| Singapore | 28 May 2017 | Asia Samachar |
Singaporean scholar Arunajeet Kaur has released a book on the Hindraf – a Hindu rights movement with the Makkal Shakti battle cry that made a huge impact in the 2008 Malaysian general elections – as the nation prepares to once again go to the polls.
Hindraf and the Malaysian Indian Community comes 10 years after a huge Hindraf rally that brought them to the attention of the nation. Today, however, many see it as a spent force after being cleverly broken up by the administration of Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak.
Asked if Hindraf will make a difference in the next Malaysian general election, Arunajeet tells Asia Samachar: “Hindraf over the years due to the imprisonment of its main leaders at key point, factionalism and other political parties taking on the Indian mandate of the Hindraf cause has led to a dilution of its efforts.
“Currently Hindraf is most effective a s a watch dog for Indian/Hindu minority causes. Furthermore the up coming elections is much more a fight for the Malay Muslim vote.”
On her main finding about Hindraf, she described Hindraf as a ‘bold and necessary point of action’ on the part of the Hindu Tamil community to fight for the community’s basic freedoms such as ID cards, better education facilities and opportunities as well as a human rights watch for Indians under police detention.
“This has also been a time when rising tide of Islamism has led to temple demolitions and body snatching cases. Hindraf was an apt act of resistance against these negative Muslim majoritarian forces,” she said in an email response.
Hindraf, short for Hindu Rights Action Force which ran with the slogan Makkal Sakthi or People’s Power, began as a coalition of 30 Hindu non-governmental organisations (NGOs) wanting to preserve the Hindu community rights and heritage in a multiracial Malaysia.
The newly released book intends to examine the post-colonial negotiations of the country’s Indian community’s economic, social and political rights by examining circumstance at peak historical moments, and the role of important individuals, primarily Indians themselves, in understanding the events that led to the Hindraf rally of 2007. It also questions the validity of Hindraf ’s assertions against the backdrop of history and Malaysian politics.
Arunajeet was conferred her PhD from the Australian National University in 2011. Her areas of research interest include migration, diaspora, identity, minority culture and labour. Currently she is at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University Singapore working on labor and migration within Asean.
She has previously co-published, The Migration of Indian Human capital; The Ebb and Flow of Indian Professionals in Southeast Asia, Routledge, 2010 and has written on the Sikhs in the policing of British Malaya and Straits Settlements: (1874-1957), VDM Publishing, 2009.
HINDRAF: A CREATION OF POST-COLONIAL FAULT LINES
In a note from the author, entitled ‘Hindraf – A creation of post- colonial fault lines’, it noted that in 2007, Hindu Tamils of Malaysia staged a historic rally in Kuala Lumpur against the Malay-Muslim majoritarian government.
“The gathering drew an unprecedented number of Tamils that were suppressed by the Malaysian government special forces using tear gas and water cannons on the crowd. The leaders of the protest were arrested by the authorities with charges of violent conduct.
“The primary catalyst to this expression of discontent by Hindu Tamils against the government was the rising tide of Islamism in Malaysia that often led to demolition of Hindu places of worship, and cases of body snatching. Other issues raised by the Hindraf protesters included the abuse of Indians under police detention, the conditions of the Tamil economic underclass in their country, and their lack-of-citizenship status due to their inability to apply for ID cards.
“At first glance, these issues appear to be indicative of a nation state, in this case Malaysia, confronting the challenges of managing its multi-racial societal ethos with Malays aggressively pursuing special status and privileges after independence, vis-a-vis the Chinese, Indian and other non-Malay populations, with racial differences being further exacerbated with the tide of rising Islamism after the Iranian revolution of the late 1970s.
“However a closer look, as flagged out by Hindraf in their filing of the 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 Indians unprotected and at the mercy of a majority Malay-Muslim government that has violated our rights as minority Indians”, paints a different picture.
“This Hindraf -type phenomenon is common in most post-colonial states where the British Raj made its decision to withdraw its power without resolving tribal cartographic claims, power hierarchies, traditional and communal rights, and legal entitlements of migrant communities.”
The author said the seminal work of Syed Hussein Alatas, The Myth of the Lazy Native, written in the 1970s highlights Malay sentiments at being typecast by colonial orientalists as being inadept at managing economic resources of their lands, and as a result holding an incompetent stake at governance of Malaya and the Malay archipelago.
“When the British granted Malaysian Independence in 1957, the Malays rallied, asserted and secured their special rights under Article 153 of the Constitution in the new nation state. This left the Chinese and Indian communities that had migrated to Malaya under the auspices the British Colonial economy in a compromised position,” she added.
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