Story of Sikhs in Malaysia

Man­age­ment con­sul­tant Dr Ran­jit Singh Malhi is com­plet­ing a book on the in­ter­est­ing his­tory of the com­mu­nity in this coun­try.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@thes­tar.com.my

DO you re­mem­ber the tow­er­ing Sikh watch­men and their char­poy beds? With their long beards and strong build, they al­ways looked for­mi­da­ble to me when I was a child. These watch­men were of­ten seen guard­ing the premises of banks and other build­ings with high se­cu­rity needs.

That Sikhs were en­trusted with such work is no sur­prise, says Dr Ran­jit Singh Malhi; Sikhs are renowned the world over for their brav­ery and were highly sought as po­lice­men, sol­diers and watch­men.

Ran­jit, 62, a man­age­ment con­sul­tant and pro­lific au­thor, re­lated how the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion in Bri­tish Malaya were ap­par­ently over­awed and in­tim­i­dated by the sheer phys­i­cal size and fierce looks of Sikh po­lice­men.

“Is­abella Bird, a 19th cen­tury ex­plorer and writer, saw in Taip­ing ‘a sin­gle Sikh driv­ing four or five men in front of him, hav­ing knot­ted their hair to­gether for reins’.”

Ran­jit has writ­ten more than 20 books on his­tory, man­age­ment, per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, grad­u­ate em­ploy­a­bil­ity, and soft skills. Two of his books on per­sonal qual­ity and self-es­teem have been pub­lished in Ara­bic in Saudi Ara­bia. He has a de­gree in His­tory from Univer­siti Malaya (1977) and a PhD in His­tory from Asia e Univer­sity (2015) both in Kuala Lumpur. He also has a Master’s de­gree in Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion from Syra­cuse Univer­sity in the United States. While man­age­ment con­sul­tancy and train­ing is Ran­jit’s bread and but­ter, he has al­ways writ­ten about his­tory along­side the busi­ness books – “Most peo­ple know me as a his­to­rian be­cause of my strong stand on writ­ing Malaysian his­tory as it is.”

For his next book, Ran­jit has done four years of painstak­ing re­search on the Sikhs in Malaysia and hopes to pub­lish it by the end of next year.

“To date, there is no com­pre­hen­sive, au­thor­i­ta­tive and ob­jec­tive book per­tain­ing to the his­tory of Sikhs in Malaysia from the 1870s till present time,” he says, adding that this com­mu­nity has a glo­ri­ous his­tory. Ran­jit’s book will cover po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial as­pects.

Presently, he says there are 75,000 Sikhs (less than 0.25% of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion) in Malaysia and the com­mu­nity takes pride that “within one gen­er­a­tion, the Sikhs were trans­formed from po­lice­men, bul­lock-carters, watch­men, dairy­men and min­ing labour­ers to pro­fes­sion­als in­clud­ing doc­tors, lawyers, en­gi­neers and aca­demi­cians.

“This trans­for­ma­tion was pos­si­ble be­cause the first gen­er­a­tion of Sikhs led sim­ple and fru­gal lives and en­sured that their chil­dren re­ceived good ed­u­ca­tions,” he says.

Ran­jit says the Sikhs con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to­wards na­tion build­ing, par­tic­u­larly in main­tain­ing law and or­der. They also played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the early eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of Malaya, es­pe­cially the Fed­er­ated Malay States.

From the 1880s un­til the late 1920s, the main mode of road trans­port in Malaya was bul­lock carts and the ma­jor­ity of bul­lock-carters were Sikhs. The Sikh bul­lock-carters, Ran­jit says, con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of the tin min­ing and rub­ber in­dus-

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