Wednesday, January 27, 2010

India should be concerned about human rights issues of Pravasi Bharatiyas

The Union Government is very enthusiastic about holding the Pravasi Bharatiya International Conference with great fanfare as it is an occasion to canvass for increased NRI investments and win encomiums from the powerful non-resident Indian community abroad, but unfortunately, it takes little or no interest in addressing the problems of the less privileged Indian community which is looking for support and intervention in the face of near racial annihilation in countries like Malaysia.

For the last many years groups of Indian origin people from Malaysia have been petitioning the Indian government of the serious racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing going on in that country. There are some two million people of Indian origin living there, majority of them are Tamil speaking Hindus. They are a proud, hard working, law abiding and tradition bound community. They look to India for cultural and spiritual inspiration. Now, they are seeking political initiatives also.

A delegation of the oppressed Indian community in Malaysia under the leadership of Mr Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy, chairman of HINDRAF, Malaysia, who was detained for two years for organising a protest meet of oppressed Indian community in that country in 2007, is in India attending the Pravasi Bharatiya Conference (January 7 to 9), and he submitted a memorandum to the participants narrating the heart-wrenching condition of his people. The inhuman suffering into which the religious persecution and ethnic discrimination have driven the Indian community deserves world wide condemnation and immediate intervention of the Government of India and the United Nations. So far, the US is the only country that has taken note of the situation in Malaysia and made a reference to the violations of Human Rights with that government.

The HINDRAF, according to Ponnusamy, who is a barrister at law from Lincoln’s Inn, has already approached the UN Human Rights citing the grave danger facing this Indian origin minority community in Malaysia.

This journal has on a number of earlier occasions reported about the state sponsored atrocities and discriminations, wanton destruction of thousands of temples, forced occupation of temple property, crematorium and religious intolerance in that country. But if what Ponnusamy has narrated in his 60-page long report is any indication then the eight per cent strong Indian origin community in Malaysia is facing a near annihilation. They face not just religious persecution, but their basic human rights and rights as citizens of the land of their forefathers is being systematically denied under the Wahabi Islamist racist regime. The victims are third, fourth and fifth generation Malaysians of Indian origin. They are descendants of the migrants from India whom the British had taken as labourers for the plantations there over two hundred years ago. The government has robbed these people of their fundamental rights, and denied equal opportunities in every segment of human activity. By explicit state policies the vast majority of Malaysian Indians are excluded from the national mainstream. These people are not given a chance to get better education, health care, drinking water, ration, social congregation, equal opportunity to compete, bank loans, licence to set up even small eateries and grocery shops. They are denied admission to higher education institutions and are condemned to remain daily wage poor unskilled labourers. Majority of them live in huts and temporary shelters as land and housing rights are denied by the state. Even the low income unskilled jobs are taken away on religious grounds. The community is, as part of the pursuit of ethnic cleansing and Islamisation, are not given birth and marriage certificates. Conversion is made mandatory for getting admission to better educational institutions, government jobs, industry licence or bank loan. The Indian origin community is barred, according to this report, from economic and social development programmes, cultural and recreational activities, social functions and festivals. For raising these issues and organising a massive protest a number of Malaysian lawyers including Mr P Udaykumar and Mr M Manoharan were arrested and detained without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act for 514 days. A large number of people were arrested in the midst of police firing and many injured and maimed for life as a result of the police atrocities. These two lawyers who were released recently attended the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and pleaded their case before the large audience from all over the world. These people are appalled by the studied indifference and silence of the Government of India. They also charge the Indian Missions abroad of callous indifference if not hostility to plea for help of the plight of Indian origin peoples abroad.

The Government of India can play a proactive role in redressing the situation. India traditionally has cordial relations with Malaysian Government. India has large areas of mutual cooperation and trade relations with that country. The Indian Government with its record of excessive pandering to Indian minorities can canvass and convince its counterpart in Malaysia to be more humane, at least be mindful of the UN Declaration of Human Rights which in itself will go a long way in helping the Indian community lead a life of dignity. It can also open a special wing in the Ministry of External Affairs to register and follow-up on Human Rights violations and religious freedom of Indian origin overseas communities. This is the least the Government of India can do as it hosts such self-serving jamborees year after year in the name of Pravasi Bharatiyas.