Understanding the saga of Sikhs in Shanghai requires studying and analyzing the British Indian policing structure, prevalent economic, social and political conditions in other Far East colonies of the empire. The events whether it be Ghadr revolt, migration (especially for better opportunities  in North America) are all interconnected. Incidents of uprising, rebel planning and strategies occurred in tandem and even if they were standalone, the unfairness in treatment, poor pay and sentiments were shared across the colonies of Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Burma. Recruitment from other colonies and inter-transfer especially when hiring a senior officer for Shanghai’s Indian police contingent was not unusual.

WWII Pacific War-Azad Hind forces were more active in other Far East colonies comparatively. In Shanghai, the participation was at a lower level given that International Settlement was a quasi-colony , hence more punitive measures for anyone deemed anti-British. Sikhs born in China considered it, at the time, as their homeland and a sense of alienation from India would have naturally occurred.  But, the British, seen as the common enemy, shackling freedom and root cause for the Indians’ economically backward status was recognized in various degrees.

Singapore Sikh traffic cop, c.1933

Singapore Sikh traffic cop, c.1933

Archival records provide a sketchy picture of individual movements between the colonies. Yet, in early 1900s, retired Shanghai Sikh policemen and others were employed as indentured and contractual laborers for British colony Fiji. More in-depth study is required on this aspect. Like so many other overlooked British Indian histories in the Far East & elsewhere.

Shanghai Sikh traffic policeman

Shanghai Sikh traffic policeman

Advertisements