Malaysia: 109 from Hindu rights group held

Last Updated: Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 20:30

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian police on Sunday
arrested 109 members of a group linked to a banned Hindu
rights outfit of ethnic Indians for participating in an
"illegal" rally here to protest against the introduction of a
controversial book in the country`s senior school curriculum.

Those arrested included eight women and belonged to the
Human Rights Party (HRP), an offshoot of the outlawed Hindu
Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

City police chief, Deputy Commissioner Zulkifli Abdullah,
said the 109 persons were held to maintain order and security
within the city.

"It is regrettable but we had advised them multiple
times to not go forward with it (the protest rally). It shows
that they have no respect for the law," he told reporters.
The protesters, mostly ethnic Indians, are against
the introduction of the Malay language novel `Interlok` in the
senior school curriculum.

A section of the minority community, including the
Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) -- the country`s largest
ethnic Indian political party, believes the book contains
offensive words like `pariah` which they say connotes a caste
system that they claim does not exist in this country.

P Uttayakumar, a lawyer who heads the HRP, was among
those arrested.

The protest came despite the government`s assurance that
the book would be introduced in the curriculum only after
amendments were made.

The arrested people were in the age group of 18-66 and
eight of the group`s leaders are believed to be among them.

"All of the 109 are being investigated," Zulkifli said.
Out of the 109, two men were arrested for obstructing
police from performing their duties.

Zulkifli said that those who participated in today`s
"illegal" gathering to protest against the novel were an
isolated group.

"It does not speak for the whole Indian community as
we have been approached by about 13 Indian NGOs supporting our
stance against the illegal gatherings," he said.

He said the NGOs agreed that there were better ways to
get their message across.

The arrests were made as the protesters walked from
the Rennaisance Hotel to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)
outside the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest building
in the world a few years ago.

Though the main group of protesters was stopped by the
police near the hotel before they could march to the Petronas
twin towers, a section managed to evade police to make their
way to the protest venue.

Meanwhile, about 30 people waited outside city police
headquarters demanding the release of of the group`s leaders.
Police allowed them there but warned them against blocking
traffic.

Malaysian police had yesterday warned that legal action
would be taken against anyone attending the gathering
sponsored by the outlawed Hindraf.

Police had rejected an application by Hindraf to hold
the gathering on the grounds that it would jeopardise public
order.

Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar said no
permit had been issued for the gathering and anyone attending
it would be breaking the law.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said he had
directed Ismail to personally monitor the situation and take
firm action if Hindraf created trouble.

"He will be responsible for ensuring that the illegal
organisation does not jeopardise the (security) situation," he
said yesterday.

Ismail said incitement and extremist demands could
cause rifts among communities and trigger hatred for one
another.
He said there should be early education on the need
for tolerance and mutual respect in building a nation.

The Home Minister claimed that the organisers were
trying to create an atmosphere that was being witnessed in the
Middle East, but said that Malaysia was a different situation
altogether and the protesters were not getting the response
they wanted.

Hindraf was responsible for organising a massive
rally of ethnic Indians in November 2007 to protest against
alleged marginalisation of minority community in the
multi-ethnic Malaysia.

The group was banned following the rally which saw its
leaders detained under the Internal Security Act. After his
release, P Uttayakumar, one of Hindraf leaders, formed the
Human Rights Party (HRP).

PTI



First Published: Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 20:30

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