Are Indians Still Indentured in Malaysia

November 27, 2007

The long-simmering discontent in the Indian community in Malaysia has erupted at last.

Earlier on Sunday, Malaysia’s Indian community had staged its biggest-ever anti-government protest and more than 10,000 protesters defied tear gas and water cannons to fight against racial discrimination in the country. The protesters brought Kuala Lumpur to standstill for almost six hours in the name of Queen Elizabeth II. They staged protest near Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers and later clashed with police, which used their batons to beat protesters.

In the protestors’ own words, racial discrimination has translated into the Indian community remaining

"...backward, our schools are dilapidated. We are the last in the line for jobs, scholarships, health benefits," says opposition lawmaker Kulasegaran Murugesan, an ethnic Tamil.

Interestingly, the protest was not against the Malaysian government. Hindraf filed a class action suit against the British government claiming a gigantic $4 Trillion in damages. Hindraf traces the root of the sad plight of today’s Malaysian Hindus to the British colonial period. It is enough to discern the symbolism of Hindaf’s lawsuit without judging it as we shall briefly see. At the height of its colonial hegemony, the British shipped truckloads of (mostly Tamilian) indentured labourers to work in Malaysia’s abundant rubber plantations. Equally, as in almost all of its ex-colonies, the British created a mess when they left Malaysia in 1957.

In some kind of a cruel conspiracy of fate, Malaysian Indians continue to present a heart-rending sight. Slightly better than slaves, they had little choice under the British. Now, their own government actively discriminates against them. A key reason is the increase in Islamism. More than fifteen years ago, V.S. Naipaul called out this Islamic threat in his Among the Believers. Visible signs of this real threat have manifested in recent temple destructions, among other things. This is also an eerie pointer to how a completely Islamized Malaysia will look like in future. Another Afghanistan? Saudi Arabia, perhaps?

The Malaysian government’s response was as ruthless as it was predictable.

Police today used tear gas and water cannons to crush a banned rally by more than 10,000 ethnic minority Indians — a rare street clash that exposed Muslim Malaysia’s deep racial divisions....Witnesses saw people being beaten and dragged into trucks by the police. Shoes and broken flower pots littered the scene after protesters scattered to hide in hotels and shops.

Besides, the protest was not a direct attack against the government’s official policy of minority-discrimination. Hindraf’s lawsuit presents both an important symbol, and a lesson to all former colonies. Beyond its demand for monetary damages, it shows how colonialism still persists in the minds of the formerly-colonized. British colonialism is especially unique in the comprehensive civilizational damage it inflicted. Contrast that with the Jews who received not just repatriation, but ensured that the Holocaust remains etched in mankind’s memory forever. British colonization can surpass the Holocaust figure by several folds because it sustained its systemmatic, multi-cleaved attack over a prolonged period. This news report on the lawsuit shows us another disgusting facet of colonialism: condescension or, to put it politically-incorrectly: let’s-humour-the-natives. It classifies the report under Odd News.

For a thankful change, some in the Indian government seem to be displaying sense. Every Indian Votebank has its motive. Karunanidhi is concerned about the plight and/or safety of Tamils in Malaysia. As is a certain Vaiko, only he phrases it a little differently, he calls them Indians. A former election commissioner who is now a Rajya Sabha member also pitches in his bit.

Now, if this only translates into diplomatic sternness towards Malaysia...

Sandeep works as a writer in an IT Services company based in Bangalore. Blogging is his latest and severely active hobby.
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November 27, 2007
11:11 PM

An incident -few years ago comes to mind when legitimate Indian techies were arrested on no charges.The Vajpayee govt thankfully intervened.Some how it has become unfashionable to decry Islamic fascism.Hatred for Bush does not make the Taliban angels.This time the UPA govt should send a strong signal .

November 27, 2007
11:31 PM

see what happens when Muslims are majority and Hindus are minority.

November 27, 2007
11:53 PM

Amen.. Indian Muslims are vociferous about special privileges here.. what kind of privileges do Hindus in Pakistan or Malaysia enjoy? At least they should be thankful they are treated better here (even better than in many Muslim majority countries).

November 28, 2007
12:34 AM

Hello Ledizius , whom should we be thankful to ? Is it to you, or your like minded personolities? And what have we to do with persecution of Malaysian Hindus, are we responsible for that, or do you suggest there could be a Muslim Morcha taken to Malaysian consulates. Please do not correlate matters that are not relevant.
Updike98: While we can protest to such incidents we cannot intervene, Malaysia being a sovereign state, and yes Vajpayee Govt protested to US because the Techies who were handcuffed were INDIAN CITIZENS, and in this context the Hindus there are not Indians, they are Malays. Well India can protest the Middle Eastern countries against their attitude towards Indian expatriates.

November 28, 2007
12:46 AM

Most Indians in foreign countries are so desperate for a local passport, i wonder why they need any protection.

Malayan Indians are one of the most unfriendly lot in terms of behavious with Indians visiting Malaysia.....They are not Indians.....

November 28, 2007
11:34 AM

Ha ha...the Malaysian government is not so silly as to provide minorities with special privileges and first claim on resources !

November 28, 2007
11:39 AM

Indians are soft-targets throughout the world for racists & thugs - Uganda, Fiji, Malaysia, Trinidad etc.

Anyone who attacks an American, European, Russian, Japanese, Korean will face severe consequences from theit countries governments, unlike attacks on ethnic Indians which are done freely and without any fear of reprisals.

November 28, 2007
05:10 PM

If you ask me the situation of Indians in Asia. Where they live most wealthy the first is India next comes Japan then Singapore. Well Indians think malasiya but for a visit its not after all bad. But to live there for long time its again a difficult thing. It is true that Indians are really suffering there. The best place where indians are most respected in Asia is Osaka, Kawasaki, tokyo cities. I used to work with merrill lynch i have been to cities around malasiya in Jawahar baru indians are quite affected i can say, No doubt malasiya indians are very kind and friendly...

November 28, 2007
11:00 PM

Why should successive Indian governments be afraid to take a stand?Malaysia trades with us because of mercenary compulsions.Racism is deeply ingrained in Malay society.A common friend of Aman and mine was denied jobs because employers felt Indians were fit only to clean toilets.This happened to Movin Miranda, a competent engineer and a great quizzer.

November 29, 2007
12:10 AM

How are Tamils treated in Singapore? How does the treatment compare with that of ethnic Malays?

Msia Indian
November 29, 2007
03:02 AM

Malaysian Indians and Chinese origin are constantly reminded by Malays that if they don't like they can leave. Now this can make sense to the first generation. Its a tragedy to tell this to the 3rd and 4th generation Indians and Chinese! Half of present Malays are immmigrants from Indonesia. To hear this from them, one has to be in Indian and Chinese shoes to understand!

Ruvy in Jerusalem
November 29, 2007
06:19 AM

To comment #11:

Please don't take this the wrong way. If after four generations, ethnic Malays in Malaysia are telling you you are free to leave if you do not like their society, maybe you should take their advice and leave. I'm a Jew. I left America for Israel, my real homeland, and one of the (side) reasons I did so was that I never wanted my children to have to face some asshole telling them that if they didn't like it in America, they could leave.

One thing I will never face in my life is having to kow-tow to some stinking goy because he is the majority and I am the minority ever worrying about the majority view of my people.

It strikes me that after a time, not only will your rights be violently suppressed by the regime there, but eventually, non-Malays will be actively persecuted.

Chinese Malaysians may have mother China to breathe down the the régime's throat for them, but evidently, Malaysian Indians do not have friends in Delhi who care. I never see Fiji mentioned in articles here, and the rights of Fijian Indians have long been denied by the Melanesians living there by means fair and foul, including several coups d'état.

If after four generations, you are still being told to leave, you are being told that you are and remain a foreigner in Malaysia, no matter what you do to assimilate or go along, and no matter what citizenship papers you may possess. I say take the hint and get out while you still can.

November 29, 2007
07:58 AM

Agreed with Ruvy, Was 4th gen Chinese Malaysian. What else must they do, put a gun to your head. Make plans to leave. By the way, Chinese government do not breath down for the Chinese either. Racism is a negative value, immoral. All immoral act creates more immorality. So what we have now is the least immoral. It will get only more immoral.

LEAVE even if you have to restart in India or in China.

November 29, 2007
08:41 AM

No Malaysian of Indian origins, are not asking the government of special privileges. we are just asking for equal treatment, that means the poor indians also gets a place. In universities there used to be quotas for admission, where 80% used to go to ethnic malays, 10% to Chinese and the remaining 10 to other races incl indians. After removing the quotas, there are allegations that the quotas are only removed officially but it is still in practise.

A rich or poor malay can get 8% discount on a house, but an Indian, no matter how poor will not get one. If a developer builds house units, he or she has to allocate a certain number of house for malays, but if a malay cant be found to occupy the house, then the developer has to wait till they find a malay buyer. there many incidents, that i can go on and on. but malaysians of non malay origins are being discriminated, and the people suffering the most under these apartheid laws are malaysians of indian origins!

November 29, 2007
10:07 AM

I never realised Indians in Malaysia went through such hardships. The NRIs I have encountered from Malaysia or Singapore have been the most arrogant bunch of snobs. This article gives me a deeper insight about their side of the story, and maybe it explains somewhat why they behave that way..

November 29, 2007
10:23 AM

What goes around comes around -

In Malaysia, Malays mistreat Chinese and Indians.
In Singapore, Chinese mistreat Malays and Indians
In India, Indians mistreat North-easterners (who look like Chinese and Malays)

November 29, 2007
05:20 PM

The Malayasians who are protesting are NOT INDIANS.
But they are part of a group called Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and they are representing Hindus.
They don't have basic human laws when compared to mainstream Muslims there.
Some time back (as usual mainstream media missed it) a Hindu woman was forced to eat pork and prisoned for 6 months because she have married a Hindu. She was forced to attend Islam classes and brainwashed for that time. This is the way Islam countries try to protect Muslims to get converted.

Do a Hindu world-wide have any concern. I am asking this question to HINDUS AND hindu organisations like ISKON, HAF etc. Why there is not international movement to join all Hindus worldwide. We are too brainwashed to be "Indian" that we forgot we are "Hindus" also.
Think abt it.

November 30, 2007
03:52 AM

Visit to learn what happenned before posting any further negative comments on Hindraf.

Dev Matondkar
December 1, 2007
03:28 AM

Can anyone explain why more than 80% of Indian visitors to Malaysia using the VOA facility (Visa on arrival facility) refuse to go back to India? There are more than 100,000 illegals of Indian origin in Malaysia at present(according to Malaysian Immigration sources). If malaysia is such a discriminatory place why are Indians willing to risk prison and whipping for overstaying? The lowest paid Indian in Malaysia is much better off than those so called middle class Indians in India. There are more Indian millionaires in Malaysia than Tamilnadu. The so called Temple destruction is nothing more than ramshackle places places in areas not approved by the Government. The Malaysian Indian is much better off than 80% of Indians in corrupt india.

December 1, 2007
06:45 AM

Dev Matondkar

Your data has no basis.

A. Can anyone explain why more than 80% of Indian visitors to Malaysia using the VOA facility (Visa on arrival facility) refuse to go back to India? There are more than 100,000 illegals of Indian origin in Malaysia at present(according to Malaysian Immigration sources).

Chandra: The figure does not cross 20000. Most illegal immigrants are Indonesian. On the other hand, India is a huge country. Many leave for better opportunities and many come here for better opportunities.

b. The lowest paid Indian in Malaysia is much better off than those so called middle class Indians in India

Chandra: The average income is about 6000 dollars, almost the same as average middle class income. On PPP basis, average middle class income in India is higher than average MY income. Not a fair comparison but you are the one making this comparison.

"There are more Indian millionaires in Malaysia than Tamilnadu"

Chandra: Incorrect. There are about 1800 Indian millionaires in Malaysia (approx) as opposed to close to between 5000 to 8000 in TN (merril lynch)

"The Malaysian Indian is much better off than 80% of Indians in corrupt india"

Yes, they are better off than 80% of Indians. On corruption, Malaysia is only marginally ahead of India. On the other hand, on democracy Malaysia is ranked 40 numbers below....

Malaysia is obviously a middle income eceonomy but that is due to the 5 million enterprising chinese there and not the Malayans....

December 1, 2007
11:47 PM

It is sad and also encouraging to see that some people care and others dont.

You have to understand the plight of 2nd 3rd 4th...generation people of Indian Origin in Malaysia. We do not know how to live in India, even our food habits are quite different, lifestyle, language (only partial knowledge) etc etc so that option is not there. When I was an expat in India (will not state city), an old man approached me and asked me to read an address in Hindi which I obviously couldnt as I have no writing or reading skills of any Indian language, he looked at me in a funny way and moved on thinking I was arrogant, playing with him or simply nuts. This is a small example how we are stuck in the middle, neither here nor there. Quite a pridicament.

There is systemic discrimination against all non malays. There is also official discrimination against all non malays disguised under the NEP (New economic policy). Live here and do business here and you will know. Do you know that a non malay business cannot quote or supply to any government body even if it is owned by a legitimate non malay full citizen who is born here. This is only open to the Malays who are a bunch of lazy and sad to say people of lower intelligence you misuse this priveledges and simply have been used to handouts. Malaysian economic status is a resultant effect of the presence and hardwork of non malays, it would be a disaster if we left and they know it. But if the world ignores and they can get away with it, they will.

We dont have a choice, understand this. In this globalised world, you can put pressure as you should and have a responsibility to do so. It was not my choice to migrate here, I was born here, the british decided that our ancestors would live here. We are the fallout of the british colonisation of India and hence the responsibility connection of both India and the British in particular and the world powers as well as international bodies.

Saying we are not Indian per se as an Indian citizen is correct but saying that we have no connection to Indian communities overseas who are a resultant effect of the colonisation of the British is incorrect.

December 2, 2007
01:28 AM


"When I was an expat in India (will not state city), an old man approached me and asked me to read an address in Hindi which I obviously couldnt as I have no writing or reading skills of any Indian language, he looked at me in a funny way and moved on thinking I was arrogant, playing with him or simply nuts. This is a small example how we are stuck in the middle, neither here nor there. Quite a pridicament"

Chandra: I can understand your feeling about being an expatriate but not being able to read or speak Hindi is not exactly an uncommon thing.
India is a federal country with different linguistic and racial groups and just because you cannot speak or read a language does not mean you should feel less Indian.

December 2, 2007
03:59 AM

Posting second time, yes i am a malaysian, but why should i not be proud of my indian origin, my paternal grand parents migrated from india, my mom is still an indian citizen born in india, applied for malaysian citizenship but was not given. But, the guy who paints my house, who was an illegal indonesian migrant but was given citizenship, but my mom who entered malaysia legally, been there longer than the indonesian, has yet to receive her citizenship. About people in malaysia not being very close culturally with india, that actually depends on people, i know tamil (read write and speak) been to india, my neighbours know the language and are fluent in it. but i dont know how fluent my north indian neighbour in her mother tongue (punjabi). I was able to get tamil teachers, but i wonder whether my neighbour had the same privileges. I watch tamil movies, hindi movies, celebrate all religous festivals, wear dhoti sometimes. i think malaysians of indian origins are not that disconnected from india, after all it is just 3hrs by flight.

Ruvy in Jerusalem
December 2, 2007
06:45 AM

When I write to Malaysians of Indian extraction to get out of Malaysia, it is not out of lack of concern. Quite the opposite. During the 1930's a man named Jabotinsky begged secular Jews to leave Poland, Hungary, Germany and Czechoslovakia to come home to Israel. A religious sage known as the Hafetz Haim did the same to religious Jews. The vast majority of Jews, both secular and religious, refused to listen. They were murdered off instead.

The "lazy Malays" will not be lazy if it comes to a matter of killing non-Malays in their country. When you are systematically discriminated against by the Malaysian government because you are not Malay, you are getting a message - you are not wanted! Pay attention to that message before there are tragic results....

December 2, 2007
07:29 AM

Ruvy - unfortunately the logic of "return" cannot be applied universally. Even in Palestine, the "right of return" is discriminatory and racist (ie available to Jews but not Arabs).

Second, where would the Malaysian-Indian go? As an Indian, I don't see any reason for India to take people from abroad simply because they are of the same ethnic origin. As it is, India is a net receiver of immigrants - most of whom arrive illegally - so no thanks, we don't need any more people.

Finally, why should people have to leave their countries and run? And what happens when they run out of places to run to? Do they then set up a settler colony at the expense of somebody else and repeat the vicious cycle of hate, injustice and violence?

Why shouldn't the Malaysian-Indians demand and receive full rights from the country to which they belong? And fortunately thats exactly what they are doing...

Ruvy in Jerusalem
December 2, 2007
08:27 AM


I have nothing against Indians overseas receiving legitimate rights that ought to be theirs by birth whether they live in Fiji, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, the United States or anyplace else on the globe. I'm not defending the Malaysian government or the the Malays themselves for obviously discriminating against a minority in their own country, and doing so in a fashion that is disgusting.

It is not that the Indians who live in Malaysia should not receive equal rights and benefits - they most assuredly should!! The rectitude of their claims is not the issue at all here. The issue is that they will not receive equal rights, and have not for four generations.

In addition, at some point in the future, they may well face, as a discriminated minority, a terrible persecution such as my own people have suffered in exile. That is the issue. Looking at the struggles of other minorities, blacks in America, held as slaves for over three centuries, still remain terribly discriminated against after nearly seven generations of "freedom" in the United States of America.

As an Indian, I don't see any reason for India to take people from abroad simply because they are of the same ethnic origin.

That is your view, madam. As one who would probably have to live with the consequences of an influx of ethic Indian refugees should they need to flee Malaysia in extremis, you are certainly entitled to it. In addition, I realize that ethnic differences in India are far sharper than they are, say, in the United States or the United Kingdom, or amongst us Jews. This too, is a factor that must be weighed in the scales of looking at the entire question. But others may have a different view, a more expansive or generous one than yours.

I can only talk from my own experience understanding and history, limited as it may be. And that understanding tells me that when you see an on-rushing train, you get the hell out of the way if you expect to live.

December 18, 2007
05:38 PM

We are the biggest importer of malasiyan booming palm oil business lets not import oil from them. Well then they will start understanding what india really is when they loose trade of 2 billion dollar almost more than entire revenue of malasiyas 3rd largest city. Their Government oil company will shut down indefinitely

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