DBP backs down, will replace derogatory slur towards the Indian community after social media uproar

A screengrab of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) website with the word ‘keling’ which has sparked controversy online. — Screengrab via dbp.gov.my
A screengrab of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) website with the word ‘keling’ which has sparked controversy online. — Screengrab via dbp.gov.my

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Social media was abuzz after Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) used the derogatory term, “keling” to refer to the Indian community on its website recently.

DBP’s reaction to the controversy with a statement dismissing claims that the word is not malicious after the uproar did them no favours.

In a statement, it had clarified that the dictionary allows the use of such words that express certain concepts in various fields of knowledge and social settings.

However, to put an end to the controversy, DBP Director-General Abang Sallehuddin Abg Shokeran told Malaysiakini that the department will replace the word “keling” with the word “Indian”.

For the uninitiated, the word “keling” is a pejorative term to the Indian community.

Over the weekend, Indian community activist S Shankar Ganesh criticised DBP over the definition of the word “tambi” on the Department’s website that used the word “keling” in reference to the Indian community.

DBP defined the word ‘tambi’ as: “a term used for Keling people younger than us.”

The activist, who spoke to Malaysiakini, condemned DBP for insulting the Indian community and demanded an apology from the department.

DBP said in the statement that in 2003, a group of Indian community activists had demanded the word to be removed from the dictionary following a legal suit.

It added that the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that the use of the word was allowed in the dictionary as it was not malicious to any parties.

Despite the official explanation, many social media users took to Twitter to express their anger over the use of such an insensitive and disparaging word to describe an ethnic group.

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