Not all early Sikhs were policemen, watchmen

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 26 July 2015 | Asia Samachar |
Dr Narveen Kaur from University of Nottingham - PHOTO BY SimranTV
Dr Narveen Kaur from University of Nottingham – PHOTO BY SimranTV

Dr Narveen Kaur, a Malaysian-born now attached to a UK university, is asking Malaysian Sikhs to take a closer look at their family history and also question the common narrative on the community in Malaysia.

The post-doctoral researcher from University of Nottingham is challenging the common narrative that Sikhs were mere policemen and watchmen.

“In some areas, the transport for tin mining was run by Sikhs. Some large rubber estates were owned by Sikhs,” she said in a similar roadshow in Petaling Jaya last week. See here.

Dr Narveen will be speaking at The Hidden Histories Project Roadshow at Sabha House in Kuala Lumpur from 3pm-5pm (Sunday, 26 July 2015).  The roadshow will also be broadcast over SikhInside.

She wants Sikhs in Malaysia to preserve the memories and stories of how their family members came to Malaya, as Malaysia was then known at Merdeka (Independence) in 1957 and before the formation of the enlarged entity in 1963.

Following on from her doctoral research, Narveen is working on the private memorialisation of Malaysian Sikh soldier participation in World War I, with the primary aim of constructing a digital archive of personal artefacts and their associated histories.

website ( has been launched for the project.


Asia Samachar asked her a few questions. 

Where were you born & where did you grow up?

Born in Kuala Lumpur. I grew up here until I left for university.

Where did you study (high school & universities)?

I studied at Assunta (Petaling Jaya), Flinders University of South Australia and the Australian National University and the University of Nottingham.

Your PhD took you to Kuala Kangsar? Please elaborate.

I started the research as it was also an investigation on my own belonging. My father is from there. I wanted to understand this town where women became doctors in the 1950s and people still were connected despite years of living elsewhere.

What was your PhD on? 

My Phd is actually on the Sikhs of what I renamed as Peraktown for academic ethics, but my subjects have given permission for the town name to be used.

The doctoral research studied a Sikh Diaspora community in Malaysia, focused on the continued negotiation of forms of belonging, the continuity of cultural identity and the transformation to meanings of ‘home.’

My theoretical construct of the Pindh as a new lens to view a Sikh diaspora experience represents an effort to push back against postcolonial and Western-centric diaspora discourse and potentially offer an enabling concept for different diaspora groups.

Where are you attached now?

I am now working on a post-doc at the Centre for Hidden Histories at the University of Nottingham. I am a recepient of the Centre for Advanced Studies WW1 post-doctoral bursary award 2014/15.

What would you like to tell Sikhs in Malaysia?

I’d like to tell the Sikhs of Malaysia that their stories and memories are important and necessary. Stories are the basis of our history and common identity, the experiences shared are part of what makes this community so amazing. Leaving home to find a new home, holding on to traditions and making new ones, the constant search for a better life for each generation that comes after. These are what makes a community interesting and their stories compelling. I want them heard, by as many people as possible as I do not think our pride as a community needs to be about what Sikhs elsewhere have done. We have so many heroes and heroines in Malaysia. Everyone in the community is one in a way.


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Capturing family history (Asia Samachar, 24 July 2015)