Five ethnic Indian Malaysian activists held under a tough security law and at least 78 supporters began a hunger strike on Monday to protest against their detention, activists said.
The five leaders of rights group Hindraf were jailed under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month after holding an unprecedented mass rally to protest against alleged discrimination against Indians in Malaysia.
RS Thanenthiran told AFP that supporters of the five detainees were holding hunger strikes in two locations in central Selangor state and at a Hindu temple in Ipoh, capital of Perak state, in the north.
"They started today. In Ipoh we have 21 of them (fasting). I'm not sure how many in Petaling Jaya but at a Port Klang temple, about 57," Thanenthiran said.
"They are not eating although they are taking liquids," he said, adding that they are expected to fast until Sunday.
Thanenthiran said he hoped to speak to the five jailed activists on Tuesday. They are being held at the Kamunting detention centre in Perak, about 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.
Organisers had said they planned to rouse people nationwide to take part in the hunger strike in support of the detainees. The ISA allows for indefinite detention without trial.
M Tharumalingam, another Hindraf activist, said he intends to start a group of hunger strikers in Selangor.
"I am trying to arrange for 500 people.... Everyone is fighting for (Hindu) rights," Tharumalingam told AFP.
He said the five-year-old daughter of P Waythamoorthy, the Hindraf chairman who is currently based in London, will on Tuesday deliver a personal letter to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who ordered the detention of the five.
Ethnic Indians, who make up 8.0 per cent of the country's population, complain they run a distant third in terms of wealth, opportunities and education.
Muslim Malays, who make up 60 per cent, control the government while the ethnic Chinese, at 26 per cent, dominate business.