Against the influence of Christian missionaries, Sikh leadership at Lahore in 1888 established the famous Singh Sabha Movement to promote religious fervour in thought, word and deed. Khalsa Diwan was mainly established for education and publicity. These moves in due course produced reflections on Sikhs abroad.
On the 26th December 1903, about 800 Sikhs from all over Malaya gathered in Taiping to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh. This was the first such congregation in the region, at the Gurdwara of Malay States Guides, a para-military force mainly of Sikhs. It was here that the formation of an institution to look after the religious, economic and social affairs of the Sikh community throughout Malaysia was proposed. Thus, the Khalsa Diwan Malaya was established on 27th December 1903. The first committee of 21 members hailed from different towns between Alor Star in the North and Kuala Lumpur in the centre of Malaya ; 300 miles apart.
The first elected office bearers were :
|President||:||Subedar Major Gurdit Singh|
|V. President I||:||Dr. Sunder Singh|
|V.President II||:||Jemadar Bahal Singh|
|Secretary||:||Subedar Thakar Singh|
|Asst. Secretary||:||Bhai Moola Singh|
|Treasurer||:||Munshi Khazan Singh|
A Parchaar Fund was launched in 1905 to maintain regular parcharaks, ragis and dhadis to tour different towns. The yeoman services rendered by Bhai Pall Singh and Bhai Badan Singh were remembered with respect. Amrit Parchaar was performed in different places. Recognition was obtained for Sikh marriages performed under the Anand Marriage Act of 1910. Subsequently in 1933, a Malayan Isteri Satsang was established at a Sikh Women’s Conference. Some success was attained to initiate into Sikhism the so called ‘untouchables’. A bulletin of activities ; for some time even a newspaper, was published. Financial aid was given to Punjabi newspapers published subsequently. Some tracts on Sikhism were published for free distribution. Sikh scholars from India were presented to address different Sikh congregations. Arrangements were made with Government hospitals and prisons to maintain Sikh symbols and other religious requirements of Sikh inmates.
Some needy Sikh children were provided financial aid for education. After World War II a K.D.M. Education Aid Fund was established from which many students benefited. This was of two types ; needy school children were given outright grants for school, examination and tuition fees ; tertiary education students were granted interest-free loans to be repaid after completion of education and getting employed. K.D.M. also participated in the Malayan Sikhs Education Aid Fund and also initiated the formation of Perak Sikhs’ Education Aid Fund.
A Khalsa Boarding School was established in 1910 at Kuala Kangsar under the supervision of Bhai Sunder Singh. Sikh students of English schools boarded here, and were taught Punjabi, Sikh history, Gurbani, kirtan etc. They carried out all day-to-day operations of the Boarding House – sweeping, cleaning, washing, cooking and drawing water from a well to fill tanks – which imbibed in them the regular habit of sewa. These students maintained close association with Sikh institutions to their last days. They included prominent persons like Ditt Singh, Inder Singh and Narain Singh, who later entered the leadership of K.D.M.
Khalsa Diwan Malaya provided occasional financial aid for Punjabi and religious education in different places, particularly Pusing, Taiping, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. From 1927 Dr. Jagat Singh became a very prominent leader of K.D.M. As President, he gave a generous donation of $ 22,500/- to launch an education fund. Efforts were made to acquire suitable land for a school. Ultimately on 24th November 1950, Guru Nanak Institution was established at Maxwell Road, Ipoh under the Principalship of a seasoned educationist Dayal Singh. The good work was continued by Waryam Singh Malhi, M.A., J.D. This being a regular school, with enrolment open to all communities, principalship and staff were not restricted to Sikhs. Up to 1978 there were thirteen principals, only three being Sikhs. The average annual enrolment over 28 years was 460 from Kindergarten to School Certificate. Two Punjabi classes were run. The staff averaged fifteen over the years.
Khalsa Diwan Malaya began to organize annual conferences in different towns where thousands of Sikhs gathered. Up to 1937, a total of 29 conferences were organized. These gatherings were open to all Sikhs and involved other Sikh institutions as well. Providing a forum for Sikh matters generally, these rallies resulted in substantial funds from the offerings. Of the surplus of such funds 75% were used for the gurdwaras or schools of the towns where the rallies took place. Commencement of some gurdwaras had its roots in the early rallies.
In the year 1937 in Malabar, South India, some 400 so called ‘untouchables’ were converted to Sikhism. In this project a newly converted Malabari Sikh played an important role. He was invited by K.D.M. to attend its conference in April 1937 at Kuala Kangsar. Arrangements were made for him, and his friend P.K. Dewar, to visit Sikhs in other towns up to Singapore in the South. Sikhs everywhere responded generously with grand welcomes and financial help.
About the parchaar in Malabar conflicting news and views appeared in the newspapers. K.D.M. considered important to dispatch a deputation for investigation. Hence, Sucha Singh s/o Subedar Hazara Singh and Narain Singh s/o Dafedar Maghar Singh left on 15th October 1937. This deputation found that, with funds received from Malaya, Jai Singh commenced Khalsa Manufacturing Co. Ltd and built a small structure for the coir factory on an acre of land purchased for the new Sikhs by All India Sikh Mission.
The majority Hindu community had stopped these people from employment when they became Sikhs. Christian mission schools and dispensaries denied them these services. Their urgent needs were a Sikh School, a dispensary and a gurdwara. All India Sikh Mission did nothing in these respects. Jagjit Singh Missionary was stationed in Malabar, but with no financial backing from the Punjab, he was powerless. The deputation went over to the Punjab and laid before All India Sikh Mission the difficulties of the new Sikh community in Malabar. The leaders of Sikh Mission (with Master Tara Singh) recounted reasons for their inability to carry on the work in Malabar, suggesting that the Malayan Sikhs undertake this responsibility. The deputation’s report was submitted on 9th November 1938 to the Malayan Sikh community through K.D.M. A ‘Malabar Conference’ was proposed and a committee appointed for the purpose. The scheme received no enthusiasm, as this was originally an All India Sikh Mission project. The consensus was that it was the responsibility of the All India Sikh Mission and they should initiate all remedial and necessary steps.
K.D.M. has remained active ever since its inception and at present is engrossed in many national level projects especially in championing the teaching of the Punjabi Language and the propagation of the Dharmik programmes.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
In Sewa Of The Panth,
SANTOKH SINGH RANDHAWA, P.P.T., P.J.K.