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Sikhs in Malaysia eagerly await Singh's visit

world Updated: Oct 24, 2010 13:30 IST

PTI
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-day visit from Tuesday is being eagerly awaited not only by Malaysian government but also its minority ethnic Indian community, especially the Sikhs who have applauded his contribution to India's fast-paced growth.

The Sikh community is "very, very proud" that a Sikh has risen and become the Prime Minister of India, one of the biggest democracies of the world, a prominent Malaysian Sikh leader said referring to Singh's upcoming visit here.

"We, the Sikhs in Malaysia, are so proud that Manmohan Singh has turned India around at such a fast pace and put the country on the path of accelerated development," President of the Malaysia National Sikhs Movement, Darshan Singh Gill, a fifth generation Sikh in Malaysia whose great-great grandfather arrived in the then Malaya in 1880s,said.

Gill, who has been awarded the title 'Tan Sri' by the King of Malaysia, said he had met Manmohan Singh during his visit to Delhi earlier this year when he had presented him with a book on Sikh Community in Malaysia, compiled by him.

"Our 15 minutes meeting stretched to 30 minutes and most of the time we spoke in Punjabi," he recalled fondly.

At the national level in Malaysia, there are only five Sikhs who have been bestowed the award of Tan Sri, with Gill being one of them.

The Sikhs arrived in Malaysia over five phases, beginning from mid 19th century to 1990s, and the first Gurudwara was set up by Sikh policemen in Fort Cornwallis in Penang State in 1881.

Gill said it was interesting to note that the Sikh community in Malaysia had one time virtually monopolised the transport system before the introduction of lorry and train services. The Sikhs provided transport in the tin mining areas using bullock carts.

Ethnic Indians compose eight per cent of Malaysia's total population of 27 million people. Sikhs are only 0.001 per cent of the 27 million people.

A majority of ethnic Indians are Tamils from Tamil Nadu, whose ancestors were brought by the British to work in plantations as indentured labourers.