The thundering silence of the Government of India over the issue of mistreatment of ethnic Indians in Malaysia is reprehensible and appalling but not surprising. You could not have expected any better from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation which routinely dumps morality, fairness, and propriety to win Muslim votes.
How do a few million Hindus matter anyway in a foreign country? So, no less a person than External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has made it clear that his Government would do little for the Malaysian Hindus. ?A terrorist is a terrorist. He has no religion and his origin does not matter,? he said, reacting to a question on a reported comment by the Malaysian Government that the protesting Indian community in the country was sympathisers of the LTTE (The Times Of India, December 9).
This was in sharp contrast with the reaction of the US. On December 10, the US lambasted Kuala Lumpur for suppression of democracy and denial of the basic freedoms. ?We have repeatedly raised with Malaysian authorities our belief that citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views,? Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said. ?We also stated in our annual human rights report our belief that the Malaysian Government places significant restrictions on the right to assemble peacefully.?
It may be recalled that the US considers Malaysia a moderate Muslim democracy but the instances of indiscriminate destruction of Hindu temples has shaken its faith in Kuala Lumpur'scommitment to pluralism and tolerance. Recently, a US Congress-appointed Commission expressed unease at the acts of temple demolitions. It also expressed concern at discrimination faced by religious and ethnic minorities in Malaysia.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom implored the George Bush Administration to take up the matter with Kuala Lumpur and ?insist that immediate measures be taken to protect sacred sites and prevent further destruction.?
The Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Government, however, remains unrepentant and unrelenting in its suppression of the Hindus and repression of their peaceful movement. Its crackdown on the ethnic Indian rights group Hindraf has been vicious, and now the Government wants to prosecute three Hindraf leaders with sedition charges. Lawyers and their supporters are also being harassed by the Government.
Even as Washington has shown sympathy with the prosecuted and persecuted people, the powers that be in New Delhi refused to meet the leader of the protesting Hindu group Hindraf, Waytha Moorthy. The only person of consequence he could meet was Leader of the Opposition LK Advani. Notice the UPA Government'sgullibility. Malaysia'spolice chief accuses Indian activists of having links with terrorist groups, an accusation that can led to their detention without trial under internal security laws; and our ?secular? regime unquestioningly accepts Kuala Lumpur'sversion. It does not just accept the version but also acts on it. Without looking at the version of the other party, Hindraf; without studying facts.
The reality is that the multi-ethnic and multi-faith Malaysia is hurtling towards the goal of Islamisation. Interestingly, it is not a ?hidden agenda? of some fundamentalists in the system that is on the move; it is the officially stated policy of the Malaysian Government to discriminate against non-Malays and non-Muslims.
As Mohamed Nawab Bin Mohamed Osman, an associate research fellow with the Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University, wrote recently: ?The introduction of Islam Hadhari as a guiding principle of the state has led government officials to utilise it to further Islamise Malaysian society and curb the rights of non-Muslims. This trend began with the case of a former commando, M Moorthy, whom a state religious authority had converted to Islam before he died in 2005. He was given a Muslim burial despite his wife'sobjections. This was followed by several cases of Muslim women married to Hindu men being separated from their husbands against their will. There have also been cases of the authorities demolishing Hindu temples built illegally on government land. The lack of sensitivity that the Malaysian authorities have displayed in dealing with such issues has only fuelled the alienation.? But Pranab Mukherjee and his Cabinet colleagues ignore the existence of state-sponsored bigotry in Malaysia.
Apart from the fundamentalism, ethnic Indians are also victims of racism. As Mohamed Osman wrote: ?Malaysia's?bumiputra? policy-aimed at rectifying the economic disparity between Malays and other communities, has led to the economic marginalisation of those of Indian origin. The recent Ninth Malaysian Plan report highlighted that Indians control only 1.2 per cent of corporate wealth-a decline from the earlier 1.5 per cent. More recently, lower income Indians have begun moving away from traditional jobs like rubber tapping to urban areas in search of jobs. This in part is because many rubber and oil palm plantations around the big cities are being used for commercial and residential purposes. The educational level of this community, coupled with bumiputra policies, has led many within it to indulge in illegal activities to earn a living. The phenomenon of the Indian urban poor is reflected in the fact that as many as 21.7 per cent of Indians in Selangor, a largely urban state, are squatters.?
The UPA Government, which claims to be solicitous of Indian Diaspora and even set up a ministry for this purpose, has adopted an ostrich-like attitude towards the plight of ethnic Indians in Malaysia. The racism and bigotry of Kuala Lumpur does not bother the UPA. Such are the consequences of Muslim appeasement.
(The author is with The Political and Business Daily.)