BATU CAVES: Nine members of the Human Rights Party were arrested during the Thaipusam festival at Batu Caves today for protesting against the controversial Interlok novel.
At least six of them were also injured in the chaos which ensued when the police tried to disperse some 50 party members from protesting.
Among those arrested were HRP’s information chief S Jayathas and Selangor chief K Selvam. Also taken in was vocal PKR member MS Arjunan.
They were all taken to the Selayang police district headquarters for questioning.
Gombak police chief ACP Abdul Rahman Abdullah confirmed that nine people were arrested but HRP sources said only eight were taken in by the police.
Jayathas, in a text message to FMT, also confirmed that only eight of them were held at the Selayang station. He also said those arrested will be on a hunger strike until they were released.
They have also lodged police reports claiming that they were beaten by the police while being arrested. Two of them – Arjunan and D Raja – were taken for treatment to the Selayang Hospital.
Selangor police chief Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah meanwhile said the men, aged 18 to 46, all wearing orange T-shirts with ‘Hindraf’ inscribed on them, were trying to put up three posters calling for the ban of the novel Interlok.
“When police intervened to stop them the group rammed into them and were arrested,” he was quoted as saying in Bernama.
In the protest, held at the entrance of the Batu Caves temple, the Human Rights Party members and supporters of the Hindraf Makkal Sakti movement called on the government to ban the book which is being used as a school text for Form 5 students.
The protest was organised to coincide Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s visit to the temple this morning.
However a scuffle broke out when a group of uniformed police personnel and an anti-riot squad tried to stop the protesting group from entering the temple through the main entrance.
Jayathas was also stopped from reading his press statement on why the novel should be banned while other protesters were stopped from carrying banners and placards which stated ‘Ban Interlok’, ‘We do not want BN’ and ‘Say No to Interlok’.
Talking to FMT later, HRP’s pro-tem secretary general P Uthayakumar said they choose the Thaipusam festival at Batu Caves to protest against the novel as it was important to tell the Indian community about the novel and Umno’s racism.
About 1.3 million visitors, most of whom are Hindu devotees, are expected to visit Batu Caves for the Thaipusam festival.
“With the PM being here, and with the presence of many Indians, we need to send a strong message to Umno and the Indian community about the the book.
“Interlok is just a bit of racism in Malaysia,” he said.
He added that they were aware of the prime minister’s visit to the temple this morning.
“So, in front of him, we wanted to show that the Indian community is not happy with his administration,” he added.
He also said that a protest at the festival would attract both the local and international media, enabling the HRP to highlight the issues affecting the Indian community.
The controversy surrounding Interlok arose as certain portions of the book were deemed to be insulting of the Indian community, including the insensitive labelling of Indians as ‘pariah’.
In a related development, Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy told FMT that the movement’s supporters and HRP members will stage a peaceful candlelight vigil at Batu Caves tonight if those arrested are not released.
“We want the police to release these heroes. What’s wrong in calling for the ban of the novel? Will they (the police) arrest all of us who want the novel banned?” he asked. - Free Malaysia Today