WRITTEN BY : - JANE
My husband, kids and I were at the Subramaniam Temple , Port Kelang for Thaipusam (23.01.2008). As in previous years, we would have gone to Batu Caves , except this time around we decided to support the protest against The Batu Caves Temple Management by not patronizing their organization.
The celebrations that was the grandest to date at Port Kelang deserves a whole piece of its’ own. What was really an incredible experience for my family and I, was something else that was happening at the temple grounds.
To the right of the temple proper was a podium with banners of pictures of the HINDRAF leaders who were in ISA detention. The banners proclaimed in English “HINDRAF Peaceful Assembly Struggle” and “Release Our Leaders”. Having seen quite a number of youths and elderly people with an orange T-Shirt and scarf emblazoned with ‘Makkal Shakti (People’s Power) on them at the celebrations. I assumed the podium was a place about the ongoing protests of the Indian community in the country. Some were sleeping and others seated. Those seated were quite. They were neatly dressed but looked drained.
But what was going on was something more significant, emotionally powerful and almost groundbreaking in Malaysian history. Some In front of the group were a few young men in the orange “Makkal Shakti’ T-shirts selling car stickers and being spokespeople for what was going on. I could see everywhere the youths with Makkal Sakthi T-Shirts are serving foods, provide drinks, cleaning temple compound, controlling traffics and etc… Looking at these people I felt a sudden sense of wanting to do something but not knowing exactly what. As we stood there near the podium we could hear people offering donations. These were politely refused by the young men. They said that they were protesting and praying and not for money. Wow! What a wonderful team with marvelous co-ordination and dedication.
It was from these men that we found out that the people on the podium were on a hunger strike. From the 20th of January 2008 which was 3 days ago. They would fast until the 25th. Some of them it seams had to take some water occasionally. Two of them had been admitted to hospital. We were informed that there was a doctor on standby to monitor the situation.
We (my husband and I) froze completely when we were told that the fast was a peaceful protest against the detention of the HINDRAF leaders under ISA. I started crying first. I told my husband that suddenly I felt so helpless.
It didn’t take my husband’s eyes long to fill up with tears. My mind was filled with questions of who were these people who decided to leave their families and sacrifice their health to stage this fast. They looked like people that I see everyday. But they were special. These were people who had made a physical, mental and emotional commitment to a cause that me and my circle of friends just talk about.
My colleagues and friends, we talk a great deal. We talk and discuss about the nuances and undercurrents of Malaysian politics and about the motivations of HINDRAF.
My husband and I realized that we would be going back to our home after a couple of hours. We would be going home to a good hot meal and shower and probably catch a nap before the evening was up. But the people at the podium would still be there: hungry and thirsty and worn out. For a cause. As we introduced our son and daughter to one of the protesters, he hugged them and simply said “Hey, it’s for you and your future we are doing this for.”
As we left, we thanked the protesters for what they were doing with a “Makkal Sakthi Spirit“.