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LETTER | Fight for Indian community still strong 14 years after Hindraf rally

LETTER | Today marks the 14th anniversary of the Hindraf rally, which took place on Nov 25, 2007. That was the day that changed the history of Malaysian Indians and shook the political foundation/landscape of the nation. 

The mega rally organised by Hindraf's 'original five' became a huge success in highlighting the plight of Indians in Malaysia. I proudly thump my chest to say that I was one of them and I am still fighting for my community. 

Racial discrimination, religious intolerance, the inequitable share of the nation's wealth and unfair treatment of Malaysian Indians caused the people to join the rally to show dissatisfaction with the ruling government at that time. 

Unfortunately, Malaysia, which had not previously seen mega rallies such as this, failed to act in a civilised manner to ensure that the issues brought up by Hindraf were resolved. 

Instead of listening to our demands, the government used tear gas and water cannons on its own people who gathered in the city centre for a peaceful rally. Furthermore, hundreds of people who joined the rally were arrested and charged in court to make their lives miserable.

On top of that, the five main leaders of Hindraf were arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), a draconian law used by the government to suppress any dissent against the government. We were taken to the ISA detention camp in Kamunting, Perak where all of us underwent different types of psychological tortures by the authorities. 

One could not even imagine the hardships I had to go through in the detention camp. My wife was struggling to look after my family once I was detained under ISA. 

The fear, sorrow and bleak future were running on my mind. My kids were separated from their father. I left my daughters, one was two years old and the other three months, with my wife. My family suffered during my detention of one and a half years (495 days). 

I, along with the other four leaders, gracefully accepted our detention just to ensure our fellow Indian brothers and sisters could live peacefully in this country with dignity. Our families' happiness was jeopardised just to awaken our fellow Malaysian Indians. Our lives wouldn't be the same if the Hindraf rally did not take place.

The rally left a huge impact on the people and on the political system. A new political coalition emerged to fight the corrupted BN regime. Hindraf strengthened this coalition. Temple demolitions were stopped and the government began to address Indian issues one by one. 

Education, the civil service and business quotas were improved. A special unit for Indians under the Prime Minister's Department was established. Tekun Nasional loans and business permits/licences were issued to Indians. 

Many Indian politicians from opposition parties won the election in 2008 and many ruling government Indian MPs and assemblypersons fell out too. For the first time in history, a two-thirds majority was denied to the BN government too. 

Also for the first time in the history of the country, Indian voices and their issues were heard loudly in Parliament. Today, many MPs, including Malays are voicing out their support by raising many issues affecting the non-Malays especially Indian-related issues. It is an undeniable fact that Hindraf was one of the major factors behind these changes.

Nevertheless, much more needs to be done and changed in order to ensure the rights of Indians are always protected. This is to ensure that these privileges are continually available in a sustainable manner. 

Birth certificates and IC, freedom of religion, education, political power are a few areas that we still need to further improve for our future generations. Due to these reasons, I made a decision to be part of the political system by becoming a politician who aspires to bring the change envisaged by Hindraf. 

I am continuing this journey with my fellow comrades who are still standing with me from the day I was detained. Many people come and go, but true fighters are still with me. 

Unfortunately, there are still chameleons among the community who are questioning my struggles and my contributions. If possible, join me to create a better nation for our children. If you cannot, please step aside!

To all my comrades, remember that the fight is still in place. The Hindraf fire is still burning within us. Even though the name Hindraf was banned immediately after that rally, I decided to continue the struggles and the fight against discrimination and the marginalisation of the Indian community together with my fellow comrades under a different banner - the Malaysian Indian Voice (MIV). Hence, Hindraf lives on in MIV.

GANABATIRAU VERAMAN is the Selangor state executive councillor for Socioeconomic Empowerment, Development, and Caring Government. He is also the DAP assemblyperson for Kota Kemuning.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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