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Radicalization of Indian Plantation

Workers Post WWII


Arrival and Quarantine of Indian
Immigrants
..Immediately they arrive they and their clothing are disinfected (fumigated)
and they are vaccinated ..
The coolies are sent from the quarantine station to the depot, where they are
taken by the Kangani for the estate for which they have been recruited. Each
coolies has a tin ticket with number corresponding to the number of the
estate, so that it can be seen at a glance for what estate a is intended
Source: Stenson- Class Race and Colonialism in West Malaya
(Report of a Meeting of General Labour Committee May 1920 )

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Arrival and Quarantine of Indian
Immigrants

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Indians in Plantation

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Whitemans Perspective On Indian
Workers
Easy Labour Force - Demand for labourer fluctuated with rubber price
between 1930 to 1933, 200 000 workers have been shipped back
Cheap Labour Force - 1947 average wage for men 70cents, women and
children 40cents. (Cost of living in 1947 - $1.1o)
Child Labour 1947 - 25,000 children aged 8 and above (allowed in labour
code) employed in estates
Kept like Slaves - labourers kept in closed environment no contact with
outsiders
Ultimate Authority - European Manager (Periya Durai) and wife addressed
as Appa and Amma decide on family disputes, choice of clothing and
leisure activities. For European bachelors, the cooks wife was a customary
consolation

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Plantation Workers

Women workers at
coffee plantation
Kangani and
Coolie

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Indians Perspective On White Master
Viewed them as master, king and some cases as God (statues of European
estate owners in temple towers (ex: Sri Maha Muthu Mariamman Temple in
Harvard Estate, Bedong, Kedah)

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Population of Indians Labourers in Malaya
"The important characteristics to note about Indian
migration to Malaya are that, firstly, the great bulk of this movement
has been of an ephemeral character, with approximately 4 million
entering and 2.8 million leaving the country between 1860 and
1957. Secondly, much of the 1.2 million net immigration appears to
have been wiped out by disease, snake-bites, exhaustion and
malnutrition, for the Indian population of Malaya in 1957 numbered
only 858,615 of which 62.1 percent was local born."
(Source : 1957 Federation of Malaya Census Report)

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Notable Indian Strikes - Earlier Revolts (1936 to
1941)

1.FMS Railway Strike (May 1934)


2.Traction Company Strike ( Sept 1936)
3.Singapore Municipality Strike ( Dec 1936)
4.Klang Strike (March to May 1941)

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
The Klang Strike (March to May 1941)
First wave started March 17th, 1941 at Damansara Estate 4000 strike
second waves April 1941 led by RH Nathan, Y.S Menon and R.K Thangaiah
Demands (second wave):
Pay parity between Indian and Chinese
Removal of brutal Ceylonese and Malayalees and replacement of Tamil staffs
Proper education
Put an end to the molestation of labourers' women folks by European and Black
European
Proper Medical facilities
Closing of Toddy shop
Freedom of speech and assembly
Free access to estate for family and friends
Labourers to remain mounted on bicycle in front of European and Asian staffs
Abolition of 10-12 hours working day
No victimization
Permission to form association represent labourers interest
Involved 20,000 workers over 100 estates state of emergency announced in Sgor
Indian Nationalist and Self-Respect movement more effective than MCP in rousing
Indian working class militancy

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Outcome of Klang Strike
Strike ended with 6 workers dead, 116 deported, 386 arrested and
imprisoned. Klang District Indian Union was deregistered.
R.H Nathan was deported to India on 19th May 1941

One of the largest, best organised and most militant strike


by Indian workers which Malaya had ever seen (Tan Yuen
Labour Unrest in Malaya 1934 1942)
The strike, though quickly crushed by vigorous police
action, lasted long enough to establish clear political
consciousness among labourers. Vernacular educated
radicals, working with Kanganies and Tamil teachers in
estate schools, successfully encouraged the tappers the
question the basis cause of their depressed economic and
social position (A. Rajeswary The Indian Minority and Political
Change in Malaya 1945-1957)

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Japanese in Malaya Under One Greater Asia

Injected sense of Anti Colonialism liberation from


oppressive masters

Plantation workers were abandoned by the British in


the hands of oppressive new master Japanese Army and
Asiatic estate staffs

Large recruitment for Indian labourers to be sent to


Thailand and Burma Death Railway resulted to 150,000
Indian death

Food shortage further aggravated Indians temper


towards colonial masters

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose to Malaya
Bose represented the non-violence struggle of Indias independence
July 1943 took over the leadership INA
INA cut across all classes, status, castes bringing together Indians under one
umbrella
Bose set up army training camps all over Malaya for men and young adults
(Balasena)
Bose empowered Indian women under Rani of Jhansi Regiment - Captain
Lakshmi Swaminathan - the world most organised regiment of women army
Bose visited many places in Malaya to propagate INA course
Bose set up The Provisional Indian Government in exile (Azad Hind
Government) independent government with the support of the Japanese
Imperial Army

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Rani of Jhansi Regiment
I want a unit of brave Indian women to form a deathdefying Regiment who will wield the sword which Rani of
Jhansi wielded in Indias First War of Independence in
1857.
Subhas Chandra Bose 9th July 1943 Singapore

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
The Boses Effects on Malayans
Bose became the mentor for oppressed Indians labourers
photographs of Bose in many Indians homes
INA (1941-1945) gave platform for Indians to organized and
empowering - from subservience to standing up against the oppressive
white masters
Nationalism among Malays Abdullah Sani Raja Kechi @ Ahmad
Boestamam formed Angkatan Pemuda Insaf, Burhanuddin Helmy,
Muhammad Ismail Haji Ishak (Pak Sako), Shamsiah Fakeh (Angkatan
Wanita Insaf)
Give Me Your Blood and I will give Freedom for India Bose
Merdeka dengan Darah Ahmad Boestaman

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
The Japanese Surrender
August 1945 Japanese surrender to British in Malaya
Indians were made to return to estates with lesser wages
British did not realized the psychologically transformation among
Indians. Indians in plantations found the means of struggle and needs
to fight back their oppressor. They knew who to organise more
effectively in Trade Unions
Offspring of INA The Thondar Padai (Volunteer Corp) started to
organized in Estate important movement in Kedah Riot 1946

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WII
Transformation of Plantation Indians Post
WWII
The destitution and impoverishment suffered by the Indians during
the war was ignored as they were rounded up like cattle to be put to
work again on the estates. When their demands were not met, Indian
labourers joined forces with the heavily Communist influenced
Chinese migrant community to go on strikes, the strongest weapon
they had at their disposal. The creation of the All Malayan Rubber
Workers' Council, a predominantly Indian trade union, is essential in
showing how Indian labour became a threat to the British that they
eventually had to retaliate with draconian military suppression
through the imposition of the Emergency in 1948.
Source: Patricia Spencer , Malaya's Indian Tamil Labour Diaspora: Colonial Subversion of
Their Quest for Agency and Modernity (1945-1948)

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WW2
The Kedah Riot
Thondar Padai (Volunteer Corp) - a social reform movement with
militant Tamil youths inspired by moral uplifting Pan Malayan Dravidian
Federation. Trained and participated by Ex INA members in Johor,
Melaka, Selangor and Kedah. Strongly influenced by PMFTU.
Thondar Padai in Kedah led by A.M Samy (President of PMFTU of
Kedah) main objectives suppression of toddy shops, eradicate
poverty, ignorance and backwardness.
Highlight 1 Bedong Toddy Shop incident 1000 strike in front of
toddy shop clash with police, over 20 injured, one death and 12 ring
leaders arrested.
Highlight 2 May Day gathering protest in Dublin Estate clash with
police

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WII
Transformation into Trade Unionist

MCP played vital role in bringing together Chinese and Indian


working class and Malay nationalist movement together after war. First
political party to promote unity among races through its ideology
towards a republic nation
Many ex-INA joined labour movement to champion labour rights
after war. Some even had greater view to seek independence for
Malaya. (Ex: President of PMFTU - S.A Ganapathy was an Ex-INA
instructor transformed towards a nationalist working together with
MDU and AMCJA-Putera for independence of Malaya

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WII
S. A Ganapathy from Trade Unionist to
BornNationalist
in India (Tambikottai, Tanjavur) in 1917

Came to Singapore in 1929 (Parents passed away. Lived with


uncle in Singapore)
Heavily influenced by Self-Respect Movement and Indian
Communist Party (independent of MCP)
From 1943 to 1945 - An instructor in INA (still maintain
connected with Communist MPAJA)
Captured and beaten up by Japanese for being a communist
7th Feb. 1947 Elected to become the President of PMFTU
with 400,000 members
Lead PMFTU in AMCJA Putera struggle for Malaya
Independence
Gone underground in June 1948
Arrested in March 1st in Rawang Waterfall Estate
Sentenced to death by hanging in 4th May 1949 for possession
of fire arms
"His sincere services to the workers for a long time cannot be forgotten. In
appreciation of these service it is, but right to express our sympathy to him in his
dark days. John Brazier (Trade Union Adviser Malaya)

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII

Transformation Radicals in Trade Unionist

P.Veerasenan - President of SFTU


Joint MNLA in June 1948. Shot dead on
3rd may 1949 at Pertang.
Unlike Ganapathy, Veerasenan and
Rajagopal were not communist T.N Harper
The Forgotten Wars The End of Britains
Asian Empire

V.Sutharman (Singapore) MNLA 7th


Regiment President of PMFTU Plantation
Workers Senai Kulai
We have to run and hide in jungle as we were
hunted after June 1948. In the jungle we joined
the MNLA took arm to protect ourselves. Later
on we were taught communist ideology in an
interview with presenter

Radicalization of Indian Plantation


Workers Post WWII
Transformation Radical Indians in Trade
Unions

Ramasamy Vengadasalam
Gen.Sec of Collieries Workers
Union Batu Arang
Most wanted MNLA terrorist in Selangor. He
learned Marxism during under ground after
June 1948. Written letters to his brother in
Indian, requesting books on Marxism Oral
interview with family member

R.G Balan (Vice President of MCP)


President of Perak Rubber Worker
Union
Detained from 1948 to 1960
Incident: Klapa Bali and Lima Belas Estate
(Socfins) with 12,000 workers strike.
Responsible for 85 strikes in Perak early 1948.
Balan was only 23 when he was arrested.
Successful in preventing all Braziers attempts
to float pro British trade union

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