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Ethnic Indian leader held in Malaysia

india Updated: Nov 29, 2007 12:25 IST

PTI
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Malaysian police on Thursday arrested a leader of a Hindu rights group which organised the largest-ever mass demonstration by ethnic Indians in Kuala Lumpur last week to protest their alleged marginalisation in the country.

V Ganapathy Rao of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) was picked up by the police from his office, reports in Kuala Lumpur said.

P Uthayakumar, Waytha Moorthy and Rao are the three main leaders of Hindraf, a nongovernmental group which gave the call for the rally on Sunday in which around 10,000 people from the community took part. They wanted to march to the British High Commission and hand over a memorandum complaining of marginalisation of Indians from the time their ancestors were bought to the then Malaya as indentured labourers.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up the demonstration, declared as "illegal" by the government.

The three men were arrested and charged last week with sedition in connection with a speech they had made earlier. However, they were freed on technical grounds when prosecutors failed to produce a copy of the speech in Tamil, the language in which they had spoken.

Indians form eight per cent of Malaysia's population of 27 million. They allege discrimination by an affirmative action policy which they say favours Malays in jobs in government departments and businesses. The government says there were equal opportunities for everyone.

Eighty-eight ethnic Indians were arrest on Wednesday for taking part in Sunday rally. If convicted, they could be jailed for between six months and two years.