorities. Because they are illegal structures, the authorities have been forced to act. This is a problem which the Malaysian government had sought to address more than two decades ago. A committee was established under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office in 1980 comprising government officials and NGO leaders (I was a member of that committee) to formulate guidelines on the construction of places of worship. Unfortunately, these guidelines have been breached on numerous occasions by both representatives of the religious community concerned and local authority officials.

Instead of explaining the complex sensitivities involved in the whole question of the construction and demolition of temples, Hindraf appears to have exaggerated and distorted the real issues at stake. Together with other issues such as Hindu-Muslim legal tussles over conversion and custody, the deaths in police custody of some Indian prisoners, and the Kampong Medan incident of 2001, demolitions have provided grist to the Hindraf mill. They have served to fuel baseless allegations about the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the community.

At this juncture, we should ask why Hindraf leaders and certain politicians have chosen to dramatize specific -- sometimes legitimate -- grievances via wild allegations about ethnic cleansing and marginalization. Dramatizing the alleged ‘oppression and suppression of a people’ through exaggerated claims is a technique which unscrupulous individuals and groups resort to in order to win popular sympathy. They also serve to smear and shame one’s target -- in this case the UMNO-led government and perhaps indirectly the MIC leadership.

What this suggests is that there may also be a political motive. Of the three communities in Peninsular Malaysia, it is the Indian community which has, in the course of the last three decades, provided near unanimous electoral support to the Barisan Nasional. With the twelfth general election just around the corner, certain politicians linked directly or indirectly to Hindraf are perhaps seeking to weaken the BN’s electoral strength by exploiting genuine Indian grievances against the government.

Whatever the motives, the genuine grievances of the community should be addressed in a sincere and rational manner. Some of them I have alluded to. Others are linked to the ethnic approach to nation-building, the camouflage of the underclass in Malaysian society, the limited scope for democratic protest, the role of Indian political leadership, and the long-term debilitating consequences of a plantation culture upon a segment of the community. To resolve these and other challenges, there has to be a truly national effort that goes beyond ethnic perspectives.

But how can one expect the nation to commit itself to such a mission when Hindraf’s communal pronouncements and postures have poisoned the atmosphere?

***** This blog has over the past few weeks given prominence to Hindraf-related reports, mostly in its favour. The above commentary by the internationally known and respected Dr Chandra Muzaffar makes for compelling reading and gives a different perspective to all the issues raised by Hindraf. While I agree with all the answers that he has given
in a clear and concise manner to the sticking points in Hindraf's arguments, I personally feel that he has trivialised the 'bread-and-butter' issues which Indians confront daily with a less than benevolent government. If the Umno leadership can bring itself to accept this fact and then sort out these problems rationally, it will be the BN that will benefit more than Hindraf or anyone else.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Chandra is bitter about PKR, prob getting back?
2. I believe that to say the "ethnic cleansing" are unfounded before any police investigation is contrary to proper procedures. If a police report is lodged, it should be investigated. If then found to be baseless, the police can then charge the person for lodging a false report, etc.

I am not surprised that Hindraf complained to the UK, UN, etc because just look at our Govt's reaction and even Chandra's jumping-the-gun speculative conclusions. Has he examined the evidence?

Why did Hindraf claim there was "ethnic cleansing"? Why wasn't there a Royal Commission on Kg Medan - the facts are still murky to me? What about ethnic Indians dying in police lock-ups?

Let's put it this way, with the current flow of information/truth, they could be slaughtering Indians and burying them at estates and we wouldn't even know?

And will the mostly Muslim Malay police protect non-Muslim-Malays?

Beyond race, power and money talks the loudest in Malaysia? Look at the number of high profile murder cases with no convictions.

I strongly believe that Malaysians should learn to draw conclusions based on EVIDENCE, not speculation, hearsay or their own prejudices based on their worldview.

Just cos a claim sounds absurd, it may not necessarily be.


11:39 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeah, he wrote to the star too.

11:39 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am not trying to fan the racial fire but why can't ethnic communities voice their grievances?

i am kinda bored with all this "malaysian" rhetoric when UMNO is clearly not into "bangsa Malaysia".

so we, the minorities, are supposed to shut up while our basic human rights and dignity are exploited.

come on man, there are people in estates without proper documents. what does that show?

everytime an ethnic minority, actually Malays are not really such a huge majority at about 60%, including the "imports" ala project IC. so the not to minor minorities have quite a lot of reason to make noise.

only UMNO can rant and rave above shedding chinese blood, revoke our citizenship, balik cina/india, yadda yadda

what a bunch of FASCISTS!

11:46 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Andrew Raj said...

Yes man. We are normal humans, therefore we should be treated equally. Why is there such thing as Bumiputera Special Rights ?? Is it that Malay can't survive without special rights ??

And by the way, if you follow the statistics given by our government, you will go wrong man. All your statistics are wrong my friend. Don't depend on some fake info. Go and check it out for yourself to see if its true.

In one whole university intake, in a certain year, only one Indian student is taken for medical. Is this the percentage which Indian's are suppose to get ?? All the smart student's don't get what they want.

1:45 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous SM said...

This is a very dangerous article because the good Doctor is using Statistics that are unsubstantiated.
Only one Temple in Shah Alam was torn down? That Temple was probably the "Straw that broke the Camel's back". There were other Temples torn down before the Shah Alam Temple.
The mistake that the HINDRAF leadership made was that they used the words "Ethnic Cleansing"! There is no Ethnic Cleansing in Malaysia.
There is just Corruption, Cronysism, Injustice, Unfairness, Religious Exremeism and the list goes on & on! However, all this is "covered up" by using words like "Racial Harmony"!

3:56 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Look Who is Talking said...

Let me tell you, I never trust people who stab the back of others.

Chandra Muzaffar was born as an Hindu and raised with Indian Culture. Half way, something short circuit happened and he converted to Muslim. Now he plays the Sandiwara of a Malay Muslim.

Long story cut short, Mamak like Chandra is a learned fool. Now suddenly he is talking about parliament representation and other crap.

Let me tell you something, things in Malaysia should be like Australia. If a government screws it up, we screw the government by voting the opposition irrespective of religion, race or creed.

The statistics that Dr. Mamak Chandra provided is absolutely ridiculous. Suddenly a person who is of Indian origin, talking as if he is Malay for umpteenth centuries.

Dr. Mamak, I am sure you know fundamental human rights. You know that people should be able to voice their grievance. What were you doing in PKR last time? Well you wanted to challenge the government on its policies, right.

Dr. Mamak you are a hypocrit. You converted just to enjoy the Bumiputra benefits. I have seen so many specimens like you in malaysia.

People like Zainuddin Maidin, Mamak Naina Reezal marican, Hassan Marican, The Bow Tie Minister, Mydin Store Mamak, and many more Mamaks are backstabbers among the Indian Community. When it is good to be Malay, they sing the the Malay tune. In India,they sing the Indian tune. You people are absolute chameleons. Shame on you.

Before you say a structure is illegal, did u investigate the means the land was obtained. The structure might have been there for 100 years but you dirty fools bribed and obtained the land title a few days before. Look at Mr. Derus the Klang municipal councillor. How could a KTM gate keeper can get so much of money to build a mansion. Absolute corruption. You think we Malaysians are stupid.

You said, cash assistance were offered. Excuse me, nothing is binding unless it is documented in black and white and stamped. You are such a fool to accept an offer which is legally not binding. Well, Doctor Mamak, the lawyers knew that the offer wasn't binding, hence they advised the people not to leave the temple. You are a hypocrit.

Your concept that people win parliamentary seats purely on racial ground is absolutely valid in Malaysia. It is so ridiculous, that talent and capability are not used as a yardstick to choose a leader. Instead of promoting capabilities, you are again referring to selection on racial lines. People, if Kulasegaran can win eventhough it is a Chinese dominated constituency, that is a proof that, good people can win. Your facts are wrong.

We will see, when you die, your parents who are Hindu want to come and see your body. YOur wife and her Muslim associates would hide the body. The poor Hindu parents are going to cry, because they can't pay the last respect to their son. You are an absolute idiot, Dr.Chandra.

We will see, that your so called pahala would send you directly to hell.

4:57 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoy Chandra, you hypocretin, go read Lee Kuan Yew's Memoirs for facts stupido. UMNO , Razak, Albar, Senu were behind the 1964 race riots in Singapore. What happened then happens in Malaysia.

Pox on you, hypocretin

5:16 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this chandra guy living in ivory castle? 2.9% of indians living below poverty line?
goosh, which community has the highest suicide rate? the highest alcoholism rate? the highest death rate in police custody? the highest number in crime rates?
ask yourself why? even if there is an offer of private land or not, they were asking just for a deferment of a couple of days after deepavali? is that too much to ask? why dont they even listen to samy, the king?
if HINDRAF doesnt strike a chord in the hearts of the supporters, do you think MIC is scare stiff now? do you get teh same kind of support during your political days, chandra? if not, look at the mirror yourself. are you too smart for the downtroddens?

10:29 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former Hindu you should know how Hindus respect their deities and not speak for people who cannot respect another's religion.
You got out of marginalisation by converting but that does not mean we Hindus have to suffer being treated as 3rd class citizens and shut up. Take out the chandra from your name as at least then people would not know you are a traitor to your people. Mind you Your people - despite what you may imagine yourself to be.

4:43 AM GMT+8  

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