In a delicate balancing act, India has said it has taken up the issue of the alleged harassment of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia with authorities there, but admitted that it cannot go beyond a point as they are Malaysian citizens. “You have seen the levels of concerns being expressed. We have drawn the attention of the Malaysian authorities about these widespread concerns,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters here. 'We have been assured that they will look into these concerns,' he said.
Menon also said the external affairs ministry had taken up the issue on Monday with the acting high commissioner of Malaysia here. In the same breath, he admitted that it was an internal problem of Malaysia as people of Indian origin in that country are Malaysian citizens.
India has been in touch with the Malaysian authorities over the allegedly harsh police action against ethnic Indians, who were part of a protest rally last month, and underlined its deep concern for the welfare of the large Indian community. In a guarded comment last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that whenever Indian citizens abroad or people of Indian origin are adversely affected, it is a cause of concern.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a suo moto statement in parliament last week on the massive protests led by a Hindu body in Kuala Lumpur and stressed that the people of Indian origin in Malaysia are citizens of that country. “We have friendly relations with Malaysia and we are in touch with the Malaysian authorities in the related matter,” Mukherjee said in the Lok Sabha. 'I am in touch with the Malaysian government. We are going to take up the issue with them,' he had said.
Reacting to remarks of a senior Malaysian minister asking Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to 'lay off' from the internal affairs of that country, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachouri had said that the matter was being taken up through diplomatic channels.
At least 80 ethnic Indians were charged for taking part in the rally attended by about 10,000 people of Indian origin in Kuala Lumpur Nov 25 to demand equal rights. The rally, the largest ever demonstration by the Indian community, cast a shadow over Malaysia's reputation as a stable, multi-cultural country that is home to Malays, Chinese and Indians. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. Around 250 people were arrested and three protest organisers charged with sedition.
The people of Indian origin, mostly Tamils, comprise eight percent of Malaysia's population of 27 million. They allege that an affirmative action policy favouring Malays in government jobs has led to their marginalisation and made them more vulnerable to exploitation. (Courtesy: IANS, December 4, 2007)