KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 23: A Hindu rights group charged that there appeared to be an ‘unofficial policy of Hindu temple cleansing’ in Malaysia after eight worship places were torn down or given demolition notices in three months.
The Hindu Rights Action Force, a coalition of 50 Hindu-based NGOs, urged Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to halt what it called local councils’ ‘indiscriminate and unlawful’ demolition of Hindu temples.
Ethnic Indians, mostly Hindus, make up about 8 per cent of Malaysia's 26 million people. Many of them still earn a living tapping rubber and doing menial labor, and have minimal participation in the corporate sector.
The community lags economically and politically behind ethnic Malays, who comprise about 60 per cent of the population, and Chinese, who make up about a quarter.
Since February, three Hindu temples have been knocked down, while one has been partly destroyed and threatened with further destruction, and two have been served demolition notices-mostly in the Malaysia's biggest city, city Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring Selangor state-said group chairman P. Waytha Moorthy.
“There seems to be an unofficial policy of Hindu temple cleansing in Malaysia. The reason given was that the temples are illegally occupying land, but demolishing places of worship is unlawful under our penal code,” Moorthy said.
“The Indians are very angry. If the local authorities keep on demolishing temples, it will incite racial hatred and we are worried that the community will turn violent,” he warned.
In the latest incident, Moorthy said Kuala Lumpur City Hall officials with firearms and riot gear on May 11 forcefully demolished part of a 60-year-old suburban temple that serves more than 1,000 low-income devotees.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall officials are not immediately available for comment.
Another 150-year-old temple in southern Negeri Sembilan state has also been served a demolition notice, but the temple committee is fighting the case in court, he said.
“These state atrocities are committed against the most underprivileged and powerless sector of the Hindu society in Malaysia. We appeal that this Hindu temple and all other Hindu temples in Malaysia are not indiscriminately and unlawfully demolished,” Moorthy said.
The coalition, which has sent appeal letters to the Prime Minister, urged the government to set aside the affected land as Hindu temple reserves, and ensure that alternative sites and compensation are given to help Hindu temples relocate if necessary.