Singaporean Sikhs

History of the Sikh community in Singapore...

The recruitment of Sikhs by the government in 1881 as 'sepoys' for the Sikh Contingent of the Straits Settlements Police Force, can be said to be the birth of the Sikh Community of Singapore. The first batch was from the districts of Patiala, Ludhiana and Ferozepore. As a results of Sikhs from this police force writing home about life in Singapore and the easy money which could be earned by merely standing at the door of a building as a watchman, brought many arrivals who found employment mainly in the civil sector.

By 1920 there was in Singapore a sizeable community of civilian Sikhs in addition to the members of the Sikh Contingent of the Police Force. The Contingent by now had been expanded and grown considerably in numbers. While important Government offices and installations were guarded by members of the Sikh Contingent, especially during weekends and on holidays, the civilian Sikhs played an equally important part in rendering security services to the rest of Singapore.

The Sikh Contingent was also used as shock troops whenever there was a disturbance or a hot amongst the local population. This was before the days of the riot squad of the police which was formed after the Sikh Contingent was disbanded, a few years after the second world war.

By the 1930's, there was a very large Sikh Police Force at the Naval Base and another at the RAF Base at Seletar. The 1931 census of Singapore showed that there were altogether 2,988 Sikhs living in Singapore, almost all engaged in providing security services in some form or other.

It is no exaggeration to say that the task of preserving peace, law and order in the early days of Singapore fell on the shoulders of the Sikh Community. The security provided by the community created an environment in which economic activity flourished and the young colony prospered. The Sikhs can therefore legitimately claim to have played a significant role in the development of early Singapore.

After the second world war, quite a few Sikhs of the merchant class arrived in Singapore from India and Thailand. They specialised in the textile trade and soon, as wholesalers, monopolised the textile market in Singapore. Firms like Gian Singh & Co, Phtam & Co, Sudeet Singh Ranjit Singh, lndersons & Co, Gurcharan Singh Narula, Thakral Brothers and a few others owned shops in High Street and Raffles Place and had godowns elsewhere stocked with textiles of every description from all over the world.