We represent oppressed Indians, not racist: Hindraf

June 23rd, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, June 23 (IANS) The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) has denied the racism charges levelled against it by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and said it just voiced the concerns of “oppressed” Indians in the country. The group’s exiled London-based leader P. Waythamoorthy said Hindraf represented “oppressed Malaysians of Indian origin who are systematically marginalised over the years”, said Tamil language daily Makkal Osai.

The Hindraf, which claims to speak for the country’s over two million Tamil Hindus, also stressed on “the struggle for equality and fairness beyond race, religion, creed and skin colour”, the leader said in a statement.

Waythamoorthy was reacting to Mahathir’s statement on his blog chedet.com, where he said a majority of ethnic Malays were “willing to admit other races into the country and endowed them with rights”.

The former prime minister was also accused of demolishing the notion of Bangsa Malaysia, or the composite Malaysian identity, because he said Malaysians must accept the fact that they were “just too different to be known as one race”.

Waythamoorthy remarked that Mahathir sounded “like a broken record”.

When Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) leader S. Samy Vellu called for the release of five Hindraf leaders jailed for organising an illegal protest rally last year, Mahathir called him and the Hindraf “racist”.

“They (Hindraf leaders) speak not just of Indians, but of Tamils as a separate race. They and their apologists are racist to the core,” he had said.

This stirred a controversy with angry reactions from leaders of the Chinese and Indian community. While the Chinese form 33 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million population, Indians comprise eight percent.

Five Hindraf leaders - M. Manoharan, P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kengadharan and K. Vasantha Kumar - are serving two-year jail terms under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA) after they organised a protest rally Nov 25, 2007 alleging discrimination against the Tamil Hindus in jobs and education. They also alleged that over 35,000 Hindu shrines had been demolished in the last five decades.

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