The Star Malaysia - Star2

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.


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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