For the past seven years, Indira Gandhi has been nothing but a picture of heart-wrenching perseverance. Fortunately, it is no longer her lone fight. Ipoh Echo caught up with those who stood and are standing by her, through thick and thin:
“How could that be possible that in modern Malaysia of Year 2016, a mother cannot see her child for seven years? It’s an utter shame. I don’t believe that there’s any religion that would approve forced separation of a mother and child,” DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang highlighted during a media conference at the Ipoh DAP Headquarters on Thursday, January 14.
“Perak Women for Women Society is looking at the family side of this matter. The most worrying factor at this stage is we have two teenage children and they are now deemed as Muslims due to the conversion. The Court of Appeal decision says that they have to go to the Syariah Court for remedy. This was a marriage which was contracted in civil law and the children were conceived during this marriage and they are born Hindus. Overnight, it appears now, they are Muslims. This is how unfair the provisions are and it is wreaking havoc in a family,” said Sumathi Sivamany, Vice President Perak Women for Women Society (PWW).
“Cabinet committees were formed in 2009 and 2013 but it has all come to zero, so what are these committees doing?”
On the other hand, M. Kulasegaran, Indira’s lawyer added: “This is not new and this is not the only case,” showing a picture when Indira was breastfeeding the then 11-month-old baby.
“These seven years we keep hoping some miracle will happen but till today there’s nothing. To make it worse, I was asked to go to Syariah Court although I am not a Muslim and I still believe my children are strongly Hindus. After so many years, we’re more confused which side to go now. I don’t know how long I have to go through all this. It’s too painful to go on like this forever. I hope there will be a solution,” said Indira Gandhi in a tearful response. These seven years she has not even once seen her youngest daughter. Her other two children have been denied of their sibling bond. It is something that a mother should not go through.
Also present during the press conference was Victor Chew, secretary of Ipoh City Watch and this was what he said, “I feel it’s high time that everybody who are concerned about family, home, women’s rights, children’s right should come forward together and stand to make something sensible for everybody.”
Subsequently, on Saturday, January 16, PWW and the crowd of over 300, from near and far including NGOs from Kuala Lumpur and Penang, walked in solidarity with Indira Gandhi at the iconic Polo Ground.
Among the placard messages on display included “Women’s rights is human rights”, “No unilateral decision by one parent”, “Equality before the law”, “How would you feel if they are your family?” and “Indira, we feel for you”.
“As a multi-ethnic country, it’s very disappointing that such an occurrence is happening in our country when it shouldn’t. It just should be fair, the mother should have the same amount of rights as the father,” Deviyah Daranee, a 25-year-old Ipohite told Ipoh Echo.
“We’re here because we care. Indira’s case has broken the hearts of many Malaysians. It is cruel to deprive a child of her mother’s love and to separate them. Have kindness and compassion for them,” said Halida Mohd Ali, President of PWW.
Also present during the walk were Meera Samanther, past president of Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia and Lalita Menon, President of the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang.
According to Meera, a grave injustice has been perpetrated against Indira and her children and yet the legal system seems completely incapable of providing justice for them. “Recently, the government announced the setting up of another committee, this being the third committee to look into this issue specifically. But we fear that it would be to no avail,” she pointed out.
“Sad to say, one of the highest courts in the country cannot read the interpretation part which says ‘parents’ means both parents,” Lalita lamented.