Sunday, November 25, 2007

Video of the Hindraf Rally & Thoughts On Bringing Britain In (Updated)

Al-Jareeza's report of the rally this morning is here. A video of a protest in August, a preamble to this one, is here.

"Under the shadow of the Petronas Towers, the symbol of modern Malaysia," as the newsreader says, history was made. And is going to keep being made in the coming days and weeks. But how the video ends bothers me: "Sunday's demonstration shows how peace sometimes has to be imposed." What does that mean? A peaceful gathering by the People is stopped through violent means by a cruel and inegalitarian government -- is that violence honestly justifiable so as to continue the illusion of a superficial "peace"?

Didn't bother to read most of the comments on the videos, as I know how forums like these usually go, but one did catch my eye -- telling Malaysian Indians to go back to India is exactly like telling African-Americans to go back to Africa. They are by no means a new diaspora. And historically, many Indians did move to Malaysia in servitude, a condition which exists on economic terms to this day. The slow simmer of post-Independence (1957) decades and pre-independence centuries came to a head today in no small way. Between this and the BERSIH rally, Malaysia has clearly entered a period of people asserting their power, government be damned. Things are happening in Malaysia at a fast and furious pace. I fear for my loved ones. But this is something that was going to happen, sooner or later.

Flickr photosets on the Hindraf rally and the BERSIH rally.


Personally, while I see the see sense from an international awareness angle, i.e. that holding Britain accountable essentially creates interest in the international press, I do have my doubts about the on-the-ground results and effectiveness in changing the situation for Malaysian racial minorities (it is important to remember that Malaysian Malays are privileged over all other races, not just the Indians, legally. It so happens that Indians are at the bottom of the food chain because of various historical forces).

A feature of colonization is the divide-and-conquer rule. That's what all sorts of colonizers have always done. Like a devious matriarch pitting her children against one another so a united front against her own misdeeds never forms, it is a tactical move that is as part and parcel of imperialism as, say, the English language.

Fifty years after independence, blaming the former British empire for its actions is nothing but nostalgic propagandizing. They did what they did, we fought our way out of it, and then we do what we can despite our scars. I say "we" because India was obviously also under the empire, and the fact that our states are segregated linguistically and the existence of Pakistan and Bangladesh as separate nations attest to the long-term effects of the divide-and-conquer rule. It is not something unique to Malaysia alone, and in fact, has been practised elsewhere to even more obvious consequences.

But in Malaysia today, fifty years after freedom from colonial rule (some say forty-four, but that is only an aside here), apartheid exists out of the choice of those in power today. And out of the choice of people who continue to vote for the people in power today. Queen Elizabeth isn't sending missives to Putrajaya ordering discrimination, unfair laws, mistreatment.

So what I hope for is that Hindraf knows this, and that targeting Britain is in fact part of a tactical strategy of its own, and expecting returns from that focuses priorities in an idealistic, unpragmatic way. Pinning the blame on Britain, if followed through completely, detracts from the reality that it is the Malay-run government and its supporters who divide the country today.

Free of colonial rule, it is our own responsibilities as former subjects to decolonize ourselves. Expecting the colonizer to do this is to allow them to once again rule.

Update 2: Ultrabrown has a detailed post with many links, exploring both current events and historical ones. It also links to an article in which I was one of the people interviewed, which I never posted on my blog because I was not too happy about some factual inaccuracies.

Update 3 (Nov 26): When I first began following the unethical temple demolitions issue, which was arguably what the breaking point that led to the rally was, I remember saying in discussions that the issue was not just race but class. It was temples in disenfranchised areas that fell victim. "The day it happens to Batu Caves is when we'll know things have taken the most grim turn ever, because then we'll know that even money and influence can't stop what's coming," I used to say. Jeff Ooi's blog shows that day was yesterday.

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Blogger devilwitattitude said...

hey love, perhaps you should dwell in the details before lashing out your 2cents. Hindraf did not demand Brits to be responsible but nontheless they are merely stating what was initiated by the Brits long ago. The fact indians resaide in this land is because the brits brought in indians as cheap labour. It began then, to an evolution we all are witnessing. Hindraf merely saying that if they hadn't brought us here, then we don't have to be opressed by a party which for no reason wants a bumiputera individual to be on top of any company regardless of who owns that asset per se.I mean while indians and chinese are slogging hard to find their way to the top, a policy which gives a deffinite advantage to the malays are deffinitely not favaourable to the rest. I mean aren't we all pay the same amount of tax. Then why does preferential treatment exist. There are more dirts that we could cover and I could go on but I am sure you got the picture. In the end Hindraf is not seeking for preferential treatment, but they are merely saying do not treat us any different than the rest.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Sharanya Manivannan said...

Devilwitattitude -- A USD 4 trillion lawsuit is a demand to accept responsibility. As for "if the British hadn't brought us here", well, chances are many of the ancestors of those who are today's Malaysian Indians would have been suffering in India. A statement like that is like blaming one's parents for bringing one into the world -- once you are here, it becomes irrelevant. And where do I suggest that Hindraf wants preferential treatment? Actually, I don't -- the clarification about there being other minorities in Malaysia was for the benefit of non-Malaysian readers of this blog, who may not be aware -- but your later statement about not demanding preferential treatment contradicts your earlier one. Not being any different from the rest, whom specifically? Orang Asli? Nyonas? Eurasians? The Chinese? Or Malays?

8:27 PM  
Blogger வே. இளஞ்செழியன் said...

Hmm... me thinks the argument goes like this: you brought us here; kept us in chains; deprived us of proper education so as to maintain a large cheap labour force; and, to cap it, drew up a Constitution that permanently locked us in servile, second class citizen status. You messed up; now pay up.

OK, in reality though, what Hindraf is challenging -- and it is why I was will them today -- is the racist Ketuanan Melayu (and Art. 153), which for the UMNO/BN regime is almost a national ideology of sorts. Who else is directly challenging it? Hmm...

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All protesters were saying & asking was “Give us a Chance to Hand in the Petition to British High Commission” – just an hour maybe. And what they got were tears and chemical water. It is most regrettable they were not given the chance to hand over the petition (was a copy faxed over). And the gall of the IGP in the interview to say they were no leaders there to submit the petition. Read his shameful words “ we allowed it”
Read the shameful words of IGP: “we allowed it”

ALJazeera: Your officers were fairly effective in driving the protesters away from the British High Commission, do you think that had they been allowed to hand over the petition at the High C, this would have ended peacefully without any disturbance?
IGP: Well first of all we allowed it; but of course they got no leaders with them’ So we don’t know who wants to hand over the memorandum. And by the end of it the, leaders came, but later on they didn’t even hand over the memorandum to the British High Commission.
More details, two Video Clips (Protest & interview) at
Go H E R E

12:08 AM  
Blogger Obiter Dictum said...

Was there on Saturday, the road blocks had already begun from Friday, the threatening looks on display.

Attended the Readings. Vani's raw words were... just hitting the raw nerve.

Coward that I am, I hurried back home, did not stay overnight at KL. Well, had work to do here anyway.

8:12 AM  

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