Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TheStar -Tempers rage over Hindu temples issue- by Baradan K

TheStar -Tempers rage over Hindu temples issue

Tuesday September 30, 2008

THE Opposition won and formed the government in Selangor, Penang and Perak some seven months ago €“ but the highly emotional issue of temples and Tamil schools remains unresolved.
Indians in the three states had overwhelmingly backed the opposition Pakatan Rakyat and the key issue that rallied them against the Barisan Nasional government was the demolition of a 100-year-old temple in Shah Alam on the eve of Deepavali last year.
Both the MIC and the Barisan government suffered massively in the subsequent backlash from angry Indians.
But increasingly, the community is also getting disenchanted with the new state governments over their handling of the two issues the Indians hold sacred €“ temples and the future of Tamil schools.
The threat by Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam, a vocal defender of Indian rights, to resign as the deputy liaison chairman of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Selangor is a case of deep-seated frustration breaking out into the open.

Manikavasagam, or Mike as he is popularly called, has announced that he wants an apology from the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council for the demolition last week of the Sri Maha Kaliamman temple there.

It is a small temple by size but its demolition is having a major emotional impact in the Indian community, with even Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy issuing a stinging e-mail from self-imposed exile in London, lashing out at the Pakatan governments.
MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu is also milking the community anger, lashing out at the Opposition-ruled state governments for failing to keep to their promise not to demolish Hindu temples.

All three Tamil dailies had headline stories yesterday that Manikavasagam had resigned as Selangor PKR deputy chief.
They said he wanted an apology from the council €“ a move that puts the state government in a spot.
A posting on Manikavasagam’s website had a breaking news item (www.mpkapar.com/manikavasagam/posts/breaking-news-manikavasagam-resigning) confirming that he had resigned in protest and wanted an apology.

He is unhappy that the state government was unable to enforce a ban on temple destruction, despite promising Indians it would safeguard their heritage.
Manikavasagam’s relationship with Selangor exco member Dr Xavier Jeyakumar has also become rocky after the temple demolition and other issues.
He accused Dr Xavier of failure to “defend the temples.”
Dr Xavier had said last week the temple that was demolished was unregistered, but stopped short of saying this was the reason it was demolished.
He also blamed the council for not getting the permission of the state government to pull down the temple and has asked for a report.

He also reportedly said the episode was a “small issue” and urged Indians to look at the larger picture of what the Pakatan government was doing for the community.
There’s a problem with that because for Hindus, temples are no small issue and there is no picture larger than the pillars of Tamil society €“ temples, Tamil language and Tamil schools.
It was Indian anger over the perceived failure by the Barisan government on these cardinal matters that sparked the Hindraf tsunami, which the Opposition political parties rode to victory.
There are rumblings in the Pakatan-ruled states over the failure to solve key issues like saving the so-called “illegal” temples from demolition, land for more temples and Tamil schools, and the right to build new Tamil schools.

Up to now, no new Tamil school has been built, and land for temples and schools are scarce although Pakatan leaders have made promises to look into the matter.
The bulk of the resentment in the Indian community over these “failures” comes from the Tamil working class that usually frequents the smaller temples, mostly sitting “illegally” on state land.
It is their temples that are constantly under threat and up to now, neither the Barisan or Pakatan governments have offered a lasting and comprehensive solution.
The many larger temples that dot every major town in the country are owned and managed by upper-class Indians and except for a few instances, are generally avoided by the ordinary people.

The reasons the poor avoid the bigger temples range from natural suspicion of the rich to issues of caste and class differences.
Besides this, for Hindus, there is no such thing as “enough temples” in a area because a person who builds temples is deemed especially close to and favoured by the gods.
Therefore, there exists a strong urge to build and keep building more temples €“ from roadside shrines to large temples €“ wherever Hindus live.
There is therefore an urgent need for the Pakatan governments to understand the complete socio-economic and cultural background to the temple issue.
It is therefore more than a purely legal issue of who owns the land. That’s how the Barisan government handled the issue and got into a lot of problems.
The Pakatan governments can do better by authorising a complete study and survey of the temples in the states they rule, and offer a comprehensive and lasting solution acceptable to the Tamil working class.

It has to be a solution that satisfies not only the religious but also cultural, emotional and psychological needs of the poorest among the Indians.