The police roadblocks and arrests of leaders of Sunday's Hindraf rally show that the government is very concerned about the impact of the gathering not just in terms of disruption of the lives of Malaysians but also that such a protest could get out of hand and turn ugly.
While I sympathise with the organisers of the rally - and being an Indian Malaysian, I am also concerned about the well-being of fellow Indians - deep down I am also worried that if the rally goes ahead any untoward incidence or violence can lead to greater consequences that permanently destroy and damage the good relations that Malaysians have with one another.
Since the 1969 riots, we have sorted out our problems and have lived as one nation despite our different religions, races and cultures. This is commendable and something that is extremely difficult to achieve because of the very nature of humankind.
Over the centuries, humans have shown an extreme propensity to wage war on fellow humans and this has brought destruction and has torn up the very fabric of society everywhere in the world. Even among people of similar race and religion, humankind has waged war like in Palestine with Fatah and Hamas killing each other, their own brothers, all in the name of politics and special interests.
In such a climate, the achievement that we as a multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-cultural nation have forged by living together in peace and harmony should be applauded and praised because we have risen above the norm and have achieved something very special.
Despite the many differences even our politicians and leaders have always managed to compromise and have led a nation that has grown not just economically but also as a society. I am proud that I have many friends from all the different racial and religious groups, and we are not mere acquaintances but real friends who will stand up for one another when needed.
Amidst these achievements, we have in recent months noticed a serious breach of the unwritten rule of racial and religious tolerance between the Malays and Indians coming both from actions and words of the Umno leadership.
The destruction of Hindu temples especially in Selangor is really unnecessary especially when it is done very publicly against the protests of the people. One must understand that there are only two reasons why people would give up their lives for their family and their religion. Similar religious problems flared up in India when Hindus destroyed mosques.
Senior Umno leaders have also spoken against Indians, indicating that Indians were irrelevant and not needed for Barisan Nasional to win the elections. None of these are necessary. Yes, Indians may now only make up a smaller percentage of the population compared to 1957 but is it really necessary to push them aside when you feel you are now in a stronger position?
We have lived as one nation for 50 years, in peace and harmony but because Umno feels that Indians are no longer significant as a voting population they are casting them aside without a thought for the support that Indians have given BN for more than 50 years and especially at the 1999 elections when Umno went through its darkest days.
I am against violent rallies and do not disagree with the actions of the police in trying to stop such demonstrations from progressing. Ideally the government should allow peaceful expressions and should have permitted the Hindraf rally but under controlled conditions.
In that way everyone will feel safe and if Indians are given the chance to express themselves peacefully the country can move ahead as a true democracy. That is not going to happen today but I think the recent mobilisations of Bersih and now the Hindraf rally is evidence that there is a groundswell of public opinion that the government must take notice of and must react to positively.
Arresting people, closing roads and firing tear-gas are not the way to resolve such problems, be they anti-government protests, the Hindraf rally or other future expressions of public anger. The only way to resolve these issues is via dialogue and discussions with the leaders of these movements.
No one wins with public rallies that have even a single iota of turning violent, but everyone wins when we can agree to discuss problems openly between affected parties and find ways to resolve issues peacefully to the satisfaction of all parties.
For 50 years, we have done so, why should it be any different today? All it takes is understanding of the sensitivities that the different communities have, taking actions that do not affect the practice of one's religion or culture, and showing care and concern for your fellow man and woman.
For 50 years, we have talked and resolved our problems via meaningful dialogue. We should not stop now. This groundswell of anger will only get worse if left to fester. Arresting people will not solve the problem. Only a concerned and caring leadership can.
I urge the government to rethink its position and show that it cares for its people, whatever their religion or race. Talk and resolve these issues before they get out of hand and be sensitive to the needs of all communities.
Perhaps its also time for Malaysians to no longer think in terms of just 'tolerance'. Maybe we should now start thinking about 'understanding'. A nation and people that 'understands' will be far better than just one that 'tolerates'.