The Singapore Indians
A Historical Look

Here in the BMDP we are very aware of the challenges presented by this complexity with a recent study demonstrating all too starkly that Indian patients are the least likely to find a match within our local database and we wanted to share a few thoughts on this.


To most Singaporeans, the Indians in our small racial melting pot make up a single community. Sikhs, for example, are assumed to be “Indians” alongside the more numerous Tamils and Indians from other parts of the sub-continent who have settled here. However, in truth, the Sikhs are classified under “other” races and the “Indian” community is simply too diverse to be just given one label.


Historically, all of the Indians in Singapore originated primarily from India where, according to Anthropologist, B.S Guha, Indians actually comprise 6 main ethnic groups: the Dravidians, Austrics, Negritos, Mongoloids, Western Brachycephals and Nordics. 


Upon independence in 1951 the race system in India was abolished and having migrated in search of arguably a better future, Singapore Indians were quick to adopt the larger ‘Indian’ identification. While somesmaller sub-groups, such as the Sri Lankan Tamils, were originally resistant to this change, inter-racial marriages and time has seen most of the Indian communities assimilated under the generalised ‘Indian’ association.

Need for Indian Donors

In parallel, the CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) scheme was instituted to bring races and different dialects together tagging the Singapore population with a language and also a religion. For the Singaporean Indians, they were tagged as ‘Tamil’ and ‘Hindu’ respectively which explains why the Sikh community more logically fits into the “Others” category.


Just as there are many cultural differences, the size of India extending from almost the Middle East in one direction and up to the Chinese border brings with it genetic complexity that is seen in the donor register today. We are building a resource for all Singaporeans and desperately need more Indian volunteers to step forward and add to our racial diversity and thereby bring us another step closer to delivering on our promise to find a donor for ever patient.

PUBLISHED ON 16 November 2016
Registering to become a bone marrow donor means committing to be there when you get the call to give life. Each registrant provides hope for those waiting. A person could, however, be a match within a few months of registering, a year later or even seven years later.
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