A prominent U.S. based human rights group, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), today joined a growing chorus demanding restoration of civil rights in Malaysia after the recent banning of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF). In a letter written to the Malaysian Emabssy in the United States, the Foundation condemned the recent banning of the avowedly non-violent organization and the ongoing incarceration without trial of five HINDRAF leaders.
In November 2007, HINDRAF organized a massive, peaceful rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that leaders said was to raise global awareness about the persecution and discrimination the Hindu minority faces in that country. These allegations have been verified and documented in HAF's Annual Hindu human rights report as recently as this year.
According to media coverage and first hand reports reaching HAF offices, the Malaysian government brutally crushed the gatherings and jailed five of the HINDRAF leaders without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act. Popular discontent over the government's response led to a major reversal in the ruling party's electoral fortunes earlier this year. In a bid to consolidate power, however, the Malaysian government banned HINDRAF on October 15, 2008.
"In our letter to the Malaysian embassy, we highlighted the temple destructions, lack of free speech and discrimination Hindus are facing in that country on a daily basis," said Ishani Chowdhury, HAF's Director of Pubic Policy. "We call upon the Malaysian government to lift its ban on HINDRAF and release the Hindu leaders imprisoned without cause for nearly a year."
The HINDRAF chairman, P. Waythamoorthy, is currently exiled in London, and has been in close touch with HAF leaders. Waythamoorthy's six-year old daughter was among eleven others that were illegally detained without cause on October 23, 2008.
"The Malaysian government has chosen an anti-democratic, authoritarian path that ostracizes and persecutes Hindus--a people whose history in that country spans six centuries," added Chowdhury.
Evoking the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, in her letter, Chowdhury wrote that, "it is imperative that...Malaysia work for the equal and fair treatment of the Hindu minority community and address grievances as such."