Malaysiakini Letter

One year from Nov 25, nothing much has changed

Ivanpal S Grewal  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Hindraf supporters throng temples for Nov 25 anniversary .

Nov 25 was the first anniversary of the Hindraf demonstration that brought together disparate groups of Indians to protest the infringement of their rights as well as the systematic injustice perpetrated against them.

First of all, let me apologise. One year ago, I was of the opinion that the Hindraf rally was subversive and unfit for purpose. I contended that while the grievances were legitimate, the methodology employed to communicate those grievances were questionable at best.

My personal renaissance with this issue stems from a visit I made last week to certain areas in the Klang Valley. I came across not only abject poverty but also across some harrowing stories on the failure of all parties concerned to seriously address this most transcendent problem.

I met a family living on RM3 a day and two children of the family aged 15 and 18 had no identification whatsoever and had never been to school. They only speak Tamil and they cannot count, read or write.

I met another elderly couple, the wife was 74 and the husband was something 80 odd years old. Their children almost never visit them and are only able to settle the monthly utility bills. They live on biscuits and bread. Rice, curry and vegetables - staples of the Indian diet - are a luxury.

I also met a family that is lives with no electricity and water because they simply cannot afford to pay the bills. One daughter is mentally disabled, the mother suffers from cancer and the other daughter just left her abusive husband with four young children. The son of the family works but his meagre income cannot support the family at all.

Now, these stories sounds like those that would emanate from a Third World country or a war- torn country. What is shocking is that this is happening in Selangor, the so-called most developed state with no squatters. How could we have allowed this to happen?

The MIC has obviously failed the Indians; but what about the other BN partners? They, too, have a moral obligation to ensure that no Malaysian lives below the poverty line and on less than US$ 1 a day which is the global measurement for abject poverty.

While we fight over race, religion, ketuanan and fundamental freedoms; a whole demographic has been left in the lurch. Ignored and disrespected, they formed the strength of Hindraf.

So when our leaders belittled their motivation as simply pecuniary (driven by the promise of a million pounds from the British Government) they forgot the legitimate and serious grievances. These Indians’ anger was pure and their frustration was real.

Now let me pose these questions: Why are the Indians via Hindraf disallowed from questioning their dismal economic status? Why are they branded ‘racists’ when they lament the fact that since the introduction of the NEP, the Indian share of national wealth has diminished?

Why are the branded theocratic lunatics when they express their displeasure over the desecration of their temples?

This is not a problem of race but is it a problem of survival. The Indians have long been sidelined and their docile leaders have been complicit in this injustice. Many Indians are denied a Malaysian identity card but illegals in Sabah find getting one like a walk in the park.

The Indians are deprived of welfare help by a bureaucratic and inefficient delivery system. They are denied access to tertiary education by a system that positively discriminates. So what were they to do? What are the three families I met to do?

Who could they complain to? Who listened to them? Hindraf gave them a voice and gave them a platform to air their grouses. The movement galvanised and the BN was humbled on March 8.

And now, some one year later, nothing much has changed. Hindraf is in disarray and infighting has consumed all the passion. Politicking and power-plays now form the plot - not legitimate activism.

The failure of Hindraf to remain true to its ideals is a great disservice to the Indian community but the direct effects are more serious. As the Indians continue to be demoralised, hopelessness will engulf a whole community which will turn more to intoxicants and crime to neutralise their dejection.

As the community burns, leaders on all sides of the aisle fight for power and influence. So Hindraf, like all other Indian movements, fails the Indians once again. And the Indian community is once again bereft of direction and purpose.

With tears in my eyes and prayers on my lips, I can only protest this injustice and on a micro- level help those in need. Until and unless the Indians unite, no one is going to solve our problems or take us seriously.

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