|Formation||19 July 2009|
|Purpose||Preservation of Hindu community rights and heritage|
|Coalition of Hindu non-governmental organisations|
Makkal Sakthi |
HINDRAF or Hindu Rights Action Force (Malay: Barisan Bertindak Hak-Hak Hindu, Tamil: இந்து உரிமைகள் போராட்டக் குழு, Chinese:兴权 ) with its slogan of People's Power (மக்கள் சக்தி translated as Makkal Sakthi ) began as a coalition of 30 Hindu non-governmental organisations committed to the preservation of Hindu community rights and heritage in a multiracial Malaysia. HINDRAF has made a major impact to the political landscape of Malaysia in staging the 2007 HINDRAF rally. 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. The group has over the last two years developed a broader political program to preserve and to push for equal rights and opportunities for the minority Indians. It has been successful in continuing to focus attention on the racist aspects of the Malaysian Government policies.
Between April to May 2006, several legal Hindu temples were demolished by city hall authorities in the country. On 21 April 2006, the Malaimel Sri Selva Kaliamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur was reduced to rubble after the city hall sent in bulldozers.
The Hindu Rights Action Force or HINDRAF, a coalition of several NGO's, have protested these demolitions by lodging complaints with the Prime Minister of Malaysia but with no response. Many Hindu advocacy groups have protested what they allege is a systematic plan of temple cleansing in Malaysia. The official reason given by the Malaysian government has been that the temples were built illegally. However, several of the temples are centuries old. According to a lawyer for HINDRAF, a Hindu temple is demolished in Malaysia once every three weeks.
Arrests in October 2007
On 30 October, four HINDRAF Group fellows and human rights, namely M. Manoharan, P. Uthayakumar, P. Waytha Moorthy and V. Ganabathirau, were arrested and detained for taking part in the 2007 HINDRAF demonstration against the demolishing of a Hindu shrine in Kuala Lumpur. However, they were acquitted due to a lack of evidence of incitement and sedition.
Human Rights Forum
A series of peaceful weekend forums were organised throughout Malaysia to increase the awareness of Hindu human rights by HINDRAF. A previous forum held near central Kuala Lumpur 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. Ganabathirau, 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 31 August 2007, the 50th anniversary of Malaysia's independence, P. Waytha Moorthy, a HINDRAF lawyer filed a class action suit against the Government of the United Kingdom at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for US$4 trillion (US$1 million for every Malaysian Indian) for "withdrawing after granting independence and leaving us (Indians) unprotected and at the mercy of a majority Malay-Muslim government that has violated our rights as minority Indians" as guaranteed in the Federal Constitution when independence was granted.
The lawsuit is not only claiming 4 trillion British Pounds as compensation, it is also seeking to strike out Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution which acknowledges Malay Supremacy and for the court to declare that Malaysia is a secular state and not an Islamic state as declared by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who is quarterly of Indian-Muslim descent.
As the group, which represents mainly working class Malaysian Indians, could not afford the legal fees required, a petition was circulated with 100,000 signatures to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II to appoint a Queen's Counsel to argue the case. The purpose of the rally was to hand over a 100,000 signature memorandum to the British Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
HINDRAF organised the 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 centre and identify "troublemakers". They also advised the public not to participate in the rally, and arrested three leaders of HINDRAF. Many shops around Kuala Lumpur including Suria KLCC were closed on that day in fear of trouble from the rally.
One day before the rally, police arrested three HINDRAF lawyers, P. Uthayakumar, P. Waytha Moorthy and V. Ganabathirau for sedition charges. Uthayakumar and Ganabathirau posted bail of 800 Malaysian ringgits each, but Waytha Moorthy refused bail as a sign of protest.
The police roadblocks started the week before the rally to create massive traffic jams across the city and the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. 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.
On the morning of the rally, an estimated twenty thousand people gathered near the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, 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 showed police officers using tear gas to disperse the protesters. A few hundred protesters and three police officers were injured.
The protest at the Batu Caves resulted in minor property damages, although the Hindu temple itself was not damaged.
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, Najib Tun Razak 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. 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 organisations such as LTTE and also supposedly militant organisations 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 Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi 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 criticised Badawi's lack of initiative to tackle the root cause of the problem. The detention without trial of the HINDRAF leaders drew negative comments in the foreign press about Badawi's administration and the poor way that the Government of Malaysia were handling the issue.
The Democratic Action Party vowed to challenge the detention of the HINDRAF leaders. Despite the arrests, the opposition and most of the 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.
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 Malaysia 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 16 February 2008, but the Malaysian Lower House was dissolved for the Federal Elections on 13 February 2008.
In a dramatic show of force, the police fired teargas and targeted water cannon at several hundred ethnic Tamils 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 one of the triggers 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 25 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 Tamils and Hindus but the Chinese and a sizeable section of the Malays as well, causing a major upset in the process.
Hindraf and the Tamil Tigers
Hindraf was also accused for having so called association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam although no evidence or reports were released later by respective parties regarding the accusation. It was reported that Hindraf has had meetings with the Tamil Tigers in numerous of occasion. According to the former Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan stated that there are signs that the group was trying to garner support from the Tamil Tigers.
Hindraf declared as illegal organisation
After several warnings by the Malaysian government HINDRAF was officially banned on 15 October 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.
More detentions by the Malaysian government
On 23 October 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.
On 27 February 2011, HINDRAF organised a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur protesting against the government's decision to include the Malay language novel Interlok in the school curriculum as compulsory reading for the Malay literature subject for students in secondary 5. HINDRAF alleges that Interlok contained disparaging remarks against Malaysian Indians and is deemed racist. The police arrested 109 people for allegedly taking part in an illegal demonstration.
The ban imposed on this minority right group was later lifted by the Malaysian Home Ministry on 26 January 2013 and on 8 March 2013 the Malaysian Registrar of Societies had approved the registration of Hindraf. Recently on 18 April 2013, fractions of Hindraf which were led by P. Waythamoorthy signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with BN in which they would work together to uplift displaced estate workers, resolve the issue of stateless persons and provide business opportunities thus bringing poor Indians into the mainstream of the country's development while others spreading out to parties within the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), mostly to DAP or PKR
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