The Malaysian Indian Curse 

Natesan Visnu 

The Indian leadership in Malaysia has always been a subject for criticism. The Indian leadership has not seen a leader with capability to steer the community for socio-economic growth.

To date the Malaysian Indians are still plagued with fundamental issues of identity card issues, job opportunities, Tamil schools, poverty, displaced estate workers, university seats, alcoholism, gangsterism, etc. The resolution for most of the issues are political in nature and merely window dressing. The outcomes are usually temporary and the issues continues to haunt Indians. In a nutshell, the Indian leadership in Malaysia has failed to resolve the issues plaguing the community for years.

Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) has been the fore runner championing the Indian issues for years. MIC has launched various programs and initiatives to uplift the Indian community with National Land Finance Cooperative Society (NLFCS), MIC Education Fund, Maju Institute of Education Development (MIED), SPECIAL SECRETARIAT FOR EMPOWERMENT OF INDIAN ENTREPRENEURS (SEED), Yayasan Strategik Social (YSS), AIMST University, TAFE College, Yayasan Pemulihan Sosial (YPS), Putera MIC, Puteri MIC, Pemuda MIC and Wanita MIC. The MIC arms has failed to achieve the objectives to uplift the Indian community. MIC leaders has been under heavy criticism and the failure of MIC has paved way for new political parties and activists to champion for Malaysian Indian rights. HINDRAF, HRP, IPF, PPP, etc are the result of MIC’s leadership failure in performing their duties for Malaysian Indian community.

The Indians in Malaysia has not forgotten the debacle by MIC during the Telecom share scandals. Traditional MIC supporters have lost their life savings investing with MAIKA. The political will and greed of MIC members have caused MAIKA to fail as an entity that was supposed to uplift the Malaysian Indians. If MAIKA was managed by professionals, it would have been a social business entity that could have shaped the direction of the Indian community 25 years ago. On that note, the MIC leadership has failed the Indian community in MAIKA’s case.

The reality is the Indian community is ‘cursed’ with bad leadership that has crippled the growth of the community. The Indian leadership mentality in this country needs to be reshaped and the current leaders needs to be ‘educated’ with leadership lessons or forced to resign in order to allow the new breed of leaders to take helm of the Indian leadership.

The root cause for the disparity among the Indians are the caste (jati) system inherited from India. The recent fiasco in the MIC presidential election is surrounded by the caste support for the top post. The Mukkulathors and Kounders are the dominant caste and the current President is aligning the candidates with the respective caste. Despite education, the leaders are still playing caste sentiments in politics. In this context, who shall we blame for the Indian community being backward? The leaders for campaigning based on caste or the Indian community for practicing the caste system till today without regards to human values?

The social stratification of the Indian community has hampered the progression of the Indians and we are the root cause for our downfall because of our choice to practice the caste system. Mahathma Gandhi, B.R.Ambedkar, Periyar EV Ramasamy spent their life fighting for eradication of the caste system. Their achievements have helped uplift the Dalits in India. In the Malaysian context, the caste system is the root cause for our political and economy failure and the Indian community in general should take responsibility for the society’s collapse.

The Indian leadership should abandon the caste system and embark on a reconciliation program among the Jatis. The focus should be on electing leaders based on their education background, contributions, leadership qualities, etc not Jati. The ancient Hindu text suggested that the caste system is flexible and not rigid. The flexibility has allowed a lower caste sage Valmiki to compose Ramayana. On that note, that implicates that anyone who works hard can liberate their life from the clutches of the mundane caste system and poverty.

New strategies are required for the downtrodden Indian community. In the informative age, the best practices from various sectors should be studied further for implementation. The flexibility in Hinduism for social change could be implemented through ‘sanskritization’. Sanskiritization means a process ”a low or middle Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently twice-born caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community … .”

Translating to a modern context of sanskirization, the Malaysian Indian community should be empowered through socio-economics and education. Adapting on Prof. Muhammad Yunus social business framework, the Indian leaders should study the framework and implement the strategies for the Malaysian Indian community. Yunus’ idea has been widely accepted and proven success in Bangladesh, a country poorer than Malaysia. The program such as Grameen Danone has created small entrepreneurs that can earn a decent living with simple business ideas.

For education, there are approximately 10,000 Indian students finishing SPM yearly. The issues with higher education could be resolved easily if AIMST adapts social business practices instead of a profit maximizing organisation. Political leaders could easily build a university similar to Taylors’ Lakeside Campus in 20 acres of land for a cost less than half a billion. Two universities for Indians could resolve the issues of higher education seats. The universities could be managed using the social business frameworks for sustainability and business growth.

To summarise the issues above, the failure of Indian leadership and practice of caste system in Malaysia has clearly contributed to the backwardness of the Indian community. The Indian leadership should consider the issues plaguing the society and formulate strategies that will benefit the Indian people. MIC, Hindraf, HRP, PPP etc. should initiate the social reform program before the Indian community loses faith with the Indian leaders.

The curse on the Indian community continues and a massive movement from the political and NGO leaders to implement various programs with proven track record could assist to liberate the poverty strickened Indian community. The ball is in the politicians’ court and its their turn to return the favor.