The Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) — the manifestation of discontent by Malaysians of Indian heritage — appears to have tapered off. At the height of its power, HINDRAF, a coalition of approximately 30 Hindu non–governmental organisations, mobilised approximately 30,000 Malaysians of Indian origin to protest the Malaysian government’s treatment of Indians. The government’s disproportionate response to their demands alienated the Indian community, who then voted lock, stock and barrel for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat at the 12th General Election in March 2008.
However, since the historic election results, there seems to be a split in the leadership and several of the HINDRAF leaders have now formed their own political parties. One of its main leaders, R. Thanenthiran has formed a party which has the support of Prime Minister Najib. Najib, of course, is desperate to gain back the confidence of the Indian community — long considered a safe vote bank for the ruling party.
P. Uthayakumar, considered the main leader of HINDRAF, has also formed a political party, the Human Rights Party, which at the moment remains independent, focused on Indian issues and highly critical of mainstream parties that do not meet the demands of the “Indian community.”
HINDRAF, a key reason for the Pakatan Rakyat’s spectacular electoral results in the 12th General Election, have been criticised for focusing exclusively on the Indian community. Nevertheless, HINDRAF continues to be a force to be reckoned with — and both the ruling party and opposition continue to court its leaders. We must wait to see whether these leaders will deliver on the demands of Malaysians of Indian heritage.