The Indian Dilemma in KKB

Indians are still seen as Indians by the PKR Malays and DAP Chinese while the PKR Malays and DAP Chinese still identify as Malays and Chinese respectively, despite asking the Indians to identify as Malaysians.

Nehru Sathiamoorthy

The KKB by election might be another moment of awakening for Indians after the Hindraf movement of 2007.

The Hindraf movement in 2007 was caused by the subconscious realization amongst the Indians in the peninsula that when you are permanently positioned in the third place in a rigidly structured racial hierarchy, as it has been in the peninsula since our independence, abiding the structure without protest is equivalent to facilitating your own deprivation and exploitation.

As the smallest racial group in the peninsula, you will be expected to do everything that the biggest and second biggest racial group in the peninsular doesn’t want to do, and in return, you will be asked to be satisfied with the crumbs that is left after the biggest and second biggest race have their fill.

Although the Hindraf movement was successful in breaking the arrangement where Indians cooperated and facilitated their own exploitation and deprivation, the solution that resulted from the breaking up of the arrangement has left much to be desired.

The solution that the Indians, especially the middle class Indians, have subconsciously come out with in the post-Hindraf movement is the “Malaysian first, Indian second” concept, where rather than identify with their Indian identity as their primary identity and remain as the smallest racial group in the peninsula, Indians have embraced a more expansive Malaysian identity, in the hopes that a more expansive identity will allow them to break the bonds of their deprivation and exploitation, on account of no longer being the smallest identity group in the peninsula.

Their desire was initially facilitated by such political parties as the Malay dominated PKR and the Chinese dominated DAP, which guaranteed the Indians that if they adopted the Malaysian identity and supported such multiracial parties like DAP and PKR, they will be treated by the Chinese in DAP and Malays in PKR as an equal.

However, after DAP and PKR rose to power by riding on the concept of being “Malaysian First” in 2018 and subsequently in 2022, the Indians are now waking up to the fact that the concept of being Malaysian first as promoted by DAP And PKR is actually just an illusion.

It is an illusion, because Indians are still seen as Indians by the PKR Malays and DAP Chinese while the PKR Malays and DAP Chinese still identify as Malays and Chinese respectively, despite asking the Indians to identify as Malaysians.

The KKB by election this May 11 might be a watershed event for the future of Indians in the country.

If the Indians in KKB reject PH, it would signal the Indians in Malaysia to also abandon the “Malaysian first” ideology that we have adopted in the post-Hindraf era.

It would wake us up to the realization that just because we do not wish to remain as the smallest identity group in the peninsula, it doesn’t mean that the other identity groups in Malaysia will see us as one of them.

By letting go of our Indian identity without getting the other identity groups in the peninsula to let go of their racial identity, not only will we not succeed in freeing ourselves from the shackles of exploitation and deprivation, we will actually be opening ourselves to an even more severe form of exploitation and deprivation.

In the past, during the BN era,when we were exploited and deprived, we knew it was only because we were the smallest identity group in the country. In the PH era however, although we are still exploited and deprived for being the smallest identity group in the peninsula, the PH government is stubbornly refusing to admit that we are being exploited and deprived. Instead, it is indirectly and subtly suggesting that it is our own shortcomings and flaws as a culture and a people, not any form of systemic exploitation and deprivation, that is responsible for our state of exploitation and deprivation.

According to the logic of PH parties like DAP and PKR for example, it is only because prominent Indians leaders like Professor Ramasamy, Santiago or Sivarasa, lack merit, are incompetent or are personally flawed, and not because they are Indians, that they have been deprived of their positions in PKR and DAP, despite helping both PKR and DAP win both the 2018 and 2022 elections.

Prominent Malay and Chinese leaders in PKR and DAP however, do not suffer from the same fate as prominent Indian leaders in PKR and DAP.

The attitude of PH towards the prominent Indian leaders in its fold betrays its views about Indians in general.

If PH can’t help but exploit and deprive the Indian leaders in their fold, before abandoning them and blaming the Indian leaders themselves for suffering from a state of exploitation and deprivation, there is no reason to believe why they will not do the same to the Indian population at large as well.

When PH facilitates the exploitation and deprivation of the Indians, it won’t even realise it is doing it. Instead, it will likely do it under the influence of a deranged sense of meritocracy and fairness, where it will assume too conveniently that if the Indians are suffering from a state of deprivation, it is because the Indians themselves do not possess enough merit or are not competent enough to succeed.

Post Hindraf, we have come to realise that to accept our permanent position as the smallest identity group in the peninsular without protest is suicide.

However, the solution we created to solve the problem, which is to embrace the “Malaysian First, Indian Second” ideology, is a solution that is worse than the problem.

If the KKB  by-election results in the second awakening of the collective consciousness of the Indians, we must use it to reject the “Malaysian First, Indian Second” ideology without rejecting the realization that we cannot accept a permanent third position in a rigidly structured racial arrangement as it is in the peninsula, and find a middle way between the two extremes.