Hindu rights group stages rally in Malaysia, over 100 arrested

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Jaishree Balasubramanian

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 27 (PTI) Malaysian police todayarrested 109 members of a group linked to a banned Hindurights outfit of ethnic Indians for participating in an"illegal" rally here to protest against the introduction of acontroversial book in the country''s senior school curriculum.

Those arrested included eight women and belonged to theHuman Rights Party (HRP), an offshoot of the outlawed HinduRights Action Force (Hindraf).

Later, 101 activists were released by the authorities.

However, eight others, including P Uttayakumar who headsthe HRP, were still being investigated.

"They will be freed once the investigations arecompleted," police said in a statement here.

The protesters, mostly ethnic Indians, were againstthe introduction of the Malay language novel ''Interlok'' in thesenior school curriculum.

A section of the minority community, including theMalaysian Indian Congress (MIC) -- the country''s largestethnic Indian political party, believes the book containsoffensive words like ''pariah'' which they say connotes a castesystem that they claim does not exist in this country.

The protest came despite the government''s assurance thatthe book would be introduced in the curriculum only afteramendments were made.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said theprotesters wanted to grab media attention.

"We do not want to be hard on them but they are hopingthat the police will use violence against them and when thathappens, it will be good stuff for the international media toexploit. Their intention is to paint a bad image for thecountry," Najib said.

The group can always submit their memorandum or meethim to settle any problem without resorting to illegaldemonstration, he added.

City police chief, Deputy Commissioner Zulkifli Abdullah,had earlier said the 109 persons were held to maintain orderand security within the city.

The arrested people were in the age group of 18-66 andeight of the group''s leaders are believed to be among them.

Zulkifli said that those who participated in today''s"illegal" gathering to protest against the novel were anisolated group.

"It does not speak for the whole Indian community aswe have been approached by about 13 Indian NGOs supporting ourstance against the illegal gatherings," he said.

The arrests were made as the protesters walked fromthe Rennaisance Hotel to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)outside the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest buildingin the world a few years ago.

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.

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