Wanton demolitions of thousands of minority temples traumatize Hindus. - By R. Balashankar
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. Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) sent a formal complaint to the United Nations on the alleged unconstitutional conduct of the Malaysian government in demolishing places of worship belonging to the minority Hindus.
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.
For instance, the local Hindu community applied in 1977 for regularization of a temple of Kuil Shri Maha Mariamman temple in Selangor DE. The temple had been built around 1899. The application was ignored and on April 14th (one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar) the local authorities declared the 107-year-old temple illegal and by May 2006, the temple had been demolished.
In some cases, the local goondas are sent into the crowd of devotees when worship is on. They pick up quarrel deliberately. Someone calls the police ostensibly to quieten the crowd. The police enters with the bulldozer and taking the cover of the melee pull down the temple in minutes. Cases against demolitions are not registered because there had been no violation of law in the demolition and the political parties and the government higher-ups adopt a political blindness.
Hindus form around 15 per cent of the population of over 26 million. Muslims are in a majority, at 55 per cent of the population. Another major group is the Chinese who form over 25 per cent of the population. They are a mixture of Buddhists and Christians. Though other minorities like Christians and Buddhists have also been affected by the “cleaning” drive of the government, their woes appear to be nothing in comparison to the Hindus.
Though Malaysia has a secular constitution, the national religion is Islam. According to the reports from the Hindu sources the anti-Hindu moves began since 1969. The political parties kindled the communal fire by playing a game of one-upmanship to come to power.
In return for the temples demolished the government sometimes offers 10x10 feet space to relocate. These alternate sites are located in the most un-temple-like locale, next to a sewage plant or garbage dump. With no other alternative, the Hindus have now appealed to the UN to intervene in the matter and put an end to the temple demolitions. No help has come from any quarter till now.
The mainstream Hindu NGOs are also coaxed into playing along with the government.
An NGO Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) has taken the initiative in raising the matter to attract attention to this burning issue, before all is lost. The press, both English and Tamil, have glossed over the incidents.
Malaysia is the latest in the list of nations where the Hindus are facing religious persecution. Sometime ago, in Russia, the ISKCON temple was demolished. It is a regular happening in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
According to P. Waytha Moorthy, spokesperson for HINDRAF, the following places of worship to date have been indiscriminately demolished or threatened to be demolished by the local authorities with the blessing of the State.
- Shri Ayyanar Sathiswary Alayam Temple (over 65 years old) at Jalan Davies demolished on 22.2.2006 and the statues buried at the site.
- The Malaimel Shri Selva Kaliamman Temple Pantai at Kuala Lumpur (over 100 years old) was demolished on 17.4.2006
- The Vaalmunswarar Rajaamman Kovil (over 60 years old) at Lady Templer Hospital Kuala Lumpur demolished on the 3rd May 2006
- Shri Kaliamman temple in Midlands Estate, Seksyen 7, Shah Alam (more than 100 years old) was demolished by the Shah Alam City Hall on 9.5.2006.
- Shri Balakrishan Muniswarer temple in Setapak (more than 50 years old) was partly demolished and threatened with further demolition notice on 14.5.2006 by the Kuala Lumpur City authorities.
- The Ganggai Muthu Karumariaman temple in PMR Batu Buntung Estate Kulim, Kedah on 15.5.2006 was torched by unknown criminals.
- Shri Balakrishan Muniswarer temple in Setapak was completely demolished and deities broken up on 8th June 2006.
- Shri Kaliamman temple in Midlands Estate, Seksyen 7, Shah Alam was completely demolished for second time on 12th June 2006 and three main Hindu deities were hammered and smashed to pieces with a sledge hammer by the Shah Alam City Council enforcement officers.
There are at least 21 more temples on demolition notice. Some of them have been bulldozed probably by the time this report appears.
HJS Campaigns against anti-Hindu Bills
> Temple in danger