Tamil Nadu parties unmoved by plight of Tamils in Malaysia

Church ignores valiant Malaysian Tamils

Tamil Nadu parties are quick to hyperventilate over issues favoured by the Church, such as the alleged atrocities towards Tamils in Sri Lanka, wherein they are trying to force the Government of India to support a UN resolution censuring the island nation on the issue of human rights. The Church hand is visible in the fast by students of the missionary institution, Loyola College, over the issue.

To this day, no politician or political party has questioned why the leadership of the LTTE was Christian unless Tamil Eelam was a Church agenda. Nor have they wondered why Sri Lanka’s Tamil Hindus have not voiced dissatisfaction with their Government after the end of the war. Yet the Dravidian parties obediently follow the Church and assorted Western and West-funded NGOs.

Last year, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa benignly indulged Church backing of the agitation against the Russian-built nuclear plant at Kudankulam, until the crippling power crisis in the State forced a rethink, especially after the Prime Minister personally intervened in the matter. That the agitators were not opposing nuclear power, but only the Russian venture was evident from the posters erected at the site. Now, funding to the tune of Rs 30 lakhs has come from London, to a female activist with a bank balance of Rs 550! Would a woman with a near-zero bank balance have the savvy for internet banking? Obviously someone savvy gave the bank and account details and facilitated the transaction.

The ‘international consciousness’ of our expansive Tamil politicians crumbles and disappears in the face of the Himalayan problems of the Tamil diaspora that went to Malaysia as indentured labour in the colonial era and has since suffered crippling discrimination. Some years ago, the humiliated and persecuted community organised under the banner of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and waged such a valiant struggle that it may change the face of Malaysian politics.

Hindraf was banned in October 2008 for holding a 30,000-strong rally in Kuala Lumpur in November 2007 to protest the marginalisation of Indian Malaysians. The ban was lifted only in January 2013, and the party is now seriously trying to make a debut in Parliament in the forthcoming 13th general elections. Strange that there is not even a whisper of excitement or encouragement in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, their natal land.

It would be relevant to mention that this could be because the Malaysian diaspora is mainly Hindu, and devotedly loyal to the clan gods and Hindu deities and faith that their forefathers took with them to the new land. Hindraf, in fact, garnered much of its initial following for opposing the destruction of clan temples by the regime. Obviously, the Church will have no truck with such a body.

Of course, it is still an uphill struggle. Talks with the Pakatan Rakyat Opposition combine have not yielded an electoral pact despite six high-0level meetings between Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and Hindraf chief P Waythamoorthy, and over a dozen informal meetings. Pakatan has refused to endorse Hindraf’s five-year blueprint to include the Indian poor in mainstream development, in writing, as demanded by the organisation.

The Hindraf blueprint includes six demands: stop displacing Indian plantation workers and provide reasonable compensation as well as offer skills training to them; resolve Indian stateless issue; provide equal education opportunities to all Indian students via meritocracy; provide equal job and business opportunities to Indians; stop police brutality and death in custody and set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC); and stop institutionalised racism and ratify the United Nations convention against racial discrimination.

It also wants a Minority Affairs Ministry to be set up after the general election and for Hindraf to be given the ministry. Pakatan ally Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) had endorsed the blueprint as well as the demand for a Minority Affairs Ministry.

Hindraf swung the Indian votes in the 2008 general election and caused the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition to lose its two-thirds majority for the first time since 1973; it enabled the Opposition to win five states. But this time, it is going to be cautious, as it has suffered enough of Umno BN racism but is unwilling to be used by the opposition which has not openly declared its plans for the Indian community if it comes to power.

Hindraf and Human Rights Party (HRP) leader P Uthayakumar is planning to contest the Kota Raja parliamentary seat and Sri Andalas state seat that are currently held by Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud of PAS and Dr Xavier Jeyakumar of PKR respectively.

It also plans to contest in at least seven Parliamentary seats and 14 State Assembly seats where Indians comprise 28 per cent to 33 per cent of the voters. In all, Malaysian Indians comprise about 1.9 million (7.3 per cent) of the country’s 28 million population.

The big issue Hindraf is fighting for is the stateless Indians, a cause that brought the leaders to India for the Pravasi Bharat annual jamboree for a couple of years before they realised that their mother country had neither love nor empathy for their sufferings. There are around 450,000 Indians denied legal documents, who are thus rendered stateless and denied admission to schools, and thus deprived of the avenues of decent living and employment.

Aware of the importance of the Indian vote, Pakatan is trying to accommodate the issues raised in the Hindraf blueprint, such as the stateless Malaysian Indians and the welfare of displaced plantation workers, which it supports in principle. But it has not mentioned them in its election manifesto which was released in February 2013.

Why are Indians, particularly Tamils, turning their backs of this valiant community?

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Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain is a political analyst and independent researcher. She is the author of ‘Adi Deo Arya Devata- A Panoramic View of Tribal-Hindu Cultural Interface’ (Rupa & Co., 2004) and ‘Evangelical Intrusions. Tripura: A Case Study’ (Rupa & Co., 2009).