Best known Sikh geographer in Asia in 20th century

Prof Kernial Singh Sandhu: Director, Institute of South-East Asian Studies, Singapore

Prof Kernial Singh Sandhu: Director, Institute of South-East Asian Studies, Singapore
By Dr Manjit Singh Sidhu | PRIDE OF LIONS | MALAYSIA |

Prof. Kernial Singh Sandhu was born in mid-1929, the exact date remains unknown. His father, Sardar Jai Singh Sandhu was a farmer in the village of Guru-ka-Kotha, located in the district of Bathinda, Punjab. Kernial’s association with British Malaya started early in the 20th Century when his maternal uncle came to Malaya and settled in the south of Malaya, in Segamat.

As a geographer he wrote important articles on resettlement of rural non-Malay population (mainly the Chinese) into New Villages following the declaration of the Emergency to combat communist insurgency in British Malaya. He also studied the population of Malaya in some detail.

Some of his major publications include ‘Indians in Malaya, Some Aspects of their Immigration and Settlement, 1786-1975‘ (Cambridge University Press, 1969) and ‘Early Malaysia‘ (University Education Press, 1973).

Apart from these publications Prof. Sandhu published many more papers and books. His single most important contribution to Sikh Studies was his article ‘Sikh Immigration to Malaya’.

To the best of my knowledge there have been only three British trained Sikh geographers in Malaysia and Singapore, Prof. Sandhu being the senior; the other two are Prof. Mahinder Santokh Singh, a well known administrator from University Science Malaysia, Penang and the present writer.

Indeed Kernial was the best known Sikh geographer in Asia in the 20th Century. His contributions as a scholar and administrator are even greater than those of Prof. Gurdev Singh Gosal from Panjab University, Chandigarh, the best known Sikh geographer from South Asia. I say this with conviction of a geographer, one familiar with the works of both men. Besides I had the good fortune of having both as my teachers.

Besides his academic achievements Kernial was a keen sportsman. He represented University of Malaya (Singapore) in hockey, cricket, rugby and football. He also played hockey and cricket for Johore state in the early 19505.

Prof. Sandhu is certainly one of the three historical Sikh figures to have lived and died in Singapore; the other two being Bhai Maharaj Singh (this saint-soldier was exiled to Singapore in 1850 and died in 1856) and the late Justice Choor Singh. – Extracted from Pride of Lions: Eminent Sikhs in Malaysia. Read the full article in the book

Extracted from Pride of Lions: Eminent Sikhs in Malaysia,a 295-page book authored by Dr Manjit Singh Sidhu featuring 57 Malaysian Sikhs. Dr Manjit is also  author of Sikhs in Malaysia, which captured the results of interviews, conducted in 1978 and 1979, of 100 Malaysian Sikhs who were born in India and Pakistan. See here and hereThe retired Malaysian university lecturer is also author of ‘Sikhs and Sikh Institutions In Pakistan’. See here.



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Pride of Lions (Asia Samachar, 28 Oct 2017)

Once Sikhs landed in Malaya, how many never revisited Punjab? (Asia Samachar, 24 Oct 2017)

Malaysian retired lecturer releases book on Sikhs in Pakistan (Asia Samachar, 24 Feb 2017)


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