Early Sikhs were police, convicts and mercenary soldiers


  • Letters
  • Monday, 08 May 2017

I REFER to Star TV’s recent video titled “Sikhs of Malaya: Gone but not forgotten”. It is a welcome step in the right direction to portray that our beloved nation today is the result of the blood, sweat and tears of various ethnic groups.

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

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

The pioneer Sikh police recruits (besides Pathans and Punjabi Muslims totalling 95 men) were enlisted by Captain Tristram Speedy at Lahore, Punjab in 1873 to help Ngah Ibrahim (territorial chief of Larut, Perak) restore law and order in Larut. Trade and tin mining in Larut were disrupted by frequent fighting between two warring 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 Captain Speedy, there were in 1857 about 60-70 Sikh convicts in Singapore.

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

Many of these Sikh mercenary soldiers were subsequently killed in the Selangor Civil War (1867-1873).

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

Third, in 1931 there were already about 20,000 Sikhs in Malaya. Perak had the largest number of Sikhs, followed by Selangor and Singapore. Before the Second World War, Sikhs were found in most parts of Malaya with concentrations in or around the large towns.

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

Fourth and finally, the title of the video itself is rather misleading. There are still thousands of Malayan Sikhs (including me) who are still “alive and kicking” and not “gone”.

DR RANJIT SINGH MALHI

Kuala Lumpur

 

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