Friday, January 25, 2008

Malaysian Indians' 'pre-emptive' message to MIC

January 25, 2008
Indians' 'pre-emptive' message to MIC, Samy

It's Thursday morning Pacific time in the US, almost 48 hours after the Thaipusam celebrations in Malaysia, and I still can't believe what the Indians in my country have done as I sit to write this.

During the more than 30 years I had lived in Malaysia, I had often wondered which was the bigger enemy to the Indians there - the institutionalised discrimination by Umno in the form of the NEP or the dismal lack of unity among the Indians themselves. My musings were hardly unique. Neither did they belong to the exclusive domain of intellectual thinking. Any average Indian Malaysian you meet, right from Jitra to Johor Baru, will tell you he envies the unity that has made the Chinese in the same country progress and prosper, and wishes that his community could be more like that.

When I left for the US a few years back, I was convinced there will never come a day when my people will band together as Indians for a cause, without putting forth ethnic subdivisions, religious differences and other inherent prejudices. I could also visualise the MIC and its Jurassic-like leader telling the Indians in Malaysia for many more years to come that there can never be a fairer and more caring government than the Barisan Nasional.

Thus, when the Hindraf protests first hit KL last November, I was as amazed as other Indian Malaysians living abroad over the resolve that seems to have formed among our people back home to fight the marginalisation in their masses. With this week's widely-boycotted Thaipusam celebrations in Batu Caves, my amazement turned into pride as I realised that the Indians in Malaysia today are more united than they ever were in the country's 50-year history as an independent nation.

To me, the Batu Caves boycott is more significant than the preceding Nov 25 Hindraf rally in KL which actually gave birth to the current proactive movement among Indian Malaysians. Both events were sparked by perceived attacks on Hinduism and its worshipers in Malaysia, which probably explains why the current movement is called Hindraf rather than ‘Indraf’ (for Indian Rights Action Force).

The November rally was primarily motivated by anger over the destruction of Hindu shrines in Malaysia, the latest being a Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Shah Alam, which devotees say is a century-old. This week’s Batu Caves-boycott was a direct response to the colluding by that temple’s MIC-appointed caretakers with police in tear-gassing, water-cannoning and arresting people who had broken their journey there en-route to the November rally.

Both incidents appear to have been sparked by what happened at two temples but there is a difference in their significance. The November rally was an ‘after-the-fact’ response to the humiliation that Indians in Malaysia had been suffering for decades. The Batu Caves boycott, in contrast, was a ‘pre-emptive’ message to the MIC and its goons on what ‘People Power - called ‘Makkal Sakti’ in Tamil - is like.

And that power was demonstrated despite the Barisan Nasional throwing a public holiday to the Indians in the hope that all would be forgiven and forgotten.

Having spent almost all my life surrounded by Hindus, I can understand the great sacrifices many of them have made in staying away from this year’s Thaipusam at Batu Caves. Among those who made this painful decision was a swami who had been carrying a ‘kavadi’ to the Murugan shrine atop that limestone cave for almost 40 years now. This man once told me tears of joy well in his eyes the moment he steps past the main entrance of the Batu Caves temple and his mind conjures the majestic image of Lord Muruga.

Such was his devotion to the place. And this was the same man who decided this year to join the Thaipusam celebrations in Penang instead, after the tidal wave of handphone text messages from Indian youths calling for a boycott of Batu Caves. Speaking of Indian youths, my friends in KL tell me they have noticed another trend – a positive one – that has emerged since the Hindraf rally and the detention without trial of the movement's main luminaries, including leader P Uthayakumar.

Gang fights, once notorious among Indian youths in Malaysia, are hardly reported these days, my friends say. It appears that the Indian has suddenly realised that his enemy is not another Indian. It’s needless to say who he now thinks the enemy is.

The MIC and its insurmountable S Samy Vellu, meanwhile, are trying to do all they can to put a respectable sheen on what happened – and did not – at Batu Caves this year. I smiled as I read the MIC president’s utter denial that there had been a boycott, and that the damning text messages had failed to do their job.

My sister-in-law who went to Batu Caves out of sheer curiosity said she saw huge pockets of emptiness in places that were usually teeming with people during previous year celebrations. Someone else told me over the phone that he took his elderly mother up the caves to perform her prayers and was down within 45 minutes - a record, considering that the same feat took two and a half hours the previous year.

This person also said he only saw dozens of make-shift stalls set up for business this year inside the temple compound – compared to the hundreds visible in previous years. As for Samy Vellu, those boycott messages that also called on people to pelt him with sandals – as reported by AFP – should give him an idea of how immensely popular he is.

[SOURCE: MalaysiaKini]

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