Hindus in Malaysia Approach UN for Help

March 17, 2007

Author: R. Balashankar

Source: Organiser


For the Hindus in Malaysia, life has become a hell. The local administrations in Malaysia with the covert support of the federal government are systematically demolishing Hindu temples. In the last 20 months the situation has become so intolerable that the Hindu organisations in Malaysia have appealed to the UN and other international agencies for the first time, seeking intervention.

According to a conservative estimate, 10,000 temples have been demolished since 1985. Though the Hindu Tamils form 15 per cent of the population, they do not enjoy and exercise any political right unlike the minorities in India. Almost all the temples are older than the Republic of Malaysia (i.e. at least 60 years), some are over two hundred years old, built by labourers and businessmen who immigrated to that land during the British rule. Malaysia became independent on August 31, 1957.

The majority of Indian immigrants went from south India, mainly Tamil Nadu in the 1800s. So they are as much native as the Malays or the Chinese. The Tamils have a traditional belief that one should not live in a village that does not have a temple. Hence they have traditionally been temple builders. The plantations they worked in were dotted with temples, with each clan affiliated to a temple, though there was complete harmony between the temples and the people. Most of the temples were built for Mahamariamma (a devi form of Kali). She is generally worshipped for protection from diseases, especially small pox and chicken pox. Temples for Shri Murugan (Kartikeya) were also common. Kartikeya is considered the god of the Tamil language, land and people. There were also the shrines for boundary deities.

Other than what the villagers built, the British colonial masters encouraged the building of temples in government offices, departments and hospitals. Therefore many temples occupied the government land. For the population living so far away from home and working in inhospitable conditions, in thick jungles and marshes, the temples were the focal point, where they met from time to time, celebrating the fairs and festivals. This brotherhood remained intact for the last 200 years. The villain in the situation entered in the form of land greed, coupled with the advent of Islamic religious extremism and development.

What has hurt the Hindus the most is the way the government is going about the business of removing temples. It follows a pattern. First the notice comes to a temple declaring it an illegal construction, not sanctioned under the local plan. The fact that the local planning came much after the temple was built is not taken into account. Applications by temple authorities for recognition keep pending in the offices for years. Whereas in the case of mosques, the government has been issuing ownership certificates.