Waythamoorthy Ponnusamy has been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks demanding equal rights for Hindus and other minorities.
He is trying to get the ruling coalition and political Opposition to accept the demands of his Indian rights organisation Hindraf, which aims to improve the rights and living conditions of Malaysian Indians in their blueprint for change. Indians make up about eight percent of the total population of 28 million. The British brought them into the country mainly as indentured labourers. Although there’s now a sizeable Indian middle class, there is also a large number of hardcore poor, and Hindraf activists say that Indians are discriminated against.
Analysts say Indian votes will be crucial in many constituencies at the next general election, which is shaping up to be the most tightly contested ever. Neither the ruling coalition nor the Opposition paid much attention to the grievances of the Indian community until Hindraf called for a massive protest in 2007. It was the first time that thousands of Indians took to the streets here, to protest. Months later, in the 2008 general election, the Indians largely desserted the ruling coalition and voted for the Oppostion. Hindraf leaders say they can, once again, rally the Indians to whichever side that agrees to its demands. Analysts say it’s not that simple. But Waythamoorthy vows to continue his hunger strike until his demands are met.