HISTORY OF MALAYSIAN INDIAN COMMUNITY
Historical records show that the influence of Indian on Malaya can be traced as early as the first century. Indians’ role was prominent in the Malay archipelago as merchants who traded valuables such as as spices, textiles, fabrics and gold. The Indians at that time were also skilled sculptors and were active in maritim activities as Indian maritim ships were the main players in this region during this era. As a result, on a political level, they established many diplomatic ties with nations in the Southeast Asian region. On a societal level, many traders have married and integrated with the locals, settling themselves in the Malay peninsula. The artefacts found in the Bujang Valley, the Avalokiteswara Statue, and the archaeological remains during Rajendra Chola Conquest on Kedah (Kadaram) in the 11th century and the Sriwijaya Empire are significant relics documenting their presence in the Malay kingdom.
Migration of Indians to Malaysia started initially in 1786 when British colony offices opened in Penang. The influx of Indians happened in the mid 19th century due to the intervention of the British in India and Malaya. British used their political influence to bring Indian labours to Malaya to work in plantation field through agents in India. The. In 1819, the number of migrations increased after the birth of Singapore. British brought in Indian prisoners as laborers in Malaya due to insufficient labor supply and high demand through projects undertaken by the government in the construction of railways, roads and agriculture.
The presence of immigrant communities, especially Indians and Chinese, has created a new community structure in Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. Indians contributed in social and economic aspects after Malaya’s independence in 1957. After 13 May 1969, the government drafted and introduced the New Economy Policy (NEP) to reduce and eradicate poverty by creating job opportunities and raising income for all races as well as expediting the process community restructuring to achieve socioeconomic equality in a very plural Malaysia. The government has carried out various efforts and strategies to create oppportunities for Malaysian Indians to be actively involved in the economic sector. Education sector developed rapidly as many schools were built. In 1996, the Razak Statement was formulated as one of the important steps to strenghten the nation’s education policy. The policy formulation has increased the number of Tamil schools in rural Malaysia and been given status as national schools. As a result of Razak’s statement content, Tamil language was and is presently taught in primary and secondary schools as a core or elective subject.
Malaysian Indians continue to thrive as global and local player in education, economy, cutlure, religion, sociery and have achieved tremendously since their forebearers’ arrival to this region and country. Under MITRA, the unit will endevaour to ensure all Indians are included in the rapid development in these aspects.