Sikhs big in road transport in early Malayan history

| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Sept Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |
Sikh bullock cart driver transporting goods in Serdang, Selangor, in 1944
Sikh bullock cart driver transporting goods in Serdang, Selangor, in 1944

Sikhs in Malaysia are well known for their involvement in the security and defence of Malaya in the days before Independence in 1957. However, not many are aware of their significant contribution in the transportation sector.

“The Sikhs played a prominent role in road transport. They once virtually controlled the network of bullock cart operators and when motorised vehicles were introduced, held a significant share in lorry and bus services,” said historian Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi.

In an article published in The Star on Malaysia’s Independence Day, he noted that Sikhs had contributed greatly in helping to develop the economy, particularly the transportation sector.

“We need a thoroughly re­searched history based on both primary and secondary sources,” said Dr Ranjit.

He is currently working on a book about the Sikhs in Malaysia. In the course of his research for the book, he has discovered several historical inaccuracies that requires correcting.

He cited the example of early recruitment of Sikh soldiers. While conducting research for his PhD in the National Archives in India, he found that in 1873, English explorer Capt Tristram Speedy had recruited only 95 discharged sepoys from India and not 110 as previously reported to help maintain peace in Larut, Perak. Most of them, he said, were also Pathans, not Sikhs, the report added.

From the 1860s until the early 1870s, Larut was the scene of several wars between secret societies in Perak.

In the same report, Dr Ranjit had also appealed to Sikhs, especially those with family members involved in the transport and sports sectors, to contact him at


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