Conflict & Justice

Malaysia's ethnic Indians protest

This muddy piece of land is perhaps a good place to begin understanding why Indian resentment has been building lately. This was a rubber plantation. This researcher says thousands of Indians throughout the country are tied to dying plantation. The fifty families living here have received eviction notices from the government and the government wants to build a cemetery here. The government wants to resettle the Indians but also wants to build a school for them in the cemetery, and the Indians wonder how their kids can learn in such an environment. The Indians are fighting against relocation. 20,000 Indians marched on the capitol last fall and the rally was broken up by police using tear gas. This opposition politician is one of 10 Indians represented in Malaysia's 222 seat parliament and he talks about how the march activated their anger, which has been building in the Indian communities for decades. The politician says that anger is rooted in the country's economic policy enacted in the 1970s which gives preference to majority Malays in education, housing and civil servants. This anthropologist defends the new economic policy as reaction to the worst race riots in Malaysian history. He says minority quotas built into the policy benefited poor Indians. He rejects suggestions that Malaysia is a society that discriminates against Indians. That's also the view of this Hindu priest near a former rubber plantation. He would seem to be an unlikely supporter and cites how segregated the communities used to be. He says now in community flats, these people have integrated. He represents the kind of Indian leader the government is relying on to retain power but most Indians will be supporting opposition candidates, it seems.

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