"We have most peacefully used all persuasive means to get the Minister of Education to withdraw the novel Interlok from the schools as it is most harmful to the students and is 'haram' in the schools," Niat chair Thasslim Mohd Ibrahim told a press conference held in Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon.
"It is most regrettable to say that there has been no response at all from any of them we had been in touch with, including the Ulamas," he said.
As the novel is not in the best interests of the students and the nation, he said, the leaders of NIAT, representing about 200 Indian NGOs, have determined that the issue must be pursued with greater vigour.
"We have decided to go on a fast unto death. We are ready for it," Thasslim said.
Thasslim said Niat had been holding meetings with people in several parts of the country and found that many were against the novel being used as a textbook in schools.
According to Thasslim, people had asked for serious action against the Education Minister, including some local MIC members and branch officers.
"Some even said that the government leaders should remember the temple demolition in Klang that led to the rise of Hindraf and the thrashing the government received at the last general election. They made it clear there is nothing to stop them from doing it again at the next general election," Thasslim said.
While Niat creates a detailed schedule for the launch of its "Fast unto Death", the group is prepared to face political leaders on the matter.
"We call on both the Minister and MIC President to meet all our NGO leaders and debate and decide whether or not Interlok should be withdrawn from the schools," Tahasslim offered.
Private MIC objections not made public
Thasslim also made it known that the leaders of MIC had in private declared their opposition to the use of Interlok in schools. But in public, they appeared to be with the Education Minister's decision to keep it in schools.
"I challenge MIC president G. Palanivel and his deputy S Subramaniam to declare to the Indians in public that they are agreeable to the book being used in schools," Thasslim said.
He said the novel Interlok is "rejected not only by the Indians but also by the Chinese and the Muslims". This was the decision made by the Chinese, Indian and Muslim NGOs assembled at the KL Chinese Assembly Hall on May 28.
Thasslim said he would also fast, but not unto death.
"Because, I am advised, it is not allowed in Islam," he said.
When asked about the specifics of the proposed fast unto death, Thasslim said, "We have lots of volunteers to go on fast unto death. It will be launched throughout the country on the same day. The date will be announced soon."