Action to Unite Malaysian Indians!
On 5 February 2018, Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) and 7 other Indian ethnic groups met Datuk Heng Seai Kie, Special Advisor to Prime Minister (National Unity & Integration) at the Prime Minister’s Department, Putrajaya to submit a Joint Memorandum requesting for another national public holiday.
Last May, Datuk Heng Seai Kie, Special Advisor to Prime Minister (National Unity & Integration) has informed MHS about the possibility of declaring one more public holiday for the Indian community. As suggested by Datuk Heng Seai Kie, MHS discussed the matter at the Hindu Advisory Board. The Hindu Advisory Board comprised of the heads of Hindu organizations from different denominations such Malaysia Archagar Sangam, Divine Life Society, Ramakrishna Mission, ISKCON to name a few. The Board also has prominent Hindu scholars and priests in the country such as Sivasri Muthukumara Sivachariar, Sivasri Nityananda Gurukal, Professor Datuk NS Rajendran, and Professor Dr K.Thilagawathi. Upon evaluating various factors, the Board suggested declaring April 14th as a public holiday. This was promptly conveyed to the office of Datuk Heng Seai Kie.
Upon further discussion with the office of Datuk Heng Seai Kie, on November 2017, MHS called for a meeting with the Indian ethnic leaders at its headquarters in Petaling Jaya. Datuk Dr. Achaiah Kumar Rao, President of Telugu Association of Malaysia (TAM), Datuk Suseela Menon, President of All Malaysia Malayalee Association (AMMA), Dr.S.R.Sen Gupta JP, President of Malaysian Bengalee Association with its Secretary, Mrs Nandita Ghosh, Mrs Shilpa Tanksale, President of Maharashtra Mahamandal Malaysia attended. Datuk RS Mohan Shan, President of MHS chaired the meeting. In this historic meeting, all the leaders agreed with the proposal to declare April 14th as a common Hindu New Year. Those who could not attend the meeting, Datuk Shah Lalchand Ranai, President of Sindhi Association, Datuk Bhupatrai Shah, President of Gujarati Association, and Sardar Jagir Singh of Malaysian Gurudwaras Council too agreed with the proposal principally.
“People of India have kept their track of the days based on the sun. Moon is another planet which is also considered in deciding certain significant days. In the case of Tamil Hindus, we have based our calendar on the basis of Sun’s movement. Its movement is reflected in an astrological chart. When the Sun enters a particular zodiacal sign, it marks the beginning of a month in the Tamil Hindu calendar. In the astrological chart, the first zodiac sign is Mesham (Aries). Hence, when the sun enters the zodiac, Aries, that day is observed as the beginning of a New Calendar, i.e., beginning of a New Year. Usually, the New Year falls on April the 14th,” explained Prof. Dr. K.Thilagavathi, a member of the Hindu Advisory Board.
“All the major Malaysian communities have their new year recognized as a public holiday except for the Indians,” said Datuk Suseela Menon, President of AMMA. “Although Indians have different New Year dates, we decided to go along with April 14th, as the Tamils form the majority of Indians in Malaysia. We sincerely hope that our request will be granted as it will mean a lot to the Indian community.”
“The Gujarati community believes that a special holiday to celebrate a common auspicious day of the various ethnic groups among the larger Malaysian Indian Community will bring a greater sense of unity and harmony among us. This special public holiday will also help all Malaysians to be made aware of and appreciate our commonality and diversity. It will be beneficial to further enhance our beloved nation’s unity, which is paramount,” said Datuk Bhupatrai Shah, President of Gujarati Association.
“All the leaders present at the meeting expressed their gladness and gratitude for the effort taken by MHS to involve the minority Indian communities in its decision-making process. Besides reaching a consensus on a common purpose to benefit the entire Malaysian Indians, the leaders have agreed to regular meetings to discuss other common issues. The leaders also expressed that it is high time that everyone works together to strengthen our identity as Hindus and Indians,” said Datuk RS Mohan Shan.
Following a lengthy discussion on the date and name, it was mutually agreed that a holiday will be requested for April 14th and to name it as “Hindu New Year” or in the alternative as “Indian Festival Day”. This is primarily in view of the differences in the New Year celebrations among the Indians, which are either based on lunar or solar calendars. For larger interests of all Indians, everyone agreed to have a common date for the National Public Holiday. However, each ethnic group are free to observe their respective festivals such as Ugadi or Onam.
Eventually, a Joint Memorandum was signed. Datuk RS Mohan Shan, President of MHS represented all Hindus and Tamil community. 7 other organisations, namely Telugu Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Gurdwaras Council, All Malayalee Association (AMMA), Malaysian Bengalee Association, Sindhi Association of Malaysia, Maharashtra Mandal Malaysia, and Gujarati Association of Malaysia were represented by their respective Presidents.
“All minority Indians in this country, have a main body to represent them, such as AMMA for the Malayalees. The largest ethnic groups, the Tamils which make up to 75% of the Indian population were represented by MHS. Among the members of MHS, almost 85% are Tamils and at present, among the 27 Directors of MHS, 24 of them are Tamils. Therefore, I, as a pure Tamil, find that MHS has the rights to represent the Tamils in this country and accordingly, Datuk RS Mohan Shan, as the National President of MHS is given the mandate to sign the Memorandum,” said Mr Genesan Tangayah, the National General Secretary of MHS.
Commenting on this, Datuk Dr. Achaiah Kumar Rao said that TAM has agreed to a common New Year day for a public holiday. “However, we will continue to celebrate our Ugadi according to the Hindu calendar. We have no whatsoever objection to April 14th declared as a common holiday for all Indian Hindus and the Sikh community. In the spirit of unity, all Indians should live in harmony without losing their respective ethnic identity,” he added.
Upon receiving the Joint Memorandum, Datuk Heng congratulated MHS for taking the trouble to meet with all the requirements and getting consensus from all Indian ethnic groups. The 8 ethnic groups, Tamil (75%), Telugu, Malayalam, Sindhi, Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, and Maharashtra make up to 98% of Indians in Malaysia.
“As indicated by Datuk Heng, the ultimate decision will be made by the Honorable Prime Minister. We are positive that the Prime Minister will consider our proposal and allow it. We hope, all Malaysian Indians will be united and cooperate with us in this,” said Datuk RS Mohan Shan.