Malaysian Indian Community
by Arunajeet Kaur, PhD
(Hindraf will be launched on 27 May 2017 at 8.30pm at Silverfish Books. Please note: this book is not in print yet.)
Ten years ago, on November 25th 2007, a signiﬁcant number of Indians (mainly Hindu Tamils) demonstrated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, at Ampang Road, to submit a petition to the British High Commission. The petition was to urge Her Majesty to appoint a Queen’s Counsel to represent Malaysian Indians in a suit against the British government. Malaysian Indians were suing the British government for their frustrations and resentment, pent up over 50 years whilst being resident in post-independence Malaysia, with a claim for compensation. A claim was made that colonial Britain, while being responsible for importing labour from India into Malaya, had failed to dispense its duties to the minority Indian community of Malaya at the time of decolonisation.
Why did a people, the British stereotyped as ‘malleable … and easily manageable’ march the streets of Kuala Lumpur on November 25, 2007 against a barrage of tear gas and water cannons, crying injustice, signiﬁcantly altering the trajectory of Malaysian history?
As author Arunajeet Kaur says,
“... the Malayan colonial authorities dehumanised the whole process.” In other words the British teated the Indian plantation workers as livestock, not people.
To quote Kernail singh Sandhu, Indians in Malaya 56-57
“… peasant, particularly the untouchable and low caste Madrasi, was considered the most satisfactory type of labourer, especially for light, simple repetitive tasks. He was malleable, worked well under supervision and was easily manageable … he was the most amenable to the comparatively lowly paid and rather regimented life of estates and government departments … he was already adjusted to a low standard of living, was a British subject, accustomed to British rule and well-behaved and docile …These people had neither the skill nor the enterprise to rise above the level of manual labour. Primitive and ill organised they never appear to have known the art of collective bargaining. They were therefore also especially desirable as the back-leg counterpoise to the more progressive labouring elements such as the Chinese.”
Ten years after th first Hindraf march and another general elections looming, where are we now?