The cutting of Pakatan’s Indian cord
- S Thayaparan
- 8:33AM Nov 7, 2012
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." – James Baldwin
COMMENT Post-2008 tsunami, which Hindraf (however much revisionists wish to claim otherwise) played a part in has been left out in the cold as far as mainstream politics is concerned. This cold spell seems to be abating.
Hindraf’s audience with PAS’ Nik Aziz Nik Mat and the recent Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim meet-up are interesting developments for the most credible Indians rights group often vilified as "racist" by the supposed multicultural alliance and their supporters.
Only DAP has yet to hold "high level" talks with P Waythamoorthy (right) and Hindraf. No surprise there. DAP these days accuses Hindraf of exactly the same thing Umno accused them of being – a "racist" organisation hell bent on destabilising the status quo. Of course Umno still accuses them of that but DAP has PKR and PAS, which act as a multicultural shield, to withstand the worst of these attacks.
Hindraf under P Uthayakumar and the Human Rights Party’s rhetoric concerning the DAP did not help matters either. I have said exactly this in my conversations with Uthayakumar.
Waythamoorthy’s "different approach" has Pakatan kool-aid drinkers painting the relationship between the brothers as some sort of Remus and Romulus retelling but as always nobody wants to acknowledge that different approaches to communal problems have always been the reality here in Malaysia.
Not too long ago, the Chinese community clapped enthusiastically as the MCA and DAP did the good cop bad cop routine on the political stage. Meanwhile, Hindraf supporters come up to me claiming partisanship to a specific brother and sniping at each other when solidarity between the Human Rights Party and Hindraf should be the objective.
In the partisan alternative press, some kudos is thrown Waythamoorthy’s way but most of it sounds like a pat on the head for the Indian community for finally jumping on the Pakatan bandwagon.
Uthayakumar (left) though has to suffer the further indignity of the accusations of being a BN turncoat, when he is currently facing sedition charges and battling a system predicated on exacting its pound of flesh for imagined slights.
Uthayakumar is mocked as stubborn, arrogant and unyielding but the truth is this is exactly what the disenfranchised of the Indian community needs after decades of Umno-BN.
I have argued that the Human Rights Party is the perfect pressure group – vocal and uncompromising – but Hindraf could act as the bridge that links the polemics of Human Rights Party and the reforms needed, that can only be achieved by working with groups of power.
The Indian underclass
This is not to say that Pakatan has been derelict in its obligations to the Indian community.
PKR’s N Surendran and Latheefa Koya (left) do sterling work for the Indian community but the reality is that only Hindraf and the Human Rights Party (in its role as a pressure group) is capable of galvanising the marginalised Indian community into forming a cohesive force so they would be a formidable participant in the political process.
Honestly, the pro-Pakatan Indraf (Indian Rights Action Force) was an embarrassment that painted the alternative alliance efforts in wooing the Indian vote as a shoddy afterthought and was a great disservice to the people who marched on that fateful day (for various reasons) under the Hindraf banner.
As I have written in various piece – much to the ire of Hindraf supporters – Hindraf itself is also to blame for not being cognisant of the change of terrain in the battlefield in the coming Umno-Anwar showdown for the future of this country.
Pakatan has the middle-class Indian vote more or less locked down. In fact, there is a tendency by middle-class Indian voters to dismiss Hindraf as "troublemakers" and bemoan the reality that Indians are "so divided".
The MIC that many have written off (including me) has been making inroads into the disenfranchised Indian communities and spreading the wretched poison that the BN has been manufacturing all these years. Pakatan by alienating the only credible movement gives MIC the ammunition it requires in an undeclared culture war that Pakatan seems ignorant of waged from within and without the Indian community.
The marginalisation of a certain segment of the Indian community lies squarely on the shoulders of MIC and the separation of the public and private sectors of this country that is divided along racial lines, which the other ethnic groups are jealously guarding their turf.
The inclusion of Indians in opposition parties that claim multiracialism is regarded by those disenfranchised from the political process as mere tokenism or at worse, collaboration.
Hindraf may have given voice to these concerns but MIC has been quietly reaping the benefits of the resultant fallout. Something is better than nothing, they claim, and the old game of BN is better than the so-called new one of Pakatan.
Championing of communal rights
The more Hindraf is marginalised and painted as a racist group by Pakatan, the more apathy sets in a certain section of the disenfranchised section of the Indian community. For the crypto-racists within Pakatan who have always been contemptuous of the Indian community, this is not a problem until they lose a seat and blame the loss on the Indian community.
The wonderful aspect of free speech on the Internet is that under the cover of anonymity the Indian community (like everyone else) can be bashed with impunity.
What I get from the rhetoric emanating from Pakatan and its kool-aid drinkers (a distinction should be made between them and the true believers) is that multiculturalism/multiracialism means the inclusion of cultural identities for everyone, except the Indians.
The championing of communal rights for the other two races in this country conveniently escapes the all-encompassing multicultural rights (sic) rhetoric whereas Hindraf’s "demands" are supposedly anathema because they follow the racial formula of the BN.
An example of this dissonance can be observed in PKR’s Tian Chua who said that Pakatan’s support for Indian Malaysian issues are not contingent on Hindraf support.
Never mind the fact that the only time Indian issues get play is when Hindraf (and the Human Rights party) scream their heads off. Why wouldn’t you want to reassure the only credible Indian rights group in this country that their support is needed?
After all, DAP is chasing the Chinese educationist groups, Chinese commerce groups and Chinese/Christian evangelical groups, just to name a few. Of course, the argument here is that said groups are merely fighting for their "rights" (sic) as enshrined in the constitution whereas Hindraf advocates a quota system.
PKR may claim to be committed to Indian issues but you can bet your bottom ringgit that if Hindraf and the Indian community stood side by side, Tian Chua would not be so cavalier in dismissing this rights group when his allies and he go chasing after every "other" rights or pressure groups out there.
Moreover, Tian Chua, spare me "we are not there to exchange political favours" spiel. Only a complete moron would believe that Pakatan is immune from the reality of the political process where horse trading, political favours and all the other necessary evils of achieving and maintaining political power is practiced.
Compromises from both sides
This of course is a question of degrees and while we abhor the blatant and criminal way Umno has been doing this all these years, I would like to believe that most Pakatan supporters are not blind to the reality that Pakatan would have to do this to remain in power if it ever sits on the Putrajaya throne.
Never mind that the Malay-Muslim community is constantly reminded that a "need-based" affirmative action policy would see their "rights" secure and the DAP being Chinese dominated is an extremely influential voice in the alliance which means that Chinese "rights" would be taken care off.
This leaves the Indians in the position of having no choice but to buy into the whole multiracial/cultural idea in the hope that the rhetoric translates into action.
Hint. It is extremely difficult to make the argument that you are an alliance committed to the ideals of egalitarianism and/or multiculturalism when your rhetoric and strategies relies on claiming the racial roles created by Umno under the guise of an all-inclusive alliance.
At the end of the day, as a supporter of Pakatan I believe that Pakatan should acknowledge Hindraf and the Human Rights Party as the only game in town when it comes to the issue of Indian communal interest.
These two rights groups are the only sociopolitical entities which have a genuine commitment to the plight of the disenfranchised and if Pakatan is sincere in their commitment to the Indian community, they would harness the potential of these groups as a means of drawing the disenfranchised section of the Indian community into the mainstream.
At the same time, Hindraf and the Human Rights Party have to drop their extremely polemical discourse and their own role in exacerbating the culture conflict within the Indian community and realise that just as Pakatan has to make compromises, so would they.
As long as the compromises they make serve some utilitarian value that favours the Indian community even at the expense of the principal, well that is the hard cold reality of politics especially racial politics anywhere in the world.