Contemporary Malaysian Indians

Contemporary Malaysian Indian: History, Issues and Challenges

Book Launch and Seminar organized by GRFDT


A book launch and seminar held on 28th May, 2016, Saturday at Kamla Devi block, India International Centre, New Delhi, organized by GRFDT in association with Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) and National University of Malaysia. The programme was chaired by Dr. G. Srinivas, Associate Professor, JNU. The seminar started with a welcome note by Ms Diksha Jha, member of GRFDT welcomed and introduced the speakers. Further, the book ‘Contemporary Malaysian Indians: History, Issues and Challenges’ was launched by the guest invitees of Malaysia with the team of GRFDT. Further, the session proceeded with rounds of lecture by the guest speakers from Malaysia and India respectively.

Prof. K. S. Nathan, co-editor of the book while highlighting the book, talked about the significance of Contemporary Malaysian Indian in the present context of Malaysian society. Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country having 60% of immigrants from India and China. Indians immigrated to Malaysia during 1830s under the indentured system & therefore, share a large proportion among all Malaysian immigrants.  In this context, Prof. Nathan stated historical developments of Malaysian Indians focusing on caste, religion, culture, practices and socio-economic conditions. Highlighting the important aspects of the book, he raised some of the prominent issues such as discrimination, poverty, socio-economic problems faced by People of Indian Origin (PIO) in Malaysia. He also analyzed the problems such as lack of education, unemployment, poor dwelling conditions of health, and other civic facilities due to legal political gaps. In chapter 9 of the book, he drew attention towards the problem of citizenship of Malaysian Indians. Since long time, Indians immigrated to Malaysia are working as agricultural and plantation workers. Therefore, they still remain socio-economically downtrodden in the host-country. At present, there still exist many unskilled and semi-skilled Indian workers and laborers, who generally remain unaccounted in the census. He emphasized the significance of the documentation of the Indian laborers so as to provide them equal and just opportunities as equal citizens of Malaysia.

In addition to this, the civil society’s data and statistics also depict the negative growth rate among Malaysian Indians. Mainly, the urban poverty has become serious concern for the Malaysia today. In context of education, the low participation and retention of Malaysian Indians in schools persists due to various reasons such as poverty, unemployment, family issues and growing cases of child drug addiction etc. The book suggests the educational opportunities, facilities for trained teachers in schools, curriculum and courses in vernacular languages for the Malaysian Indians to provide them with inclusive development. Prof. Nathan highlighted the  emerging role of women entrepreneurs in the Malaysian economy. Though Indian Tamils have been sharing large percentage of the Indian Diaspora in Malaysia, there are other sub-ethnic groups like Malayalee, Telugu ethnicities residing over there since many decades.

The seminar continued with the presentation of Dr. M. Mahalingam, Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Analysis on “The Political Economy of Contemporary Malaysian Indians: A Critical Analysis”. He discussed the role of political economic model of Malaysia for the socio-economic development of the Malaysian Indians. He analyzed the role of the ruling government in context of the poverty reduction and welfare measures for the Malaysian Indian over the years. Although, the ruling government have been disbursing funds under the neo-liberal model for the economic development of this community, it has not been successful in changing the condition of the people of Indian origin. Despite having investment in various sectors, the conditions of Malaysian Indians remain unchanged and rate of urban poverty has raised due to lack of employment, institutional development, health benefits and other social welfare benefits. He critically addressed the role of civil society, non-government organizations (NGOs) and HINDRAF movements for safeguarding the rights of Indo-Tamils in Malaysia.

Taking further this discussion, Prof. Mansoor Mohammad Noor, Head, Ethnic and Workplace Cluster Institute of Ethnic Relations, National University of Malaysia has talked about the socio-cultural dynamics of Malaysia. Though Malaysia successfully addressed poverty issue in general, he however caution the rise of urban poverty in recent years. He argued about the role of social engineering in the development of poor people. At present, bad governance, corruption, poverty, unemployment, abuse of immigrants etc are the major concerns among citizens of Malaysia. Despite having huge investments on welfare, the role of NGOs and welfare bodies are critical in reducing poverty and unemployment among Malaysian Indians.

The next speaker and co-editor of the book, Dr. Denison Jayasooria, Principle Fellow, KITA, National University of Malaysia, discussed about the issues and challenges faced by the bottom layer of the society in Malaysia. He told that they have identified 21 policy recommendations on the areas mainly social mobility, social cohesion, educational opportunities, and developmental model and so on. In addition to this, he discussed the issues of Contemporary Malaysian Indians under five heads. First, history of Malay in which he discussed the issues of ‘son of soil’ and informed that, constitutionally the term has been abolished in the public sphere. Over the years, the equality and equity are becoming the core principles of the policy agenda. Second, the Constitution has been drafted setting an example of the Indian constitution. Malaysian constitution ensures socio-economic, religious and other forms of freedom to every citizen. Third, making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) useful for building an inclusive society. Under the MDGs framework, the rights of business opportunities, civil society and human-civic approach have been taken seriously for the development of the society. Fourth, the Human Rights approach, wherein all the rights of human security and developments are debated which should be granted to all people. Fifth, ethnicity or ethnic relations, where freedom to practice languages, culture, religion, vernacular languages, customs, tradition of sub-ethnic groups have been tried to capture in this book.

Finally, there was an open discussion where many issues were raised and discussed. Some of the issues such as citizenship rights of Malaysian Indians, role of the current Indian government towards integration, bilateral relations for the PIOs between Indian and Malaysia, policy framework, role of Media and HINDRAF for their security, conditions of Indo-Sikh Diaspora in Malaysia have been discussed in the seminar. Mr. Rajiv Mishra, member of GRFDT has summarized the conference outcome and proposed the vote of thanks.

Report by Ms. Monika Bisht, member, GRFDT




Organized jointly by

Global Research Forum on Diaspora & Transnationalism (GRFDT) &

Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), National University of Malaysia (UKM)


VENUE: Seminar Hall- 3, India International Centre, New Delhi

DATE: Saturday, 28 May 2016

TIME: 02.30pm – 5.00pm



Programme Schedule


Diksha Jha, Member, GRFDT  and Datuk Dr. Denison Jayasooria, Principal Fellow, KITA, UKM & Co-Editor, “Contemporary Malaysian Indians”

Release of the Book 

Seminar Panellists


Dr. G. Srinivas, Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Contemporary Malaysian Indians: Overview  of Emerging Issues & Concerns

Prof. Dr. K.S. Nathan, Principal Fellow, KITA, UKM & Co-Editor, “Contemporary Malaysian Indians”

The Political Economy of Contemporary Malaysian Indians: A Critical Analysis

Dr. M. Mahalingam, Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Analysis, New Delhi

The Growing Socio-Economic Marginalisation of the Indian Poor: Implications for Politics and Governance

 Prof Dr Mansor Mohd Noor Head, Ethnic and Workplace Cluster Institute of Ethnic Relations, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Contemporary Malaysian Indians:: Policy Implications & The Way Forward

Datuk Dr. Denison Jayasooria, Principal Fellow, KITA, UKM & Co-Editor, “Contemporary Malaysian Indians”

Vote of Thanks

Rajiv Mishra, member, GRFDT.




RSVP: Rajiv Mishra,  9968621564; [email protected]. Monika Bisht,  9968751655; [email protected]



View forthcoming International Conference 

International Conference on "Global Migration: Rethinking Skills, Knowledge and Culture", 26-27 November 2016, IIC, New Delhi

Time and Place:

Date:   Saturday, May 28, 2016
Venue:   Seminar Hall- 3, India International Centre, New Delhi
Address:   Seminar Hall- 3, India International Centre, New Delhi
City/Twon:   New Delhi
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