Sikh Pioneers of Perlis, Malaysia (1906-1957): A Community History is a novel and singular initiative undertaken by the author to systematically examining the family histories of the Sikh pioneers of Perlis and skillfully juxtaposing them with the milieus of local and international events. Such history book, is a rarity in Malaysia. The author has not only brought to life the trials, tribulations, and achievements of ordinary people, but has successfully constructed a cohesive and holistic community history of the Sikhs of Perlis. The study discovered that Sikhs started coming to Perlis in 1906 and soon began serving in large numbers as police officers and jail warders in the state. Over the years they forged a viable community un their new land of adoption and laid the foundations for future generations of Sikhs in the state. The waxing and waning of the community’s fortunes from 1906 to 1957 ultimately inspired the author to create some new and interesting conceptual categories.
In this study, the term Sikh pioneers refers primarily to those who immigrated from India, and worked and settled in Perlis from 1906 to 1957. It, therefore, deals with the narrative of the first generation of Sikh immigrants and settlers in Perlis. The story of the second generation of the Sikh community in Perlis is beyond the scope of this work. The year 1906 in chosen as the starting point because it was in this year that the first Sikh, Jagat Singh arrived in Perlis. The year 1957 symbolically marks the end of the study as immigration from India practically came to a stop due to the Malayan immigration laws of 1953, and as it was also the year of Malayan Independence. There were two waves of Sikh immigration into Perlis, each with its own characteristics and features. The first wave was from 1906 to 1939 and the second from 1939 to 1957. For this reason, the volume is divided into two parts. Part one that deals with the activities and family histories of Sikhs who immigrated to Perlis from India from 1906 to 1939 has six chapters. Part two narrates the story of the new Sikh settlers who came mainly from India, although two of them came from Penang and Kedah as well. This section has seven chapters.
Sikhs first appeared in this part of the world in 1850 when two of them were brought to Singapore as convicts from India by the British. Without going into the details of subsequent arrivals, it is sufficed to say that Captain Tristram Speedy’s experiment of 1873 in using 95 discharged sepoys recruited from India (Sikhs, Pathans and Punjabi Hindus) to successfully keep the peace in Larut, Perak, greatly impressed the British authorities in the Straits Settlements and the Malay Rulers of the Peninsular States. As a result, there was a rush to employ Sikhs in the police forces of the various governments. In 1881, the Straits Settlements government formed a unit of Sikhs in its police force called the Sikh Police Contingent (SPC) consisting of 165 Sikhs recruited from Punjab, India. Similar SPCs, or para-military units were formed in almost all the Malay states in the 1880s, 1890s and the beginning of the twentieth century. In Perlis, a contingent of 27 Sikh policemen cum jail warders was formed in 1909.