Imperative that the public lock horns over ‘Interlok’

Uthaya also commented on Abdullah’s claim that he (Abdullah) was a follower of Gandhi’s teaching. Gandhi referred to them (the untouchables) as ‘Harijan’ which means Children of God (unlike Abdullah who termed them as ‘pariah’). 

Translation by CPI

By K Pragalath

A writer of Indian ethnicity has urged National Laureate Datuk Abdullah Hussain not to involve himself in the current controversy over the book ‘Interlok’. Uthaya Sankar SB, the Kavyan Writers Group president, said this was because the novel under discussion is the student’s edition edited by Ruziati Abdul Rani and Baharin Aiyob, and first published in 2010.

Interlok’, the student’s edition used as a Literature component for the Bahasa Malaysia Form 5 subject, contains factual errors. This is the view of Uthaya presented during his briefing on the book here in Shah Alam today (Jan 16).

One factual error already known to the public is the mention of the Pariah and Brahma (sic) castes — which don’t exist.

Kamus Dewan (dictionary published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka) defines ‘caste’ as the classification of people according to categories, that is, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra.” According to Uthaya, the name ‘Brahma’ on the other hand refers to a god in the Hindu religion.

Discussing the characterisation of the protagonist Maniam’s family, Uthaya said the novel was unclear in stating whether Maniam is a Tamil, Malayali or Telugu although the story begins in Kerala, India. [CPI note: Tamil immigrants who form the majority were from the state of Tamil Nadu] 

Furthermore, the name ‘Maniam’ is not a Malayali name.

According to Uthaya, Malabar and Kerala were referred to in the novel as two separate places whereas Malabar is actually the old name for Kerala state.

The author Abdullah Hussain’s explanation of the Kathakali dance is also incorrect as he had said the dancers used masks when in fact they use ‘make-up’.

Abdullah places Kerala geographically as a state “a little to the north of Tamil Nadu” when the atlas shows that Kerala lies to the north of Andhra Pradesh. Kerala is also pictured as filled with paddy fields when it is better known for its coconut trees.

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