Let’s cease the pretense that an Indian poor equals a Malay poor or a native poor, says Hindraf/HRP's P Uthayakumar.
COMMENTBy P Uthayakumar
One betrays the cause of the Indian poor when he pretends that for every Indian poor there is a Chinese poor just as badly off. And that a Malay or a Muslim poor is under ‘equal’ duress as the Indian poor. How can they be when for the bumiputera poor the sky is the limit?
Affirmative action is tailored for the Malays who are given ample opportunities in higher education, business and government jobs. This is definitely not the case for the Indian poor.
But why is the average Malaysian in a state of denial? Why does he deliberately sidestep the gravity of Indian problems with the moral equivalency that all the poor are in the same boat or are given the same life jackets?
The poor Chinese have their New Villages. The poor Malay, Orang Asli, Iban, Kadazan, etc, all have thousands of kampungs and ancestral land as their social safety net, which 99 percent of the Indian poor do not have. So let’s cease the pretense that an Indian poor equals a Malay poor or a native poor.
Similarly, many of the Malay poor have been provided with jobs in the state and federal public sector agencies, guaranteeing them a pension and health facilities for life. What have the Indian poor to look forward to?
Who bothered with Indians before?
The Hindraf movement arose to fill the vacuum created by the almost zero takers for the non-politically rewarding Indian problems.
Hindraf fought without fear or favour while PKR, DAP, PAS, PSM, the NGOs and the Indian elite closed one eye to the Indian ‘situation’ that was becoming increasingly dire.
If Indians were not in acute distress, the Hindraf rally would not have erupted.
Before November 2007, the Tamil underclass was ignored. Post March 2008, the political opportunists who rode on our wave of discontent chose to play to the majoritarian, especially the Malay-Muslim, political gallery.
Today when we give voice to the woes of our constituency – the hardcore Indian poor – we are portrayed and castigated as being overbearing and demanding.
Are our ‘demands’ really unreasonable? Hindraf has never asked for higher quotas for scholarships, university seats and other deliverables. We have always demanded for equal rights which are constitutionally ours as enshrined in Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
In fact our motto is ‘Rights not Mercy’.
Some of us are sixth generation Malaysian-born. We too are the sons of this soil as much as any other Malaysian. We – in respect to our indigenousness – are even more entitled to a place in the Malaysian sun than many recent arrivals whose rights we do not question just as we hope they do not question ours.
Indians, our own worst enemies
Fundamentally, Indians are shortchanged by the intellectual dishonesty which elects to dilute and divert away from the pressing and critical Indian poor problems created by especially Umno racism. Championing the Indian poor is unfortunately not fashionable.
When HRP and Hindraf battle against racism specifically targeting the Indian poor, we are – most bafflingly – accused of being racist for maintaining our focus. Yet have you ever even stopped to ponder with some measure of honesty that there would have been no need for HRP and/or Hindraf to exist if the Indian problems had been addressed in the first place.
Pray tell, who among those that are not Indian is willing to make the cause of our community’s poor their mission and to work the ground?
Yet for our necessarily selective focus on a single race, we are accused of racism by the preening and posturing multi-culturists and mono-culturalists who ride their high horses.
Their warped label of ‘racists’ hurled against Hindraf is to be found in no other part of the world except Malaysia.
Going by this perverted definition constantly applied to Hindraf by our detractors, Nelson Mandela would be considered anti-white – a veritable racist for fighting apartheid rule in South Africa because his opponents were of one colour.
And Mahatma Gandhi would also be a damn racist as he fought the white rajah’s rule in India. Why don’t the same people who are so fond of knocking Hindraf similarly insist that Gandhi must be colour-blind and that he cannot be allowed to single out a particular race (i.e. the whites) for moral censure?
Accusing us of fighting the racism that victimizes Indians with our own brand of Hindraf racism is just about the most convenient but lamest excuse used by shallow, unthinking Malaysians.
This particularly applies to the English-speaking groups who love to sound magnanimous. They are usually the Indian elites priding themselves that their best friends are Malay and Chinese, and patting themselves on the back for their liberal credentials because they move in social circles not exclusive to their own kind (i.e. the dark-skinned).
Some of them may profess to have a multi-racial mindset but my own analysis differs, even if they have not attained this self-awareness as yet.
I believe their trapped mentality (of seeking approval and to please others with proof of their apparent broadmindedness) arises out of a minority and inferiority complex. Such a type of personality is the one most prone to denying the real problems Indians face here because of racial discrimination.
Who’s racist? You look in the mirror
For championing this cause of the Indian poor, I was detained for 514 days under the ISA and arrested on 11 other occasions.
I still have the charge of sedition hanging over my head for drawing attention to what has been perceived to be ‘ethnic cleansing’, especially with regard to the Kg Medan tragedy where five Indian poor were murdered and more than 100 suffered grievous bodily harm.
The atrocities committed in Kg Medan were greeted with pin-drop silence from the supposedly all embracing ‘multi-racial’ PKR, DAP, PAS, PSM, NGOs as well as the so-called ‘multi-racial’ Indian elite.
We have closely documented the killings but nobody cares to get to the bottom of this ethnic issue.
For calling the massacre an ‘ethnic cleansing’, I face prosecution for sedition which carries a three-year jail sentence. My case is still in the courts. But I have no regrets as anyone intimate with how Hindraf operates will know that we somehow or other soldier on despite the nasty brickbats and the vicious catcalls.
The allegation that we are a reverse image of Perkasa is simply an expediency to marginalize Hindraf by those who are our harshest critics.
These prefer to fish in the 60 percent Malay-Muslim majoritarian pond because of the tantalizing vote catch. Never mind the Indian poor kena nyaya (get screwed) on a day-to-day basis.
Our paramount interest in HRP and Hindraf is to procure justice and equality, and to uphold human rights. We are for ending Umno rule to achieve these ends but unlike the highly partisan opposition crowd, we’re not willing to give a blank cheque to Pakatan.
One must be able to discern the cause of the Indian poor to know what the Hindraf and HRP struggle is truly about. Either you feel it or you don’t. We cannot open your eyes if you resolutely refuse to see. And what can we do if you hear but refuse to listen?
So we’ll simply say this, quoting a Tamil proverb: ‘If a person cannot help, he should not get in the way of those who are doing something about it’.
P Uthayakumar’s sedition case is fixed for mention on June 24 at the KL Sessions Court pending his appeal at the Court of Appeal to declare the sedition charges against him unconstitutional. This article first appeared at the Centre for Policy Initiatives website.