Malaysian Indians: A sad story

The HINDRAF rally to protest UMNO racism ended prematurely when police moved in to arrests its core  leaders today after arresting its leaders at the state level over the past week. According to The Malaysian Insider:

Police detained Hindraf founder P. Uthayakumar this morning ahead of a mass protest scheduled to take place at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) shopping centre from 9am.

And Malaysian Chronicle:

Malaysian police locked down the Kuala Lumpur City Centre area ahead of a planned demonstration by Indian rights activists. Not only has the head of Human Rights party P Uthayakumar been arrested but Hindraf protesters gathering at various destinations around town have also been detained without any reasons given.

HINDRAF was protesting the usage of a book titled Interlok as compulsory text in Malaysian schools. They claim it demeans and stereotypes the Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia. The book which is required reading for Malaysian students sitting for their O’ Levels equivalent examinations had sentences as below (translated into English):

Chinese sell their daughters

Indians in Malaysia are from the pariah caste

The book is also factually incorrect when discussing the socio-cultural context of the Indians in Malaysia.

The Human Rights party (HRP), a political party headed by the most prominent HINDRAF leader, P. Uthayakumar, compiles annually the atrocities suffered by the Indian community in Malaysia. It blames the Barisan Nasional government driven by UMNO’s “Malay Supremacy” ideology for the predicament that the Indian community in Malaysia is experiencing. In the words of P. Uthayakumar:

The Indians are still being marginalised…From womb to tomb they are riddled with fundamental problems. They are denied solid education, skills training, good employment opportunities and even a proper burial ground…This is our first rally against Umno racism particularly for the Indian poor. We have moved beyond Interlok to standing up against the most racist government in the world.

HINDRAF was credited as one of the major factors that led to the opposition gaining spectacular results in the 2008 General Elections.

About Greg Lopez

Greg Lopez is a research fellow at Murdoch University's School of Management and Governance, and New Mandala’s Malaysia and Singapore section editor.