In 1938, noting that the bulk of the Indian population formed a "landless proletariat" and despairing of the ability of the factionalized Indian community to unite in pursuit of common objectives, activist K.A. Neelakanda Ayer forecast that the fate of Indians in Malaya would be to become Tragic orphans of whom India has forgotten and Malaya looks down upon with contempt." Ayer's words continue to resonate; as a minority group in a nation dominated politically by colonially derived narratives of "race" and ethnicity and riven by the imperatives of religion, the general trajectory of the economically and politically impotent Indian community has been one of increasing irrelevance. This book explores the history of the modern Indian presence in Malaysia, and traces the vital role played by the Indian community in the construction of contemporary Malaysia. In this comprehensive new study, Carl Vadivella Belle offers fresh insights on the Indian experience spanning the period from the colonial recruitment of Indian labour to the post-Merdeka political, economic and social marginalization of Indians. While recent Indian challenges to the political status quo -- a regime described as that of "benign neglect" -- promoted Indian hopes of reform, change and uplift, the author concludes that the dictates of political discourse permeated by the ideologies of communalism offer limited prospects for meaningful change.The e-chapter on " The Malay Peninsula: Early History, Melaka and the Colonial Setting" , is downloadable free of charge.
for images of the book launch held at ISEAS on 9 February 2015.