Nilofar Suhrawardy, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sat, 2007-12-01 03:00

NEW DELHI, 1 December 2007 — India voiced its concerns yesterday about a crackdown by baton-wielding Malaysian police on ethnic Indians in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said New Delhi was disturbed by reports about the use of force against the protesters in the multicultural Islamic country.

“This is a matter which does concern us,” Manmohan told a joint news conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in New Delhi. “Whenever Indian citizens abroad or people of Indian origin living abroad run into difficulties, that obviously is a source of concern to us,” he added.

Manmohan, however, refused to elaborate on this saying: “I won’t say more because Parliament is in session.”

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a statement on the issue in the Parliament yesterday. Drawing attention to the rally organized in Kuala Lumpur by Hindu Rights Action Force on Nov. 25, he said: “The stated purpose of the rally was to handover a petition to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur seeking the support of Queen Elizabeth II for a class action suit filed in the UK for the exploitation of Indians who were brought to Malaysia as indentured labor.”

At least 8,000 protesters including women and young people massed on Sunday near Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers — meeting stiff resistance from police, who beat them with batons and used tear gas and water cannon. The rally was more squarely aimed at the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO),

The government remains “deeply solicitous” for the welfare of people of Indian origin living abroad, which includes “large community of people of Indian origin in Malaysia who are citizens of that country,” he said. “We have friendly relations with Malaysia and we are in touch with Malaysian authorities in the related matter,” he said.

In response to a question on the issue, Mukherjee replied: “I am in touch with the Malaysian government. We are going to take up the issue with them.”

The prime minister’s comments came as a Cabinet minister said New Delhi was taking up the issue with Kuala Lumpur.

“The matter is being taken up through diplomatic channels,” Junior Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Pachouri told the Parliament, where MPs have accused Malaysia of mistreating ethnic Indians.

Indians, comprising eight percent of Malaysia’s 27-million population have alleged that the country’s affirmative policy favors Malays in government jobs.

In the Rajya Sabha, drawing attention to a senior Malaysian minister having asked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to “lay off” from happenings there, lawmaker R. Shanmugasundaram (DMK) complained about the action.

He said: “This is highly condemnable as the Malaysian minister has no business to talk like this. The government of India should take appropriate action.”

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