Indians in Malaysia have shed their "rubber tapper" image and have become educated and urbanised, a senior minister said in Kuala Lumpur.
Indians, who form about 10 per cent of the population of Malaysia's 26 million people, were mostly brought here by the British decades ago to work at rubber plantations and to build railway tracks. After independence, many Indians, a majority from Tamil Nadu state, did not go back to India and become a part of the multi-ethnic population of Malaysia.
The president of the Malaysia Indian Congress and Works Minister Samy Vellu felt the image of Indians had changed a lot due to better educational facilities and jobs provided by the Malaysian government over the past 50 years.
Malaysia will celebrate its 50th Independence day on August 31.
"Those who say the Indians are backwards are mad," the New Straits Times newspaper quoted the minister as saying earlier this week.
"Today all Indians are educated with some doing very well," the paper quoted him as saying.
Referring to the demolition of some Hindu temples in the country, the minister said this was done as the temples had not received approval from the authorities. "As they have been built near drains and next to roads, these structures will definitely be brought down as they have not received approval from the authorities," he said.
Vellu said the number of temples had mushroomed from 17,600 in 1979 to 24,000 this year in this south-east Asian country.