Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hindraf supporters shave heads to protest detention

More than a dozen ethnic Indian activists shaved their heads outside Batu Caves temple today to protest the detention of their leaders under the tough Internal Security Act (ISA).

Five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), calling for an end to alleged discrimination of Indians in multi-racial Malaysia, were held last week under the ISA which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

More than 100 Indians gathered on the banks of a river near a temple at Batu Caves, just outside Kuala Lumpur, where 16 people shed their hair.

"The 16 of us have shaved our heads as a protest against the detention of the five leaders of Hindraf who are being held under the ISA," said activist S Jayathas.

"We do not believe they are a threat to national security and we think the ISA should be abolished," he added.

According to rights group Suaram, 89 people are currently being held under the ISA with almost half of those held being alleged Islamic militants.

Gandhi posters

The group then carried pictures of Indian non-violence Independence leader Mohandas K Gandhi as they headed towards the temple where prayers were held.

"In the Hindu religion, people shave their heads as a sign of mourning," said opposition PKR leader Sivarasa Rasiah, who was present at the event.

"Here, it reflects the sadness over the detention of the leaders and that protests against their detention and the fight against discrimination will continue," he told AFP.

Hindraf enraged the government last month by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination in Malaysia, which is dominated by Muslim Malays.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the street protest, which drew 30,000 people and came just two weeks after another rare demonstration organised by electoral reform campaigners.

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