Thursday, 3 July 2014

My HINDRAF Experience

To know more about HINDRAF check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HINDRAF . All pictures taken from Google.




The rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) on 25 November 2007, created a political tsunami that affected the Indian votes in the 12th Malaysian General Election in 2008.

However, it was not the first of its kind. We did have the Klang Indian Riots of the 1940s and Thondar Padai movement of Kedah in the past. There was also strong trade union movement among Indians during colonial times. I will write about it on another day.

HINDRAF was the first of its kind in the new century. Although I disagree with HINDRAF with their ideology, I decided to join the rally back then because at that time, it was crucial for the Indians in this country to be part of it. The Indians needed something like this to knock some sense into them.

I got up early on 25 November 2007 and told my parents that I am meeting up with some friends. They actually believed me. While most people chose Orange as their colour (signifying Hindu saffron), I wore Red for the rally.

My first rally experience started in Kampung Baru. I called up my friend Jullian and told him that I will SMS the updates. He decided to post my updates in Friendster so that our friends get to know the latest happenings from my side. Some could not make it to the rally because of roadblocks.


Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) a.k.a Malaysian Riot Police
The FRU surrounded that area. They issued warning and requested the crowd to disperse. People did not listen. So they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. 

Many Indians ran into Kampung Baru which is a Malay Muslim majority housing area. The Malays even tried negotiating on their behalf.

Some of us continued with our "cat and mouse" game with the FRU. People ran in all directions. The crowd then moved to the area near Ampang Park to join another bigger crowd. There were at least 30,000 people there.

Once again, the FRU started shooting tear gas. Some of the protesters threw the canisters back at them. We were also sprayed with chemical laced water. At that moment I was already near the Tun Razak Police Station.



One tear gas canister fell near my left foot. I started suffocating and I could not see anything. My eyes and skin were burning. I inhaled too much of the gas and I knew I had to run from that place a.s.a.p. I am asthmatic and that is definitely not good.

Somehow, I managed to move away from the crowd and walked into the police station. The protesters were getting arrested at this time. Some, like me, escaped.

I saw many policemen nearby and also a group of journalist. Since I had my office lanyard and tag in my pocket, I wore it around my neck and pretended like a journalist. It saved me for a good 30 minutes.

Another crowd then emerged at Ampang Park, they decided to face the FRU batallion. The police were getting ready to charge at them. 
I didn't want to miss the action so I left my "journalist team" and joined the crowd. 

I would say that it was one of the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life. Should have just stayed quiet and enjoyed the show as a "journalist"

Once again, tear gas....chemical water......tear gas.......chemical water.



The mass arrest began.

One officer asked me "You buat apa kat sini?"
(What are you doing here?)

Me: Oh I am a tourist. What is happening here? 

You know what? He actually believed me and let me go. Probably because I spoke in English and pretended like I don't know Malay. He told me to avoid the crowd and even showed me how to get out.

Nice!

Just when I thought I was lucky and walked away, two young officers from behind grabbed me. They were shorter and smaller than me. They refuse to listen to my explanation. I even told them that their superior officer told me to go.

Nope. Not interested to listen.


I was finally caught and made to sit with the rest inside the police vehicle. My phone rang at that moment. Guess who? It was my wife (then friend) with details of people who can be contacted in the event of arrest. 

I hid my phone in my socks because some of the detainees told me that the police confiscated their phones. I didn't want to loose my phone. 

We were brought to PULAPOL at Jalan Semarak.

There were around 200 of us in the detention center. The police gave us drinks which I refused to take because of my ego. We were not ill treated but I did see some guys getting kicked during the rally.

I managed to call one of my uncles. He is a lawyer. He told me what to do. He advised me to inform the other detainees not to sign any papers and wait for lawyers to arrive. So I did some messenger work inside the detention center explaining to them on what needs to be done.

I was actually frustrated with some of them. They refused to listen and decided to make things hard. Others including some "community trash" who I think don't deserve to protest were also there.

There were also guys from the MIC Youth/Putra division. A few of them went on to become popular bloggers/social media personalities later. I don't wish to name them here.

I wondered......

What are these guys doing here? Is something going on and I am not aware of it? But never mind, it doesn't matter anymore.

A few hours later, Latheefa Koya and her team arrived. The police briefed us and informed that we can leave. There were no charges. I was among the few who refused to sign any papers. 

The policeman who spoke with me actually gave up. 

"Okay la. Tak mahu sign tak apalah. You pergilah" 
(Okay la. If you don't want to sign then it is okay. You leave)

I left the place after spending about 7 hours inside. 

News of my detention reached home even before me. I received numerous calls from friends and family members asking if I was alright. Did they beat me? etc.

I was okay, unharmed. Looks like Jullian did a good job :)

I can't write every single detail about that day here but it was one hell of an experience. 

Back before and after HINDRAF, I used to be quite active in Indian forums before blogs became popular. We used to have discussion via emails and online groups. 

Few months after the HINDRAF incident, I was approached by their overseas coordinator, Ravi Shan. We met in Seremban for a teh tarik session. 

Ravi found out that I do research on the Indian community. I used to visit the National Archives frequently. He knew that I could help their front line propaganda team. So he introduced me to few others in the HINDRAF team hoping that I will join their cause.

But our ideologies are different. If Ravi reads this and still remembers me, I want him to know why I never joined them.

HINDRAF was formed under the Hindu banner but it claimed to champion all Indians, which includes non-Hindus. There was a flaw in their foundation.

They were inconsistent in certain matters especially their decision to sue the British government which never saw any positive outcome. It was probably used as a bait to gain the support of the community. 

Their struggle was of a communal nature and not a class struggle. 

To make matters worse, they later joined hands with the same people they once fought against. This betrayed many of their own supporters.

Perhaps the movement was hijacked and that lead to its failure. One brother became Deputy Minister and the other went to prison. Whatever happened after that is history.


HINDRAF brothers Waythamoorty (left) and Uthayakumar (right). Waythamoorty later joined the BN government as a Deputy Minister while his brother went to prison. Ganabathi Rao (centre).
Many people who read my writings tend to judge me wrongly by assuming that I must be a hardcore right wing Indian-Hindu champion. 

There were even some who asked if I am interested to join their Indian organisation. This includes some friends from MIC. 

I never joined them. 

Because although I may do research on Indian related matters or talk about Hinduism in my blog, politically, I am inclined towards Left.

I believe in the ideals of Socialism within a proper democratic system. I believe in the separation of state and religion without any racial preference.

A Socialist who prefers Merit over Reservation.

So someone like me can never join HINDRAF or MIC as they are based on something which I think should never even be part of governance.


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