Malaysia Crushes Ethnic Indian Rally

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Police used tear gas and water cannons Sunday to crush a banned rally by more than 10,000 ethnic minority Indians -- a rare street clash that exposed Muslim-majority Malaysia's deep racial divisions.

Slogan-shouting protesters hurled water bottles and stones at police, who chased them through streets surrounding the famous Petronas Twin Towers and doused them repeatedly with tear gas and chemical-laced water for more than eight hours.

Police said 241 people had been detained but that nearly half of them were released after authorities recorded their personal information. Four policemen were injured, the federal police headquarters said in a statement, but there was no immediate estimate for injuries among protesters.

The rally -- rooted in complaints that the ethnic Malay Muslim-dominated government discriminates against minorities -- was the largest protest in at least a decade involving ethnic Indians, the country's second-largest minority population after ethnic Chinese. The ethnic Indians are generally the most underprivileged.

"This gathering is unprecedented," protest leader P. Uthayakumar said. "This is a community that can no longer tolerate discrimination."

It was the second such street protest in Kuala Lumpur this month.

Street demonstrations are extremely rare among the multiple ethnic groups in Malaysia, which prides itself on its communal and political stability.

The two protests indicate that Malaysians are becoming bolder about venting their frustrations publicly against a political system that concentrates power and influence in the hands of the Malay ruling elite.