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Malaysia The First Sikh Arrivals In Malaysia

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
A letter sent to the THE STAR in Malaysia

Dear Sirs,

I hope you will allow me to add and put on record certain important
factual notes of the Malaysian Sikh police history, as mentioned in
the article -Sikhs spurred by spirit to serve - by Dr Sarjit Singh
Gill of Universiti Putra Malaysia that appeared in your newspaper on
the 31 of August, 2012.

He says "The first Sikhs who arrived in the Malay states in the 19th
century were largely recruited by British officers who had worked in
India".I am afraid to say is a little short of important historical facts.

The FIRST Sikhs that arrived in Malaya/Singapore were not the Police or
lawmen, but Sikh political prisoners,who had been banished first to the
Andaman Islands [known as Kaale Pani, in Punjabi ] and later to
Singapore and Malaya.

Among the hundereds that were sent here,Bhai Maharaj Singh and a few
other Sikhs are a good example of those early political Sikh prisoners
that arrived here shortly after the final war between the Sikh Empire
and the British.The Second Anglo-Sikh War took place in 1848 and
1849.By the end of that year Bhai Maharaj Singh, who had instigated a
rebellion against the British and many of his colleagues were arrested
and initially sent to Andaman Islands.In 1850, it was felt that Andaman
Islands were too close to home for them to keep stirring the pangs of
independance in the Punjab.

They were then sent to Singapore.Bhai Maharaj Singh's Cremation
Memorial lies in a Gurduara in Singapore to this day.Records tell us
that some of the lesser important prisoners and Bhai Maharaj Singh,
were also kept at Fort Cornwalis in Penang for some period.
By 1850s Sikh police was already deploye in China and Hong Kong before
they were deployed in Malaya.Sikh police recruited from the Malwa
region of Punjab and the Sikh states, east of the River Satluj, which
was under East India Company rule,as result of the Treaty of Amritsar
helped put the Boxer rebellion down in China around 1851-2. These Sikh
police officers must/would have also passed through Penang and
Singapore on their way to Hong Kong and China.

In fact, it should not be surprising that a small number of Sikhs in
may have already been present in Malaya and Singapore when the British
founded Singapore in 1819.The British Sikhs[ from the area of Punjab
that was already under the East India Company, Malwa and Sikh States ]
were already in the employ of the British as soldiers and Police.
This is further supported by the fact that the first Sikhs
taken to Australia were in 1837 by a planter Mr John Mackay.They too
must have stopped in Penang and Singapore en route to Australia.
The first official Sikh unit in Malaya was raised with Capt Speedy's
men-100 of them and mostly Sikh, in 1874.The Perak Resident's Guards
were formed in 1874.The Larut Police was formed between 1874-1876.

Later in 1877 came the Perak Armed Police as said in the
article.Although much valuable information and record is held within
the National Archives in Malaysia, very little or practically nil was
collated by the Sikhs themselves, sadly.The Sikh policemen did not
generally record their experiences and adventure or about their
profession in Malaya in diaries, journals, or newspapers.
Even the Police Gurduaras have very little information and far more
less is found in the local Gurduaras built by the civilian Sikhs.As
there are no personal records or diaries. much valuable information
has been lost as the early Sikh policemen demised.

Many efforts are being made to collate all the Sikh police history into
one volume, this work is often hindered by selfish and possesive people
, who have their own vested interests to grind.Others have refused
point blank to asssist at all, often due to jealousy, but I must say
much of it has been collated and is being published by scholars from
abroad,and by Malaysians who are proud of their Sikh Malaysian
heritage,history and community.

Why were the Sikhs selected over other Indians, is a question that
puzzles many.e many reasons , but briefly the Sikhs were considered the
prime of the martial races, and had much history to prove that point
beyond any doubt.This catogarization was then extended into the Malayan
context since the British recognised that the Chinese and Malays were
"unsuitable"in constitution and character to fulfil the security vacuum
in Malaya.The British had already experienced the effectiveness of
Sikh police in Shanghai and Hong Kong, Burma,etc Thus began the
migration of Sikhs to Malaya on a larger scale than before.
Having fought two wars with the Sikhs,and almost looosing the
second,if not for the treachery of two Dogra generals in the Sikh
army,the British respected the Sikhs and their soldiery traits and
were assured the loyalty of the Sikh police over the rest of her
colonial subjects, after the 1857 mutiny in India.The Sikh police had
also been at work in East Africa,West Africa, Burma and Fiji Islands,
since 1850.

Lastly, the English officers who brought these Sikh police to Malaysia
were not all those who had worked with Sikhs in India, but many of the
officers were those who had seen Sikh Police work in action in Shanghai
and Hong Kong etc ,where they had experienced the Sikhs first hand in
policing successfully and were very much impressed by their quality of
work ethics.

Today,in Malaysia, there is no reason why a special Sikh Contigent of
up to 1000 men could not be raised from the local Sikh population and
the numbers kept at that number so to ensure the continuance of the
historical Sikh police in Malaysia, and the upkeep of the Police Sikh
Gurduaras, which are part of the Malaysian buildings heritage, as well
as to ensure the carry on of the original spirit to serve the nation,
Malaysia and Malaysian communities.

Yours Sincerely, A Very Much Malaysian,
Gurcharan Singh Kulim
Chigwell, United Kingdom
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