KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 ― Putrajaya’s decision to lift its four-year-old ban on Hindraf appears to have caused barely a ripple in the tussle for the Indian vote as activists in the now-legal movement remain bent on pursuing the demands they raised before Election 2008.
This comes even with the group having split into several factions since leading the massive march of 30,000 Indians in the city’s capital in 2007.
When contacted yesterday, Hindraf leaders said that lifting the ban was “nothing to celebrate about”, serving only as a reminder of how much more powerful their political foes are and how, just with a simple signature, these enemies could pull the carpet from under them.
“Nothing great at all. What we want, what we must seek, is compensation. And our 18-point demands from before... it still stands.
“We must make them pay for what they have done to the Indian community,” Hindraf legal adviser M. Manoharan told The Malaysian Insider last night.
Another Hindraf colleague, P. Uthayakumar, lamented of the legal suits that the four-year ban had accumulated for the movement and how most were still pending in court.
“We have an appeal pending in the Federal Court on March 5 on Hindraf’s application to be declared legal... right now, that case has become academic.
“We also have 54 Hindraf activists who were prosecuted for their involvement in an illegal organisation’s rally... all that is pending,” he said.
But the two activists, who were among the “Hindraf Five” sent to the Kamunting Detention Camp under the now-repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), believed Hindraf’s struggle is far from over.
“The struggle goes on. Until we see Indians treated equally, treated fairly, this is what we will do.
“Our 18-points... I personally cannot compromise on these demands,” said Manoharan, who is also a DAP member.
Key among these demands are equal rights and opportunities for all races in Malaysia and the scrapping of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which outlines the special privileges and positions of the Malays.
“So the government is doing this, lifting the ban to play politics, to play with Indian sentiments. What we want are merely our fundamental, basic rights,” Manoharan continued.
On the flip side, Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders appeared keen on using the lifting of the Hindraf ban ― timed strategically on the eve of the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam and just months or even weeks before the coming polls ― to their benefit.
The move could reinforce for BN previously pro-Hindraf Indians who have been enticed back into its fold over the years, having grown starry-eyed with the attention that the Najib administration has paid to their needs.
MIC secretary-general Datuk S. Murugessan pointed out that, legal or not, Hindraf had kept operating in clandestine fashion and, as a result, the movement was no longer the force it used to be.
“Due to the fact that it has splintered so many times and its leaders are not able to agree on so many issues,” he said.
Indeed, within Hindraf, or better known as the Hindu Rights Action Force, much has transpired since the movement led over 30,000 angry Indians to march against the government, just months before the historic 2008 polls.
The group appears to have fractured, with some having joined its offshoot party ― the Malaysian Makkal Sakhti Party (MMSP), which sides with BN ― and others, spreading out to parties within the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), mostly to DAP or PKR. Hindraf itself appeared to stay afloat mostly thanks to loyal core of anti-government protagonists who, with the ban lifted, are again keen to continue their struggle.
To MIC’s Murugessan, any struggle for Indian rights would be welcome, so long as it stayed within the acceptable boundaries of a country that is multiracial and multireligious.
“Some of those things that Hindraf fights for overlap with the MIC’s aim
“On that, we agree with them. However, the MIC has its own time-tested methods that although may not be as dramatic, but produces results and also advances the national interest,” he said.