Did you know that a rubber estate in Sungai Siput was the site that witnessed the beginning of the Malayan Emergency? And sometime in 1936 the first Perak caveman, with its complete set of skeleton, was found in a cave not in Lenggong but at the Phin Soon Estate in Sungai Siput? How many would take the initiative to find this out? Well, not many.
Ipoh-born Harchand Singh Bedi, 45, however, does. His interest in history started during his school days and it has never waned. His tireless efforts at highlighting the heroic deeds of the Sikh community began in 2006 with the launch of his documentary, “Dawn of Destruction” about the Malayan Emergency.
The sacrifices made by Sikhs and other Indian nationals in the two World Wars and the Malayan Emergency were largely unknown. Fortunately, with Harchand’s pioneering studies, he has opened a window with a rare glimpse into Sikh militaristic contributions all over the world.
“I’ve travelled around the world telling people of my kinsmen’s exploits. In Australia, I related the Indian involvement at Gallipoli in 1915. My audiences were shocked to find that they were not recorded in the Australian history books,” said Harchand to Ipoh Echo.
His knowledge of history and his ability to quote things off-hand, coupled with his approachability, left this scribe speechless. An event manager by profession, Harchand concentrates his free time on his one passion – history.
Much involved with the annual memorial service at God’s Little Acre, Batu Gajah, Harchand conducts self-funded researches, produces non-profit exhibitions and collects over 1000 rare historical black-and-white photos and memorabilia. Google his name and you will see the many historical writings attributed to him.
“I am teaching my 8-year-old son to continue with this noble cause. Recently, both of us wrote one article entitled ‘True to their Salt’ which is available online,” exclaimed the proud father of two.
One obstacle he faces is the difficulty in gaining funds for his research works. For instance, the photographs obtained from the archives are not free. Every year he has to pay royalty. On top of that, he has to get permits to exhibit the photographs and pay reproduction costs. It cost him between 70-80 GBP (RM350-RM400) for each photo on display.
“Furthermore, our ringgit is depreciating. It’s a time-consuming and tedious process, as a lot of material is not digitised yet,” Harchand lamented.
So how can we help him? “People should preserve their family history and share with their younger ones their involvement in historical events to instil pride in their kids.”
“A good example is Ian Anderson. He’s not a Chinese yet he has restored the Han Chin Pet Soo to preserve the history of the Hakka community. Hence, everyone has a part to play.”
Harchand will not remain idle. “Being a Sikh, I’ve preserved the history and contributions of the Sikhs in Malaya right from 1860s. How they were recruited as policemen in Perak and so forth. I’ve collected a lot of photos and will organise an exhibition soon.”
He too plans to write his first-ever coffee-table book, a compilation of all his articles by next year. “Youths should know how their forefathers fought for the freedom they enjoy today.”
The monument at the Green Ridge in Kampar is one of Harchand’s proudest achievements. He is waiting for the state government to gazette it as a historical site, hopefully by the end of this year. “The credit goes to the late Chye Kooi Long, a historian who initiated the project,” he said.
And the one principle he holds dear to in life is Appreciation. “Without appreciation, nothing can be achieved. You must appreciate history and the contributions made by the forefathers.”
Interested volunteers and donors who wish to provide Harchand a helping hand can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.