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Malaysian Indians and Indian Muslims


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



A group of about 2000 agitated Indians, mostly originating from Tamil Nadu, speaking Tamil as their mother tongue, came out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, declaring to be proceeding to British Embassy, to present a memorandum, demanding trillions of US dollars, as compensation from the British, for having deprived them an honorable living in their own native country, forcing them to a life of gross exploitation and leaving them unprotected, when they gave independence to Malaysia. Malaysian police reacted like any law and order authority and fired tear gas shells into the crowd that had not been given the clearance to hold such huge gathering or march to a diplomatic mission of a foreign country. The mob was targeted by water cannons that proved ineffective. The police later started arresting the agitators. The demand on British now turned protest against Malaysian government for having discriminating laws that gave preferential treatment to Bhoomiputra (sons of the soil, the Muslim Malays who form a majority in the country).

A Reuters report adds:

"The sheer size of the protest, called by a Hindu rights group, represents a political challenge for the government as it heads toward possible early elections in the next few months.

Ethnic Indians from around the country swarmed into Kuala Lumpur for the rally, despite a virtual lock-down of the capital over the previous three days and warnings from police and the government that people should not take part.

"Malaysian Indians have never gathered in such large numbers in this way...," said organiser P. Uthaya Kumar, of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

"They are frustrated and have no job opportunities in the government or the private sector. They are not given business licences or places in university," he said, adding that Indians were also incensed by some recent demolitions of Hindu temples.

While in India, members of Parliament demanded government to intercede with Malaysian government to get justice for the plight of Malaysians of Indian origin, who have now declared themselves as Hindu rightists, there was a degree of reluctance on the part of Manmohan Singh government to appear to be interfering in the internal affairs of a friendly neighboring country. The hesitation is all the more justified, as India has been rocked by their own people from the Muslim community, who had suffered a Marxist crackdown where people were killed, women were raped and abducted, farmland was confiscated and occupied by Communist party goons, while the West Bengal Chief Minister shamefacedly justified the gross atrocities by its party cadre as a payment in the same kind, referring to opposition routing of their cadre from Nandigram some months ago. A subsequent Muslim group of a couple of thousands of protesting Muslims, blocked traffic on the street of the capital city of Kolkata and police had to resort to tear gas, lathi charges and mass arrests. Some Muslim groups have added the case of one Taslima Nasrin, a declared Muslim, who had been writing very derogatorily against Islamic sharia and the Holy Prophet and for which she was run out of her own country, Bangladesh and whom Indian government had given shelter in the country, as per Muslims, to deliberately spite them.

Observers both in India and the wider world cannot help comparing the situation of the two minorities in two democratic countries, Malaysia and India, where the government stood in the dock for openly discriminating against a substantial minority of their own citizen.

The first distinction that crops up is that while Malaysian Indians are not the original inhabitants of the country, Indian Muslims are from the same racial and ethnic groups as their compatriots. Indian Muslims have not arrived from outside.

At best, an overwhelming majority of them are converted from their earlier religious dispensations. The discrimination against them is on the basis of their religion and at one level, race too, as they are not from the higher caste Hindus, who are effectively ruling the nation for the past sixty years, after the British left in August 1947.

The second distinction between the two minorities, the Malaysian Indians and Indian Muslims is that of religion. Both minorities have different religion than the religion of the majority community. While Malaysian Indians are Hindus with a miniscule Muslim presence, Indian Muslims follow Islam. The religious difference is totally reversed in the case of two countries. Hinduism is the religion of the majority in India, and the minority in Malaysia, while Islam is the religion of minority in India and of the majority in Malaysia.

The third point of distinction is that while Malaysian Indians form 7% of the population and number 1.5 millions, Indian Muslims form 15% of the population and number about 150 million.

The fourth distinction is that there is no record of organised physical attacks on Malaysian Indian either during British rule or after Malaysia became an independent nation. Communal riots in Malaysia were between Malays and Chinese, the other prominent minority group, or 'working class' conflagrations. Malay majority and Indian minority never clashed directly in any so-called communal riots.

In contrast, Indian Muslims have suffered thousands of communal riots, where Hindu mobs and Hindu police killed hundreds and thousands of Indian Muslims, looted and burned their properties and rendered them destitute without any compensation for the atrocities suffered.

In a typical face-off with law and order authorities, while Malaysian authorities have not fired any shots, Indian police would have and had resorted to pointblank firing in the crowd. The count of Muslims dead by police firing would run into hundreds of thousands over the period of last 60 years.

There is no record of any Muslim country officially registering its protest with Indian authorities over atrocities inflicted on their fellow religionists. Pakistan did voice protest but keeping on the right side of the non-interference principle, it appears to have never lodged any protest over Indian Muslim killed in riots, even the Gujarat riots, which by common consent is being treated as genocidal and state sponsored pogrom.

In contrast, Indian government is now reported to have taken up the matter at official level with the Malaysian government. If the report is correct; then India will expose itself to official protests from other Muslim countries over its past record of Muslim massacres and any future communal attacks.

Indian Muslims as a group had never threatened or joined any foreign terrorist or militant groups to seek redress of their grievances with their Hindu compatriots or their government. Even the Muslim-baiter US President Bush had publicly admitted and registered his amazement that Indian Muslims never joined his bÍte noire, the Al Qaida.

Malaysia Hindus have threatened to join hands with armed militant group LTTE to wage their struggle in Malaysia.

The world would be ever watchful of how the two similar situations develop in future in Malaysia and India, and how the governments of both countries, each, deal with their minorities and with each other and with other interested countries.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai





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