I had heard about the goings on in Malaysia and the arrests of the ethnic Indian population there but I hadn’t realised the full extent of the situation till I read Dasu Krishnamoorthy’s piece on The Hoot:
Everyone in India knows Indra Nooyi or Mira Nair. But how many know Basudeo Pande or Jagennath Lachmon? Hardly any. These are all children of indentured labor who were cheated to travel to distant and unknown horizons in South and East Africa, the West Indies, Mauritius, Fiji, Ceylon and a score of exotic islands in the Pacific Ocean to toil and die on plantations of the colonizers. Our governments ritually remember them on Bharatiya Pravasi Diwas. Their apathy to the state of these people is shared by our media too, fresh evidence coming from the blind eye they turned to recent events in Malaysia.
How long ago did you see a news item in the Indian media about these people? We however read about Mike Tyson going to jail for a day or the latest peccadilloes of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. For our media Indians reside only in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Neither our media have space nor has our Foreign Office time to see what is happening to ethnic Indians who are the poorest segment of the Malaysian population. Worse, they are disenfranchised. They are stereotyped in Malaysian media as alcoholics and gangsters.
The above article gives a perspective of the Indian media’s response and you can get more details about the situation in Malaysia via this article on the BBC.
The level of support was unprecedented, but, aside from the numbers involved, what has particularly concerned the Malaysian government is the ethnic division the protest highlighted.
Modern Malaysia is built on the co-existence of three ethnic groups – Malays, Chinese and Indians.
The protesters were Indians, who make up around 8% of the population, railing against the Malay majority, who account for about 60%.
The country has quotas that ensure preferential treatment for Malays looking for work or those who want to set up a business.
The Indians say this means they lose out.
It’s worth reading both articles.