A couple of nations away from his 10,000-sq-ft bungalow in suburban Kuala Lumpur, his golden BMW and five-year-old daughter Vaishnavi, Waytha Moorthy met fellow Tamilians in Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, on Wednesday, and gratefully accepted their support for his cause and a bottle of chilled Mangola.
In exile, and faced with a possible death penalty back home for treason, you do not take even the faintest signs of friendliness for granted.
The leader of the recent Indian uprising against the Malaysian government’s alleged discrimination of ethnic Indians was on his first visit to Mumbai. In a conversation with Hindustan Times, he regretted that the Indian government had done little to stand by the Malaysian people of Indian origin. He later addressed a press gathering in south Mumbai.
“Even a small country like Malaysia is bullying a superpower like India,” said the chairperson of Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), a fringe group that is leading the first wave of ethnic Indian demonstrations in Malaysia. He said India should not sign a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia to ensure that Indian workers get special treatment. “India should not be bullied. It should tell Malaysia to treat Indian workers equally with any other foreigner. Why pick them out?”
Apart from some debates in Parliament, India had not done much, said the 41-year-old lawyer. “India can ban palm oil imports from Malaysia. It will scare them,” he said.
When Moorthy had first stood in front of the Kuala Lumpur Mayor’s office protesting the serial demolition of temples in 2006, there were just 20 people with him. On November 25, nearly a lakh people were shouting in one voice as riot police fired on them volleys of tear gas and jets of water laced with an eye-stinging chemical in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
But Moorthy had left Malaysia two days earlier, after being arrested dramatically off the highway by about 20 men wielding M-16s and then released on bail.
He has since been based out of the UK, where he had filed a fantastic and gimmicky £4 trillion suit against the British government for leaving Hindus and minorities “at the mercy of Malay-Muslim government” despite them having “slaved” at the colonial plantations. He travels the world, funded partly by “friends”, to create awareness about the struggle.
Moorthy denies Jaffna links.
“It will be interesting if the LTTE sends an offer of help, but we would not want to get involved. We are a group of lawyers, which believes in the rule of law,” he said.
He said Indian and Malaysian intelligence agencies were tracking him. “I know Indian intelligence officials are present at my rallies, at the hotel. I have nothing to hide, they are most welcome to trail me. Maybe the Malaysian intelligence is hand-in-glove with them.”
Will the Malaysian Indians ever take up arms? “I cannot say. They won’t at least for the next 30 years. Beyond that I don’t know. If the next generation takes up arms, I can’t blame it. The Malaysian government is shutting all doors,” he said.
Between Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara, he chooses Gandhi.