COMMENT At last the twain has met. Hindraf and PKR have gotten together, almost.
NONERealism has seemingly won out over quasi-separatism, the spirit of collaboration based on common objectives over a self-defeating go-it-alone attitude driven by quixotic impulses.

The news that Hindraf's P Wathyamoorthy did meet up with PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim earlier this week and had a "fruitful" discussion, ought to come as a relief to those who from day one were anxious that the quasi-separatism of aspects of the Hindraf agenda would see them marooned on the banks of the river of national political reform rather than swimming in its currents.

The push for reform, galvanised by the reformasi movement of 14 years ago which sprung from the travails of Anwar, was accelerated by the impressive Hindraf demonstration of Nov 25, 2007 in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

hindraf second anniversary 251109 anwar with vasanthaAnwar shrewdly harnessed the energy generated by that signal event to propel the opposition coalition he led to a historic denial of a two-thirds majority to the ruling BN and the stripping of its aura of invincibility at the 12th general election.

However, since that political landscape changing achievement of March 2008 and following the release from ISA custody of five of the movement's more famous activists, discordant aims and dissonant pathways prevented Hindraf from making common cause with PKR, the party that is the logical vehicle for the attainment of Indian Malaysian aspirations.

The biggest obstacle to Hindraf's making common cause with PKR was the quasi-separatism of aspects of the former's socio-economic agenda.

This quasi-separatism stemmed from Hindraf's claim that the plight of Indian Malaysians required a race-specific programme of upliftment.

PKR disagreed. They argued that the Malaysian nation has to get away from race-specific and move to need-based programmes of poverty eradication.

Indian poverty - like Malay, Chinese, Dayak and Kadazandusun penury - would be better alleviated, contended PKR, by need-based programmes of upliftment rather than race-specific ones.

Thus the nub of the socioeconomic agenda propounded by PKR militated against the approach espoused by Hindraf.

Acrimonious exchanges

In the past four years, this has been the focal point of the gulf between Hindraf and PKR, exacerbated, on occasion, by the acerbity of the verbal exchanges between the Hindu rights movement's principal interlocutor, P Uthayakumar, and assorted exponents of the cause of poor Indians - in PKR, DAP and, even, in Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

At times, these exchanges were so acrimonious, the hope that common cause could be made between Hindraf and the rest of the Malaysian opposition appeared reedy and forlorn.

hindraf uthayakumar klang invite 040412Things got worse when Uthayakumar began espousing the need for Indians to move their voter registrations to constituencies where their numbers would then be significant enough to influence victory.

He deduced that with this migration, something like 17 parliamentary and 35 state seats, enabled by Indian bloc votes, would produce results that would garner for the race electoral power.

This was a harebrained scheme but it enjoyed what the German historian of ideas GF Hegel called "negative activity" - a fanaticism of the abstract that assaults the actual without having in mind any practical plans for improving the actual.

In politics, Hegel argued, such "negative activity", whatever its motivation, always ends up serving a practical political purpose.

It's hard to see where the practical political purpose in Uthayakumar's plan for Indian electoral empowerment lay, but when Ambiga Sreneevasan emerged, in the past two years, as a principal leader of Bersih, the electoral reform advocacy group that's been pushing in the last five years for a clean-up of the electoral rolls, the psychological dynamics of Indian electoral empowerment changed.

NONEAmbiga came out of left field and surged, in a non-politically partisan way, to top the ratings in public advocacy of a just cause through reasoned argument and dignified deportment.

This was a tour de force that subtly cut the ground from under Hindraf's feet in way that must have been perplexing to them but was not to ‘middle' Indian Malaysians.

They want to be part of the national mainstream, not quasi-separate from it, as envisaged by the thrust of the Hindraf agenda.

The carriage and content of Ambiga's career is the prototype that Indians want for their children to emulate which was why, after her emergence, Hindraf and their agenda of quasi-separatism rapidly waned.

Their energetic information chief S Jayathas was the quickest to recognise this and enlisted with PKR last month.

With his joining PKR, the avoidable estrangement of the last four years between Hindraf and PKR will rapidly thaw and now with the more tractable Waythamoorthy meeting up with Anwar, a collaboration between natural allies can re-begin.

This is an entente that will be salvific for Indians and save them from futile digression.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them. It is the ideal occupation for a temperament that finds power fascinating and its exercise abhorrent.