Friday, December 14, 2007

World Sikh News: Moral duty of India to support human rights struggle in Malaysia

Indians in Malaysia, and why is New Delhi handicapped?
Written by Roshan Tyagi
Thursday, December 13, 2007

As a community newspaper, the WSN often takes up causes and cudgels that have to do with the Sikhs, but then Sikhism is necessarily an ism that desires Sarbat Da Bhala. The world knows the underlying meaning of the sacrifice made by the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, and Sikhs everywhere remain committed to stand up for the unedrdog, the disadvantaged and the kirti, no matter what his religious affiliations.

It is in this context that we focus here on the fate of the thousands of Indian-origin citizens of Malaysia who are currently at the receiving end of the regime there, and except for the Tamil Nadu leader and Chief Minister Karunanidhi, no Indian leader of any worth has raised his voice. In fact, the federal authorities in India and the Indian Parliament have merely indulged in minimal lip service.

Malaysia's demography boasts of 2.7 crore Malays (60 per cent), ethnic Chinese (24 per cent), ethnic Indians (10 per cent) and indigenous tribes (6 per cent). Like neighbouring Indonesia, Malaysia too has until now displayed remarkable tolerance of religious pluralism, which is rare for a Muslim-majority country. But of late, the People of Indian Origin, most of them Hindus, arebeing subjected to discrimination, injustice and persecution. Islam is Malaysia’s official religion. All Malays are, by the constitution, Muslim. The law bars their conversion out of Islam, but permits proselytisation of non-Muslims.

There was the famous case in 2005 of M. Moorthy, an Everest climber who became a national hero. After death, he was buried according to Islamic rites. Reason: the Sharia court upheld the Muslim claim that Moorthy had converted to Islam just before his death, a contention that his widow stoutly refuted. The high court rejected her appeal, saying that since she was not Muslim, she could not testify in a matter pertaining to Islam.

On November 26, for the first time in Malaysia’s history, some 30,000 ethnic Indians held a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur, but faced a strong police crackdown.

India's federal system has hardly been run along federal lines and the Centre has been too strong. India's rulers have singularly failed to prevent even attacks on the most-focussed upon mosque, the Babri Masjid, and its government has been guilty of ordering a direct full scale army attack on Golden Temple of the Sikhs. With such a record, of course it is understandable that India finds it difficult to take up with Malaysia the issue of demolition of many Hindu temples in the country.

As one-time ghost writer of L K Advani's speeches, Sudheendra Kulkarni, recently wrote, most of these were clan temples built more than 150 year ago by people from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, who had been brought here by the British to work in rubber plantations. Now, Hindus are being stripped of their dignity and self-respect by this vindictive act. The Indian government has also failed to take note of the systematic campaign to Islamise the Malaysian state, something that has alarmed not only the Hindus, but also Buddhists, Christians and Taoists.

This section in Malaysia has the lowest per capita income, highest number of beggars and squatters, highest suicide rate, and lowest intake in government jobs and universities.

Why, then, is the Indian state silent? The reason is clear. Any focus on such actions of the regime in Malaysia brings its own actions into the limelight. India’s political and intellectual class must ponder over the fact that actions of New Delhi render India's capacity to intervene in situations of human rights violations very limited.

Also, India must not duck its moral duty to act whenever its ethnic people suffer racial or religious persecution. Now, the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has warned that ethnic Indian activists accused of having links with Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers could be held under internal security laws. Malaysia has often accused Hindraf of seeking support from the Tigers. The country's Internal Security Act (ISA) allows detention without trial. Again, what would India say on the subject as a country which has similar laws on the statute, and wants to enact worse ones!

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