Kuala Lumpur: Eleven ethnic Indians have been
charged by Malaysian prosecutors with being members of a
banned Hindu rights group linked to a recent protest against
introduction of a controversial Malay-language novel in the
senior school curriculum.
However, the 11 men pleaded innocence to charges that
they were members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf),
their lawyer P Uthayakumar said.
Six were charged today and five yesterday in separate
courts in northern and central Malaysia. They face up to three
years in prison if convicted.
The charges against them came days after the Human Rights
Party of Uthayakumar, who was earlier a top leader of Hindraf,
protested at the city centre against introduction of the novel
"Interlok" in senior school curriculum, with several academics
and the Malaysian Indian Congress, the country`s largest
ethnic Indian political party, claiming that it contained
words sensitive to the Indian community.
The use of the word "pariah" in the novel has been
objected to by the community members who feel it connotes a
caste system which they say is not found among ethnic Indians
Hindraf, which hit international headlines in 2007
when it organised a massive rally of ethnic Indians here to
protest against alleged discrimination of the minority
community, was banned by the government in 2008.
Those charged were involved in protests over the
years, but now consider themselves part of a newer group with
a different name, Uthayakumar said.
"How can a human rights organisation be a security
threat?" he said. "We are fighting against discrimination."
Ethnic Indians make up 8 per cent of the country`s 28
million people. Malays constitute nearly two-thirds of the
population and ethnic Chinese form about 25 per cent.