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Malaysian community with Indian roots to preserve identity
Kuala Lumpur, March 15 (IANS) Malaysia's tiny Chitty community, which came here from India long before the Europeans and the Chinese, wants to be designated 'bumiputra' - sons of the soil - to preserve its identity.
Nearly 1,500 families settled in Malacca are the descendants of the Chittis who came here in the 14th century. With their number dwindling, they are hopeful of being given bumiputra status, just like the Portuguese settlers.
Bumiputa status is reserved for the majority Malays and is enshrined in Malaysia's constitution.
They should not be confused with the Chettiar community. While the Chettiars are moneylenders by trade, the Chittys are traders who arrived in Malacca in the 14th century. After 600 years of living in this country, the community has adopted many local customs to create a culture which is uniquely theirs, says a website of the community.
The Chittys are Indian traders who came from the southern part of India, namely Kalinga in the Coromandel coast, during the days of the spice trade.
Malacca Chitty Association secretary K. Nadarajan Raja feels the community should be recognised in view of its historical roots in the state.
Nadarajan said community leaders also plan to meet Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Malacca Chief Minister Mohammed Ali Rustam to request bumiputra status.
'The Chitty came here during the reign of founder Parameswara, long before the Europeans.
'We are appealing for bumi status as a way to preserve our identity as a community which existed here since ancient times.
'Conceptions that the Chitty community was brought by the British to serve as government officers and estate workers are wrong,' he told The Star.
Nadarajan said many also confuse the Chitty as moneylenders or Chettiars.
'We are also known as Chitty Melaka or Malacca Straits-born Hindus or Indian Peranakan,' he explained.
He said they are the descendants of traders from the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu.
He said although the Chittys are Indian, and they today speak Tamil only haltingly. Their dressing is also different from their counterparts in India, and gives an indication of how they have integrated with the local society.