Indian youth in Penang feel marginalised and deprived of opportunities as they negotiate their daily lives.
This is one of the findings of a recent survey of the younger segment of the 165,000 strong Indian community in the state located on the north of Peninsular Malaysia.
The study, entitled titled ‘Indian Youths: Opportunities, Challenges and Solutions’, also revealed the ‘overwhelming’ expectations of their parents, the community and themselves.
A joint partnership effort between Penang Institute, Malaysia and Massey University, New Zealand under its CARE (Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation) Centre, the study has released a 103-page report. See here.
Based on interviews of 45 Tamil-speaking participants, the study found that marginalisation and deprivation of opportunities emerged as key underpinning principles to inequality and to being treated unfairly – directly and/or indirectly so.
“It showcased distinctive forms of marginalisation consistently faced by the Indian community perhaps not faced by the other ethnic groups,” the report said.
“Marginalisation” in this study is defined broadly as processes of social exclusions – that is, failure of society to provide certain individuals and groups with those rights and benefits normally available to its members in matters such as employment, adequate housing, health care, education and training. Marginalisation has taken place in the past, across many histories, and continues till today, according to the study report.
Since the 1969 racial riots, it noted that marginalisation has increased for Indians as well as other minority ethnic groups due to the provisions in the Federal Constitution that saw the setting up of the affirmative action Bumiputera policy which favours the Malays over other ethnic groups.
The Indians and the Chinese continue to contribute though they are not seen as being on par with the Malays. It is worse off for the Indians, as many interviewed in the study saw themselves as being third in society, after the Malays and the Chinese; and in some instances fourth, coming after migrant workers, it noted.
When discussing the impact of marginalisation on Indian youth, the report had made reference to the Sikh community. It said: “But because the minority Indians – be they Punjabi-Sikh Gujarati, Telugus – are a minority within a minority, perhaps, their acute marginalisation becomes also a great source for looking out for each other and a build-up of higher adaptability levels to fit into any context, survive and improve. Smaller Indian communities have their own “temple” that they go to, their own community get-togethers and their own language. There is “alienation within alienation” among the Indians – with each feeling that they are not Indian enough for the other – to be a community of just Indians in Penang. There are both positive and negative elements in this phenomenon of being a minority – and a marginalised community at that.”
The study also revealed distinctive forms of challenges steadily faced by the Indian community which are perhaps not faced by the other ethnic groups at the same level of intensity.
The youth revealed impacts on their lives in terms of education attainment, limited employment opportunities, coping with racism and the community, and some recalibrations on their culture and identity.
It also noted that that what was overwhelming to most was handling the expectations of their parents, the community and themselves.
“In many cases too, there was the intrusive, excessive management and governance that parents assert over their children. It did give rise to, in some youths, a nonchalance to engage in committing themselves to widening social circles or to pick up other learning opportunities as they knew their parents were not open minded enough, did not offer trust to them, and were weak in parent-child communications. This curtailed the development of some of the youths – a small number – to develop faster into more confident and street-smart adults,” it said.
The aim of the study was to find out the opportunities, challenges faced by Indian youths in Penang; and the solutions that they seek. It attempted to explore and document key aspects of an Indian youth’s life and to hear their thoughts on a number of key thematic issues.
Malaysian Sikhs worry most about economy, divorce and conversion, reveals new ground breaking research (Asia Samachar, 24 Sept 2015)