This book analyses the mobilisation of race, rights and the law in Malaysia. It examines the Indian community in Malaysia, a quiet minority which consists of the former Indian Tamil plantation labour community and the urban Indian middle-class.

The first part of the book explores the role played by British colonial laws and policies during the British colonial period in Malaya, from the 1890s to 1956, in the construction of an Indian "race" in Malaya, the racialization of labour laws and policies and labour-based mobilisation culminated in the 1940s. The second part investigates the mobilisation trends of the Indian community from 1957 (at the onset of Independent Malaya) to 2018. It shows a gradual shift in the Indian community from a "quiet minority" into a mass mobilising collective or social movement, known as the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), in 2007. The author shows that activist lawyers and Indian mobilisers played a crucial part in organizing a civil disobedience strategy of framing grievances as political rights and using the law as a site of contention in order to claim legal rights through strategic litigation.

Highly interdisciplinary in nature, this book will be of interest to scholars and researchers examining the role of the law and rights in areas such as sociolegal studies, law and society scholarship, law and the postcolonial, social movement studies, migration and labour studies, Asian law and Southeast Asian Studies.

chapter 1|30 pages

Indians in Malaysia

A diverse and ‘quiet minority’ in an illiberal polity

chapter 2|37 pages

Theorising politico-legal mobilisation of minority groups in illiberal polities

The role of the law in constituting identities and grievances

chapter 3|32 pages


Indian identity, grievances and ‘rights’ in colonial Malaya (1890–1956)

chapter 4|29 pages

The quiet minority

Indians and legal repression in an illiberal democratic Malaysia (1957–1989)

chapter 5|38 pages

The unquiet minority

Legal mobilisation of Indians in illiberal Malaysia (1990–2018)

chapter 6|7 pages