MALAYSIA - Malaysian authorities spotlighted a festering issue when they said ethnic Indians accounted for 71 per cent of 40,313 gang members in the country.
That sparked anger and fear in a section of the community who fretted about racial profiling, while still others gave nods of sad acknowledgement.
There are two million Indians in Malaysia and that disclosure speaks volumes about the struggles of some against poverty, lack of education and longstanding complaints of being neglected by the government and Indian leaders, community activists say.
In listing the names of 49 gangs last Thursday, Home Ministry secretary-general Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi said of the 40,313 gang members, 28,926 were Indians, 8,214 were Chinese and 1,923 were Malays. The rest were from Sarawak and Sabah.
Several Indian community leaders said it could not be true that the Malays, forming nearly 60 per cent of the population, had so few gang members when there were many "Mat Rempit" motorcycle gangs.
Others such as Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) youth secretary C. Sivarraajh fear that racial profiling of Indians will worsen. They pointed to many cases of Indian youth who have died in police custody.
But others acknowledged the problem.
"This is a fact, so let us sit down and solve the problem. This is not playing politics, this is a national issue," said lawyer S. Pasupathi, director of the MySkills Foundation that helps Indian school dropouts.