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`Hindraf not banned for promoting Hindu, Indian rights'

The Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) has been banned "for promoting extremism" and not for promoting "Hindu rights or Indian rights".

world Updated: Oct 23, 2008 16:06 IST

The Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) has been banned "for promoting extremism" and not for promoting "Hindu rights or Indian rights", Malaysian Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar has said.

"On legitimate issues, nobody can quarrel with them. But we are taking action because we consider the way they have gone about doing things, promoting extermism.

"They said 'our enemies are the Malays, the Muslims'. This is in some of their speeches.

"They have organised 17 forums, 338 street demonstrations. We took a long time before taking action because we don't want them to think that because they are a society that seems to speak for a certain race or religion, we take action," he was quoted as saying in first of the two-part interview given to The Star Online and mStar Online on Thursday.

Hindraf has been in the eye of a storm since November last year when it organised a protest rally to highlight discrimination of ethnic Indians in jobs and education.

The rally, joined in by 10,000 people, was dispersed by the police, using water cannons.

Five Hindraf leaders and rally organisers - M. Manoharan, S. Kengadharan, P. Uthaya Kumar, Vasanth Kumar and Ganabatirau - have since been arrested and are serving two year jail terms under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA).

The government has disregarded appeals for their release, alleging before the court that the five sought to destabilise the delicate ethnic balance in the country.

It has also alleged "terror links", especially with Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Hindraf has continued to fight for the five leaders' freedom before the courts.

Albar said detaining individuals under the ISA was not something that he took lightly.

"It is not easy to detain a person even though you're acting legally because the law gives you that power. That power is not a privilege, it is a responsibility which I consider to be very heavy," Albar said.

"If we are wrong, then the court can decide that we are wrong. But meanwhile, we cannot wait for things to happen in order for us to take action," he said.

First Published: Oct 23, 2008 15:53 IST