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Then accusations of sacrilege against another breakaway group, the Nirankaris, led to the emergence of a charismatic militant leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and the bloody ensuing conflict. Three decades on, both state and central governments are keenly aware of the risks.

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Sign in to Sixth Tone. Please confirm your email address by clicking the link in the email received from us. Please wait until the countdown has finished before clicking the resend button. Just fill in your email and we will help you reset your password. Singh joined the British-administered Shanghai Municipal Police SMP in and quickly ascended in the official hierarchy due to his loyalty to pro-British policies — a quality that angered many Indian nationalists within his department and the city.

A History of the Sikhs: Volume 1: 1469-1839

In , the SMP started recruiting Sikhs. The members of the religious group from India landed in Shanghai either via Hong Kong, where they were already working for the British, or straight from their homeland in the north Indian state of Punjab. They were employed as a cheaper — and by reputation, mightier — alternative to the Europeans and Chinese in the SMP.

Courtesy of Historical Photographs of China. In tracing the existence of the Sikh community in Shanghai, he found that they are now either a neglected or a forgotten chapter of history — which is what prompted him to dig into the topic.

Without learning the Sikh story, we cannot fully know the Shanghai story. The Sikh history in China is not a mainstream topic, usually being limited to academic papers and personal projects.

The Gurus and warriors of the Sikh kingdom

The men, highly recognizable by their red turbans — a part of the uniform for Sikh policemen back then — later migrated west seeking better economic prospects. There are currently an estimated 25 million Sikhs worldwide, with most of them based in India, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Cao spoke to Sixth Tone about the Sikh police in Shanghai, their historic representation, and why they remain a marginalized community today.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Sixth Tone: How does the book challenge the history of Sikhs as it is commonly understood? Cao Yin: One main objective of my study is to challenge national history. Without knowing Indian history or the history of some other country, we cannot fully understand our own history. And without knowing about Sikhs in Shanghai, we cannot have an accurate account of modern Chinese history. Was obtaining oral histories a challenge? Cao Yin: There is no oral history of the Sikhs in Shanghai, nor did they have their own written literature, because most of them were illiterate when they came here.

For most of my book, I used archives and official records. But they have their own biases [too] because they are all from the perspective of the colonial authorities rather than the Sikhs. Most Sikhs came to Shanghai as collaborators with the British to police the local population.

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They are part of the British imperialism in China, and [to some] that gives them a negative impression. This is the opposite of the Indian national history framework, which claims Sikhs were oppressed by the British and were not collaborators. Courtesy of the Billie Love Historical Collection. How has such a characterization impacted the Sikh community? You can say that it was internal colonization or self-colonization, though some may see that as problematic.