78 people linked to Hindraf held in Malaysia

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Jaishree Balasubramanian

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 27 (PTI) Malaysian police today arrested78 people, most of them ethnic Indians believed to be liked toa banned Hindu rights group, when they marched towards thecity centre to take part in a rally declared illegal by thegovernment to protest against introduction of a novel in highschool curriculum.

The protesters, believed to be members of the HinduRights Party (HRP) -- an offshoot of the outlawed Hindu RightsAction Force (Hindraf) -- were protesting against introductionof the Malay language novel ''Interlok'' in the senior schoolcurriculum.

A section of the minority community, including MalaysianIndian Congress (MIC) -- the country''s largest ethnic Indianparty, believes that the novel contains offensive words like''pariah'' which they say connotes a caste system that theyclaim does not exist in this country.

Their protest came despite the government''s assurancethat the book would be introduced in the curriculum only afteramendments were made.

The arrest of 78 people was made as the protesters walkedfrom the Rennaisance Hotel to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre(KLCC) in front of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, once thetallest building in the world, in small groups, local mediasaid.

HRP President P Uthayakumar was arrested when he wasleaving his residence at 8 am local time and taken to a policestation. The others arrested included Kedah state HRP chiefRamu Ramasamy and a Penang HRP leader.

Though the main group of protesters was stopped by thepolice near the hotel before they could march to the Petronastwin towers, a section managed to evade police to make theirway to the protest venue.

Malaysian police yesterday warned that legal action wouldbe taken against anyone attending the gathering sponsored bythe outlawed Hindraf.

Police had rejected an application by Hindraf to hold thegathering on the grounds that it would jeopardise publicorder.

Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar said no permithad been issued for the gathering and anyone attending itwould be breaking the law. (More) PTI JB

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