Monday, November 30, 2009

Two years on, the focus is clearer for Hindraf by G Narayanan and Anwar, who are Hindraf's real heroes?

A sea of aggrieved humanity descended to the center of Kuala Lumpur on that historic day on Nov 25, 2007 and that was the day Hindraf was born.

Even though it had existed as a loose grouping of just over 30 NGOs, the Hindraf we all recognise today was indeed born then. It was more of a phenomenon than an organisation on that day.

Many of us were swept along into that phenomenon because of what it meant to all of us. What happened that day was a crystallisation of something that had been brewing for a very long time in the minds of the Indians in the country.

hindraf british petition rally 251107 gandhi's sprayedThese include emotions of seething anger, disgust, bitterness, alienation and helplessness. All these deriving from a lifelong experience of being put aside, being put down, being treated with indignity, being sidelined, being discarded, being treated like sub-humans, being denied the most basic of rights, being denied equal opportunities and being given reasons and excuses which we felt totally helpless to do anything about.

Now after two years of struggle as an organisation, we have found a clear direction and a firm basis by which to engage in what will be a prolonged struggle - for the inertia of status quo is very strong.

We have removed the chaff from the wheat. Most of those who do not belong have found their way out. We have cleared ourselves of many wishful thoughts. We have a better understanding of reality.

hindraf british petition rally 251107 malaysian flagsWe know what the real issues are, who our true friends are and who our fair weather friends are and who our enemies are. Two years have given us much opportunity to engage the issues and to learn from the various struggles. We can see our mission clearer now for all that. And it is a historic mission.

Hindraf is a working-class movement and the Human Rights Party (HRP) is a working-class party. Hindraf and the HRP lead the Indian poor and marginalised. This is where we originated from - the fight against a convergence of racism by the Umno regime and economic exploitation by the power elite of the country.

Hindraf and HRP will lead the Indian poor and marginalised today to realise a new life for them.

This is our mission. The Indian marginalised and poor are factory workers, service workers, manual workers and often contract workers.

Constant struggle for only the basics

They are drivers, they are security guards, they are the cleaners, they are the gardeners, they are the helpers, they are washerwomen in restaurants, they are the criminals in prison, they are the dregs of Malaysian society.

They form the majority of the Indians in the country. What characterises the Indian society at large in Malaysia today is a constant struggle only for the basics of life. Compared with the other segments of society, you see a contrasting, vibrant, forward-looking set of programmes for them but this basic struggle for the Indians.

hindraf british petition rally 251107 plaza ampang hosedThe Indians are also the dispossessed in our society. They have no 'kampung' to go back to. They have no ancestral structures to fall back on. They only have their working power to live their lives by. And that too is being blocked in so many ways by the working of this racist system.

And to top this all, the poor and marginalised Indians have been kept in a state of ignorance for as long as they have existed in this country. This makes them a group that is most desirous of change and most in need of change.

NONETo bring about change is their historic role. But they do not yet recognise this role. Hindraf and HRP now have set themselves the agenda of creating this recognition and in the process, uniting this group under one umbrella and forcing change in the system. Forcing change through empowered participation in the political processes of government.

The Indian poor and marginalised have the most to gain from a change to the system and they have the least to lose by any change. Thus, they have the potential for leading change in this country like no other single group.

Hindraf has evolved over these two years to become that organisation that discovered this historic mission for itself and this historic role for the Indian poor and marginalised. This role requires political clout - something which cannot be realised through any existing arrangement.

hindraf rally butterworth 251108 crowd march to temple1The needs of the Indian working poor can only be met by a re-engineering of the basic groupings within the government, by restructuring the constitution of those holding the reins of power.

HRP, the political wing of Hindraf, has taken on as its objective to participate in all levels of government to bring about a change to the basic policies. This will mean a change for all the poor and marginalised, not just for the Indians.

But the Indian working poor, organised well and led well, have the potential for leading the charge and creating change for all the working poor and marginalised in the country.

The work of HRP has just begun. Hindraf forms the mass base and HRP becomes the wing that will take on the struggle for national policy changes. This is so clear now after two years of struggle. A journey of a thousand miles starts but with a single step.

Valga Makkal!

Anwar, who are Hindraf's real heroes?

Gandhi: I can only say that P Uthayakumar and some hardcore believers in Hindraf did a sensible and meaningful commemoration of the historical event two years ago.

Where are Thanenthiran, Vasanthakumar and Ganabatirau? Is holding a dinner to commemorate the solemn event a fitting move? Get down in the trenches like Uthayakumar to go all the way to submit the memorandum and keep the fire alive. Knock on the doors of the corridors of power to act on the plight of Indians.

Ranjit Singh: Anwar Ibrahim should take the trouble to do some background checks on this character (Vasanthakumar) before endorsing him. Anwar doesn't seem to learn from his lessons as he keeps recruiting hapless and suspicious candidates who eventually backstab him.

Imhindraf: Hindraf members, please set aside your differences for the benefit of Indians. Hindraf came about to protect the Indians worst-hit by Umno discrimination.

DC: Here we go, another one attempting to gain political mileage for his own benefit. Why didn't he raise the Kampung Buah Pala issue to Anwar? We are not going to see change until and unless these so-called Indian champions openly, and with indignation, raise our issues.

Lvbala: That should be the way, Anwar. "Our political landscape has changed. Indian, Hindu and Tamil problems must be seen and projected as a Malaysian problem."

We should stand as one. United regardless of race, ethnicity and religion. United we must stand and free this holy land from corruption. Make Malaysia proud. Be a proud Malaysian.

Murali: First Thanenthiran sold his soul to Umno and now Vasanthakumar and Ganabatirau have sold theirs to Pakatan for political mileage. These are the selfish people I have seen after Samy Vellu. We will see whether they will highlight and solve the Indian issues.

Let It Be: Hey guys, if Vasanthakumar is going to be a frog there's nothing all of us can do here. Whether he's a true Indian or a frog, only time will tell. The Indians are not blind and you can cheat them only once.

To be frank, the defining moment for Malaysia was when Anwar was sent to prison because the powers-that-e believe they can continue to mislead us. It made Anwar a better person, when otherwise he would be sucked into Umno's politics of deceit and corruption.

Hindraf did the right thing to come to Pakatan Rakyat and let all Indians rally together for a long and meaningful road ahead. Hope, trust, perseverance, loyalty and lastly sacrifice is needed for this journey.

Reaching out to all, Hindraf's theme for third year

Kris Khaira: Timber companies in Borneo steal from the vulnerable through illegal logging because of profit. For the same reason, oil palm plantations pay their workers of all races, including Indians, obscenely low wages. The common enemy here is capitalism, a system that prioritises profit over people.

Gibran: Hindraf is not racist; it started by taking up the plight of the suppressed Indians. If they are successful, the ramifications will be great because this allows other marginalised communities like the disabled, single mothers and the like to bring up their issues.

Hindraf's success is pertinent - we could best equate it with the civil rights movement in US in the 60s, once the African-Americans obtained equal rights other marginalised groups started fighting for their rights too. Let us support this movement.

Paradox: Dear Penan brothers, be prepared! Hindraf will join forces with you to help your struggles. Now, this is what we call the real 'Bangsa Malaysia'. Kudos to Hindraf!

Pau Line Yaacob: Hindraf is on the right path. Many misunderstand them as being a race-based organisation but there is no harm in raising the issues of your community.

Pairin raises KadazanDusun issues as well. Would you call him racist and not seeing larger Malaysian issues? Similarly Hindraf speaks for the marginalised Indians. In fact they are going a step further to incorporate the natives from Borneo. Well done.

Felda’s 2,000 ha of seaweed, 1,876 hard core poor to benefit. Indians excluded by UMNO (ref Sunday Star 22/11/2009 at page N10)


This is yet another classical case where especially the poor and working class Indians are yet again excluded from the national poverty eradication policy. Why hasn’t UMNO implemented any plans targetting the Indian poor and working class as they have done for the poor natives in Sabah and for almost all the Malay muslims in Peninsular Malaysia. The poor and working class Indians could for example be given opportunities in the Felda, Felcra, Risda, Fama, Agropolitan land ownership schemes or the thousands of acres for lifestock breeding. But in the 52 year old history of UMNO ruling this country there has been zero such schemes targetting the Indians but there is almost 100% such schemes targetting the Malay muslims. UMNO has to stop these racist and religious extremist based policies.

PKR S’gor RM380 Million sales. But only RM2 Million for 97 Tamil schools in Selangor. Selangor is the richest state in Malaysia.

PKR S’gor RM380 Million sales. But only RM2 Million for 97 Tamil schools in Selangor. Selangor is the richest state in Malaysia. But just like the previous UMNO Selangor State government it s now PKR’s turn to dish out these peanuts.

PKR Selangor should forthwith grant land to all 97 Tamil schools in Selangor. By doing so the Federal UMNO government would be forced to grant full aid and fully funded status to all this said 97 Tamil schools. UMNO will have no more excuses. Then this said 97 Tamil Schools no longer have to beg from the pre existing poor Indians Tamil school parents for chairs, tables, library, books and extension school buildings and replacing existing cow shed looking Tamil schools. PKR Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim should not divert away from this real issue and give out peanuts like this RM2 Million.


HRP Secretary General

122,000 degree diploma in Polytechnics. Almost zero for Indians. (ref NST 22/11/09 at page 25)

122,000 degree diploma in Polytechnics. Almost zero for Indians. (ref NST 22/11/09 at page 25)

Our estimate is that only about 0.1 % of these places are given to the Indians. UMNO will never publicise the full list of the students with their names, identity card numbers, the critical courses they are enrolled in etc. This UMNO racist and religious extremist policy is specifically designed to exclude the Malaysian Indians from the national mainstream development of Malaysia.

Why exclude especially the poor and working class Indians into government Polytechnics and Universities in Malay-sian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s One Malay-sia


HRP Secretary General


Re: Forced to convert to Islam prevalent- Indian poverty link.

Your Reference :

In Reply :

Date : 28/11/2009

YAB. Dato Seri Najib Razak

Prime Minister of Malaysia,

Block Utama Bangunan Perdana Putra,

Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan,

62502 Putrajaya.

Tel : 03-8888 8000 Fax : 03-8888 3444

E-Mail :

Re: Forced to convert to Islam prevalent- Indian poverty link.

S.Banggarma (27) a former occupant of a welfare home says she was forced to convert to Islam as a one year old child by the Penang Welfare Department. This actually arose out of poverty. “ She ran away from the said home at the age of 18 and later found her father who was living like a beggar”. Her poor parents left her to the charge of the Penang Welfare Department. (The Star 25/11/09 at page N26 and The Sun 25/11/09 at page 4). Instead of giving this child the best the said Welfare Department took advantage of this family and the seven year old child by forcing her to convert to Islam.

S.Banggarma denied that her natural father had converted her to Islam when she was one year old. If that was so why was she made to sign a certificate to enter Islam again when she was seven years old.

This sort of forced conversations and/or attempts to do so are quite rampant also in orphanages, welfare homes, fully residential government schools and other educational institutions.

In 2007, a 17 year old youth who was studying at a Vocational school formally complained to us that he was pressured by his peers to convert to Islam which he was resisting. Then one fine day he was taken to the school’s religious teacher (Uztaz) who then took them to the local Islamic religious department where he was duly registered as an Muslim and issued with an Islamic conversation card. This youth was then told not to inform his parents or anyone else.

On hearing this from his Indian school friends his father immediately rushed to the school and at about 11.30 p.m the very same day took his son away from that school even that very wee hours of the morning. And that was the end of his Vocational skills training and so was his future vocational career .

We had then written a letter to the then Prime Minister but up to date his forced conversation status was never reversed even by the present Prime Minister.

But imagine the mysery this family has to go through. This youth right up to this day is a practicing hindu. In fact after this “tragedy” he has become a stauncher hindu then he ever was before. But nobody could help this boy not even the Malay-sian Courts because of UMNO’s thick racist and religious extremist policies.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Most non muslim parents fear sending their children to even the few places allowed to them in fully residential schools and institutions.

Article 11 of Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but on the ground level the UMNO Islamic religious affairs department officers reign supreme and take the law into their own hands. We are perplexed because even the national PAS Spritual leader and Kelantan Menteri Besar, YAB Dato Nik Aziz has said that in Islam there should be no forced conversation. And it is the bounden duty of the majority muslims to protect the minority non muslims especially the 7.5% Malaysian Indians.

How then are we supposed to work towards Malay-sian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s One Malay-sia. How then are we Malaysians supposed to interact, foster genuine national unity and national integration and co-exist as fellow Malaysians or as human beings in the first place.

We hereby urge your goodself to intervene and direct the Penang Islamic Religious Department to undo and reverse S.Banggarma’s forced conversation to Islam. Further we urge the Prime Minister to issue a circular that there shall strictly be no conversation of minors and youths below 21 years of age at all government schools institutions and bodies. And for all Malaysians who claim that they were forced to convert to Islam they be granted their said Constitutional right to revert to their original or any other religion of their choice as is provided under Article 11 of the Federal Condtitution. Mr.Prime Minister, these state of events are completely unnecessary. We could instead optimally utilize our time and energy and focus on nation building in the true One Malaysian sprit championed by your goodself.

Please, let us move on and move forward.

Kindly revert to us accordingly.

Thank You,

Your Faithfully,



Secretary General ( pro-tem)



We can do better


The back half of these rows of terrace houses started coming down two weeks ago.

It was on this desolate road at Kampung Sentul Pasar that we met Raja. His family i

s one of a handful left inhabiting the remains of houses, which once provided shelter

for KTM staff. Sections of his roof are covered with frittered sheets of tarp.

“I'm okay with being resettled in a flat,” says Raja in Tamil. “But why send me and

my family packing to a place deep at the fringe of Puchong? How do I start again?

How do I find work? I was born and raised here in Sentul Pasar. My support is here.

Sini boleh cari kerja – tolong bawa lori, angkat barang. It's as good as taking away my livelihood.”

His voice remains even, but it gets raspy from the built-up frustration.

“Macam mana mau dapat susu untuk anak?” he gestures towards the

direction of his wife and five-month-old baby.

Raja's problems highlight the core issues in the nation's task of resettlement

and the urban poor. It's one thing to have a Zero Squatter policy, but another

when we examine the means to this end. Current mechanisms lack a basic virtue: Heart.

These are human beings here.

For too long, we have relied on Cold War-era social housing ideas and methods.

We cannot rely on just one model – the 750 sq ft high-rise apartment unit –

for the whole country. Nor can we simply decouple a family from its roots and

economic links. True, these projects provide shelter. But they sever ties.

They are not conducive for larger families. In many instances, these resettlement

exercises are a continuing stigma to those who have been relocated.

And how do you accommodate members such as these?:


We need choices. The late scholar-architect Chen Voon Fee once iterated: “For a building or a place to genuinely thrive, you have to maintain the patterns that exist. You cannot subvert. You mustn't overwhelm.”

There are sufficient affordable housing models from around the world, most notably Balkrishna Doshi's Aranya Community Housing project in Indore, India. It was undertaken by the local government, the Indore Development Authority. Implemented in 1983, this boldly imaginative project has been recognised numerous times over, including being awarded the Aga Khan Prize in 1995.

In her book, Architecture beyond Architecture, Cynthia Davidson writes about the project:

"But perhaps more important than the design goals this project has achieved are the social goals that it promotes, by creating common spaces where Muslims, Hindus, Jains and others in this neighborhoods can mix, the project promotes co-operation, neighborliness, tolerance and cohesive social relationships. In addition, it actively provides a socio-economic mix that provides for cross-subsidies and financial viability."

From Kampung Buah Pala and Kampung Tanjung Tokong in Penang to the Sentul heartland of Kampung Chubadak, Kampung Tanah Lapang, and Sentul Pasar, we see the ravenous appetite of redevelopment displacing thousands of citizens who are without the might of money.

In more than one instance, it has become political baggage leading to the fall of incumbents during elections. All this will not change without more imaginative models and policies on social and affordable housing. The existing bodies need more sensitivity and collaboration in dealing with urban redevelopment. Progress must come with a heart.

So far things do not look too good if inhumane scenes such as these taken at Kampung Tanah Lapang continue:

tlpg3Fellas, you don't spray 'ROBOH' on a house. No matter how stubborn the occupants are, you just don't. The act betrays how the various parties involved view these people.


What is it?

The lessons can be found right in the very streets where these structures are being torn down. Yesterday at the dusty lane of Kampung Sentul Pasar, while listening to Raja, we saw this:


See the hands. See how they tenderly intertwine.

A boy, Indian Malaysian, was leading an elderly man - so aged his back could not straighten - down the path. The man is a Chinese Malaysian. His legs were full of sores. Together they carried their packed meals.

Slowly. Ever so slowly, they walked.


The boy was leading grandpa home.

The other side of Malaysia

This is a side of Malaysia you don’t often see, a world hidden from us. Here, we get a peek at the sad conditions inside an immigration detention centre.