Demolition of Hindu temples raises tempers in Malaysia

September 30th, 2008 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Sep 30 (IANS) The demolition of Hindu temples built illegally on government or forest land continues in Malaysia although the ethnic Indian community voted overwhelmingly for the opposition to protest against the destruction of their shrines. However, the evident boycott of the ruling coalition by the ethnic Indians has not resulted in a change in the government’s policies. On the other hand, the trend has continued even in states where the opposition alliance is in power.

Temple demolition was one of the issues for which the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) staged a protest rally last November after which the government came down heavily on the organisation, detaining five of its top leaders.

A survey conducted after the March general elections said 68 percent of the Indians, who form nearly eight percent of Malaysia’s 28 million population, had voted for the opposition since they were upset about the shifting of a temple a week before the festival of Deepavali.

The vote contributed to the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat winning in three states, Selangor, Penang and Perak.

Among the major losers in the polls was the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), which has traditionally spoken for the estimated 2.6 million ethnic Indians but is part of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Earlier this month, a temple built on forest land in Ampang, Selangor was demolished, causing 100 MIC workers to protest. The 19-year-old temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times between 2002 and 2007.

In a detailed analysis in The Star newspaper, Baradan Kuppusamy, also an ethnic Tamil, Monday said the temple was small in size but its demolition has had a major emotional impact on the Indian community.

Opposition member S. Manickavasagam, an ethnic Indian, said he will quit the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), on whose ticket he was elected, if the issue was not resolved to the satisfaction of Tamil Hindus.

Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy issued a stinging e-mail from self-imposed exile in London, lashing out at the government for destroying the shrine.

MIC president S. Samy Vellu also lashed out at the opposition-ruled state governments for failing to keep to their promise not to demolish Hindu temples.

Kuppusamy said such temples were mainly constructed by the poorer Tamils who fought shy of visiting large, well established shrines that are run and visited by upper class Hindus.

For Hindus, there is no such thing as “enough temples” in an area because a person who builds temples is deemed especially close to and favoured by the gods.

Therefore, there exists a strong urge to build and keep building more temples “from roadside shrines to large temples wherever Hindus live”.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for the Pakatan governments to understand the complete socio-economic and cultural background to the temple issue, Kuppusamy said, calling for an extensive study of the issue.

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