Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank you, Hindraf, for Makkal Sakthi!


[Images collected from various sources. 14 April Freedom Rally pics courtesy of TV Smith]
THE SAD SAGA OF RAJESWARI MURUGIAH: view this powerful short documentary on a Malaysian citizen who was wrongfully detained for 11 months because she lost her identity card and couldn't recall the number. From, 24 Nov 2008


Pat said...

Hey Antares,

Her story touched me when it first surfaced in September this year. And I posted about it here:

You cannot speak Bahasa Malaysia, ah?

This brings it all back to me again - and it's got me boiling. Again. Sigh.


Pat said...

Hi Antares,

I don't often comment, cos I don't get a high from seeing my name in print. So here, I'm commenting because I'd like to be on record saying this:

That I was uncomfortable with Hindraf when they first appeared. And to this day, question their motives and some of the ways they've decided to do things.

But I salute their presence in Malaysia today. Because of Hindraf, there was the Bersih rally. And because of Hindraf, we had the results in the elections of March 8. Because they taught us that we have a voice.

So, for me, they embody an idea and a dream: that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We just need to try. And that is what Hindraf has taught me. And for that, I am grateful.


Starmandala said...

Pat - You're just a bit self-conscious that's all, I mean, about leaving your paw prints on the carpet of the collective psyche! Why leave it to gibbering idiots & sponsored hacks? Folks like you who come from a life well and honestly lived and who are articulate & intelligent have almost a moral duty to speak out at every oportunity - thereby contributing positively to the ongoing multimedia, multidimensional forum we call "community."

As for Hindraf: I am, of course, not ecstatic about any sectarian movement but feel people have every right to organize themselves in any way they choose - smart or stupid isn't for us to say. Now if such sectarian movements generate a dynamic for necessary social change & the redress of iniquities, then we may view them as large boulders being dropped in a stagnant pool, creating ripples of awareness. But if these movements serve only to intimidate and oppress other interest groups, we may classify them as lynch mobs in the bizarre & barbaric tradition of the Ku Klux Klan. Even so, as long as there are people willing to participate in such mindless mobs (like the hastily knocked together & hooliganistic herd that disrupted Apcet II) they ought to be given the space to act out their angst - and police intervention is warranted only in the event hostility erupts into physical violence.

balan said...

Well, what HINDRAF refuse to understand is that their parents and leaders agreed to the 'social contract’ and related constitution wholeheartedly before the independence was granted. If they have anyone to blame, if should be the people and Indian leaders during the period.


Starmandala said...

Balan - You're among the fortunate ones who lives fairly comfortably in a middle-class cocoon and who can afford the luxury of a well-balanced worldview. Don't get me wrong - I'm not condemning the bourgeois-urban-intellectual lifestyle. In fact, the majority of my friends & family belong in that economic & social category. During the Mahathir era, I observed that most of my yuppie & nouveau riche friends enjoyed making jokes about the PM but for the most part did not feel motivated to remove him from power. After all, his policies appeared to be "business friendly" & the confident young pan-Malaysian was sexily portrayed by urbane & with-it lifestyle magazines like 'Men's Review' (I used to contribute regularly & wasn't at all embarrassed to be associated with it).

When I read P. Waythamoorthy's Hindraf manifesto last year, I immediately noticed the quaint syntax & Tamil-movie histrionics of the entire petition - yet I felt it was a sincere expression of the deep frustration so many Indians must have endured for so many decades (especially the ones from Tamil Nadu whose ancestors arrived as debt slaves recruited to build the railways & tap rubber). It's unkind & unnecessary to laugh when somebody becomes inarticulate or stutters with anger. These people are not used to voicing their feelings - they have always left it to Samy Vellu. That's why they kept voting MIC election after election. But in the historic year 2007 these people had had enough. So what if they march with a picture of Gandhi in one hand & a bottle of beer in the other? So what if everything about Hindraf comes across to urban sophisticates as a wee bit too high-key? You know something, Balan? Many years ago, I watched in horror as an Indian jaga kereta (probably 18 or 19 yrs old) was dragged by one ear across the carpark by a cocky Chinese chap in his mid-20s (probably the towkay's son). I couldn't understand why the kid didn't resist or pull away & tell the arrogant asshole son of a boss to stick his lousy lowdown job up his own tight arse? Then it hit me that it was a genetic inhibition, passed down several generations of voiceless "coolies" - Epsilons, in Aldous Huxley's study of social stratification, 'Brave New World.' Like the African slaves in America, it takes several generations & a fair amount of mutation for the slave program to be shattered once & for all. To me, Hindraf was symbolic of that joyous moment when a psychological worm turned in that Indian boy - and he decided to stand up to his full height & clearly & loudly state: "All right! I'm not putting up with any more of your shitty treatment! I am a human being, same as you!"

Pat said...


You are so right here. And you've put it forth succintly - I couldn't have said it better even if I'd tried.

Hindraf has given voice to the Indians like your jaga kereta boy. Before this, they had no voice - because they didn't know they had one, and if they did know, they didn't know that they could use it to speak.

Many Indians like me - those whose parents were in the civil service like my dad was, or those who are lawyers and doctors and doing well for themselves, have been uncomfortable with the whole Hindraf idea. Mainly because we have not been where the jaga kereta boy and those like him have been. Their experience is outside our ken.

And again, you are right that they returned Samy Velu to power every time because he seemed their only voice. That he has let them down, every time, is indisputable.

How strange - for me - that it has taken a Chinese (you!) to lay things out so clearly. Perhaps it is because you are outside the picture, and stake no claim.

Whenever I have heard Hindraf discussed before, it has either been by the chest-thumpers, or those wanting to disassociate themselves from them.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this one, and I think many won't. So be it.

And Samy Velu? Can someone tell him to take his hair and make like Elvis - and leave the building?


Starmandala said...

Pat - Thank you lah, sweetie, for validating my perception here. That image of an Indian boy being pulled by the ear like a beast of burden got stuck in my mind for decades. I think that's when my deeply-ingrained disdain for Phlegm-Throwing Towkays, BN-Voting Chinese Contractors, Hill-Destroying-to-make-a-Mountain-of-Money Developers & Mahathir-Befriending Tycoons really started kicking in!

balan said...


Just came back here after a long time.

You know what, I lived in 8 different estates, worked there. My father still lives in an estate in Yong Peng Johor.

Were poor. Had only form 5 (mere pass), the mandor in my estate enrolled me into MIC.I worked in estate too before deciding to move out on my own.

I have seen everything, you name it..I just want Indians to realise that they have to believe in themselves first. The reverse is happening with MIC, Hindraf etc when you put too much hope on politicians.

It's all right to stand up for your rights, but the community have to realise their own weaknesses before blaming everything and everyone else except for themselves.

Let's not be in self denial...

Pat said...

Antares! I'm going to beat you in the response to Balan ;)

Hey Balan, I agree with you cos you are so memang betul!!! Especially what you say in your very last line about blame: how true that is.

Perhaps 'education' is the key. Not necessarily school, but somehow making people understand that they can and do have a say in how things turn out - rather than view life with a defeatist attitude.

I agree that pinning hope on politicians is so not the way forward. For me, politicians and politics are four-letter words!

Somehow we need to reach inside the psyche of the average disenfranchised Malaysian-Indian and let him know that he is a someone who matters.

A 'bad' development these days: have you noticed that the number of workers in Malaysia from the Indian sub-continent has increased. They are so visible these days; like the Indonesian worker used to be.

For me, that is a bad thing: because it will reinforce the idea that the Indian is here to be in slave-mode. The pittance we pay them and pitiful conditions they live with as migrant workers here - to me, that is like seeing what happened in early Malaya happen all over again!