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Delhi fumes at Malaysia action

New Delhi, March 10: Bristling at police manhandling of 270 Indians working as computer specialists in Kuala Lumpur, Delhi today told Malaysia such “inhuman” action was unacceptable.

The professionals were taken into custody after a raid yesterday on an apartment block in a predominantly ethnic Indian neighbourhood, where many people from Andhra stay.

Nearly a hundred of them were immediately freed, but the rest — some in their night suits — were taken to a nearby police station. There they were handcuffed and held in a vehicle shed for several hours in spite of having valid passports and visas. Indian consular officials were initially denied access to them, Indian high commissioner in Malaysia Veena Sikri said.

Sikri lodged a strong protest and demanded to know why the police had treated them like ordinary criminals.

The Malaysian high commissioner in Delhi, Dato Choo Siew Kioh, was summoned to South Block and told in no uncertain terms that Delhi took the incident seriously and would like to know why the police were so “high-handed” and “rough” with the IT specialists.

Most of the workers picked up during the dawn raid were freed by evening, but Delhi is furious that they were slapped and kicked around and their passports defaced.

It is not clear if over-sensitive action by the police on visa matters or deep-rooted prejudice against ethnic Indians set off the incident. But Delhi is not amused because it feels such a step could not have been taken without the tacit support of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed.

“Such unacceptable action by Malaysian authorities cannot but adversely affect our bilateral relations and badly dent Malaysia’s image as a destination for IT professionals and as a country which is keen to encourage foreign participation in this and other sectors,” foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

The possibility of expelling the Malaysian envoy is also not being ruled out. Sarna said: “Depending on the clarification we receive, we will decide on further action appropriately.”

In Kuala Lumpur, envoy Sikri expressed outrage. “Computer specialists are the most sought after Indian professional community, wanted in the US, the UK and Germany, and they’ve been asked by Malaysian companies to work here and they are treated like this,” she told Reuters.

She has written to the Malaysian authorities, asking for an explanation.

There were complaints that some professionals were taken to a detention centre and treated roughly. Indian diplomats showed Reuters pages from several passports, with photographs scratched and computer readable data on visas erased. By Sunday evening, most were released, barring eight or nine, who were held back as the police required clarification about their travel papers.

“These were educated software professionals being treated as common petty criminals,” said Arshad Khan, country manager of World Wide Info System, where some of the professionals work.

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