Friday, January 21, 2011

Nine arrested at 'Interlok' demo at Batu Caves

(Malaysiakini) A protest by the Human Rights Party (HRP) urging the government to ban the controversial Malay literature textbook Interlok, turned rowdy after nine were arrested, including the party's information chief S Jayathas.

NONESome 20 HRP members demonstrated outside the Batu Caves Temple complex just as an announcement on the arrival of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for the Thaipusam festivities was made.

About two dozen uniformed police, a riot squad and several plainclothes police personnel immediately moved in to stop the protesters as Jayathas was handing out a press statement to the crowd.

He had moments before informed the police that the protestors would disperse once he read out his press statement. 

NONEThe scuffle broke out when a man believed to be a plainclothes police officer started yelling and pushing the protestors.

The man (right), dressed in a dark blue shirt with the word 'narkotik' printed on the back and what looked like the police emblem on the front, also tried to stop bystanders from taking photos of him. He was later seen standing with uniformed officers. 

This provoked the demonstrators who were about to disperse, and they began trying to push through the riot squad human barricade set up at the Batu Caves temple's main gate. 

NONETwo of the protestors were dragged away by their shirts and they were later pinned to the ground by eight officers, mostly in plainclothes. 

Some of the police officers also stepped on the two protestors to prevent them from getting up.
The HRP duo, later identified as D Rajothman and M Arjunan, taken to the Selayang General Hospital at 6.45pm for head injuries sustained during the arrest.
According to Jayathas, who was speaking from the Selayang district police station, Arjunan has a heart ailment and has difficulties breathing. 

Bystanders and journalists were prevented from recording the incident.

Other individuals who were arrested includes Selangor HRP chief T Selvam, T Samy and CF Mani. According to Hindraf officials eight HRP members and one unidentified Malay man were taken in.
NONEThere were also attempts to handcuff several others who tried to enter the Batu Caves temple compounds.
It is unclear, however, if those whom the police tried to handcuff were part of the protest.

They appeared to have just had their heads shaved but were not wearing orange shirts like the other protestors, and they repeatedly told the officers that they wanted to go into the temple to pray. 

'Don't bully Indians'

NONEPrior to the scuffle, demonstrators had distributed flyers to devotees and held up placards with slogans such as "Tamil youngsters, do not support BN" and "Interlok was written by a disrespectful man".

The group also chanted "We want justice", "Revoke Interlok" and "Don't bully Indians". 

In his press statement, Jayathas said that HRP wants Interlok withdrawn from the SPM curriculum as it "casts sweeping aspersions on the ways of the Indian community". 

NONE"The problems emanating from oppressive poverty - first caused by the British, then perpetuated by the Malaysian elites - are portrayed as mere ethnic Indian characteristics (and is a) subtle and mischievous attempt to negatively stereotype the Indian community and keep them oppressed and subservient," he said. 

HRP is also seeking an inquiry into the manner the book was chosen, and for the government to explain how this can be prevented in future. 

"There are many lies in the book, so it does not even fit into the category of serious literature... This cannot go on - 1Malaysia or not," said Jayathas.
NONEGombak district police chief Abdul Rahim Abdullah confirmed the arrests, saying the nine were detained for "obstructing the police in discharging their duty". He said they will be remanded until tomorrow for questioning.
However, all those arrested were released on police bail of RM5,000 at 11.30pm.
Interlok, written by national laureate Abdullah Hussain, was set in pre-independence Malaya and features the character Maniam, who was described to be from the pariah caste and had found relief from the caste system when he moved from his homeland in India. 

NONEHRP's protest comes at the back of rising pressure by other Indian political parties and NGOs for the government to remove 'Interlok' from the SPM syllabus.

Asked about this when he was in Tenang to announce BN's by-election candidate yesterday, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that he will make an announcement on the matter soon.
The arrests come as the huge crowd of worshippers and tourists flocked to the Batu Caves temple, a spectacular limestone cavern and the centrepiece of the three-day Thaipusam festival of thanksgiving and penance.
NONEDevotees do penance by carrying heavy, ornate structures called kavadis as they walk barefoot up 272 steps to the Batu Caves temple, while others have their tongues, cheeks and backs pierced with hooks and skewers.
Thaipusam commemorates the day when the Hindu Goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Muruga an invincible lance with which he destroyed evil demons.

Interlok protest: 9 arrested in Batu Caves

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’.

Attracting attention

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

Nine arrested at 'Interlok' demo at Batu Caves