Malaysian Sikhs have been here since the 1870s

New Straits Times - - Letters -

I REFER to an on­line video of a lo­cal me­dia com­pany ti­tled Sikhs Of Malaya: Gone But Not For­got­ten.

It was much wel­comed be­cause it was a por­trayal of how our na­tion came to be as a re­sult of the blood, sweat and tears of eth­nic groups.

How­ever, it has er­rors that must be rec­ti­fied to en­sure ac­cu­rate doc­u­men­ta­tion of the his­tory of Malaysian Sikhs.

First, Sikhs started im­mi­grat­ing to Malaya in the 1870s, and not 1900s as stated, mainly to serve in the po­lice and para­mil­i­tary forces.

Pioneer Sikh po­lice re­cruits, be­sides Pathans and Pun­jabi Mus­lims to­talling 95 men, were en­listed by Cap­tain Tris­tram Speedy in Lahore, Pun­jab, in 1873 to help Ngah Ibrahim, the ter­ri­to­rial chief of Larut, Perak, re­store law and or­der in Larut.

Trade and tin min­ing in Larut were dis­rupted by fight­ing be­tween Chi­nese clans Ghee Hin and Hai San. By July 1, 1878, there were 247 Sikhs in the Perak po­lice force.

Sub­se­quently, 40 Sikhs joined the Se­lan­gor po­lice force in 1884 and by 1889, the Sikh con­tin­gent in Se­lan­gor to­talled 128 men.

By 1890, the First Bat­tal­ion Perak Sikhs had 713 Sikhs, the po­lice force of Sun­gai Ujong had 75 Sikhs, and the Sikh con­tin­gent in Pa­hang to­talled 154 men.

It is im­por­tant to note that be­fore the en­list­ment of po­lice re­cruits by Speedy, there were 60 to 70 Sikh con­victs in Sin­ga­pore in 1857.

Another lit­tle known fact is that there was a gar­ri­son of 100 Sikh mer­ce­nary sol­diers (re­cruited from the Straits Set­tle­ments) sta­tioned in Kuala Se­lan­gor in 1871 to help Tengku Kudin, who was in­volved in a civil war against Raja Mahdi.

Many of these mer­ce­nary Sikh sol­diers were killed in the Se­lan­gor Civil War from 1867 to 1873.

Sec­ond, Sikhs in­volved in the Bat­tle of Kam­par were de­fend­ing Malaya against the Ja­panese in­va­sion and not fight­ing “to seek in­de­pen­dence for Malaya”, as er­ro­neously stated in the video.

Third, in 1931, there were al­ready 20,000 Sikhs in Malaya. Perak had the largest num­ber of Sikhs, fol­lowed by Se­lan­gor and Sin­ga­pore.

Be­fore World War 2, Sikhs were found in most parts of Malaya with con­cen­tra­tions in or around large towns.

Hence, to im­ply that Sikhs started im­mi­grat­ing to Malaya in large num­bers af­ter the Bat­tle of Kam­par, which is be­tween Dec 30, 1941, and Jan 2, 1942, is in­cor­rect.

Lastly, the ti­tle of the video is mis­lead­ing.

There are thou­sands of Malayan Sikhs, in­clud­ing me, who are still “alive and kick­ing” and not “gone”.

DR RAN­JIT SINGH MALHI, Kuala Lumpur

Sikhs are an in­te­gral part of Malaysian so­ci­ety.

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