Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 February 2012
Sikh policemen were an indelible part of the landscape of Shanghai in the first decades of the twentieth century, and have left their mark in the ways in which the city is remembered up to the present day. Yet their history has never been told and historians of the period have, at best, simply referred to them in passing. This paper redresses this gap in the literature by accounting for the presence of the Sikh branch of the Shanghai Municipal Police and exploring their role in the governance and policing of the International Settlement. This enriches our understanding of the nature of the British presence in China and the ways in which Indian sub-imperialism extended to China's treaty ports, for on the streets of Shanghai, and not Shanghai alone, British power had an Indian face.
This paper would not have been possible without the support of many individuals and institutions. I am particularly indebted to the guidance of Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol, who supervised my M.A. dissertation (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council), on which this paper is based, and encouraged me to publish this work, providing invaluable guidance whilst supervising my Ph.D. thesis (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council via the British Inter-university China Centre). I am grateful to the questions and comments received from various people who have heard me present different versions of this work at the University of Bristol and at the British Association for Chinese Studies 2009 conference, and especially to the comments made by the two anonymous reviewers of Modern Asian Studies. During my research I received assistance from archivists and researchers at several institutions including the British Library, The National Archives at Kew, the Shanghai Municipal Archives and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
1 The most comprehensive account in English is in Markovits, Claude (2000). ‘Indian Communities in China, c. 1842–1949’, in Bickers, R. and Henriot, C.New Frontiers: Imperialism's New Communities in East Asia, 1842–1953, Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 62–64Google Scholar, yet Markovits is more concerned with Indian merchants. In Chinese, Xiong Yuezhi has paid the most serious scholarly attention to the Sikh policemen, though again his account is limited to a few pages: Yuezhi, Xiong (2004). Yizhi wenhua jiaozhi xia de Shanghai dushi shenghuo (City Life in the Cultural Melee of Shanghai), Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai, pp. 64–67Google Scholar.
2 Ballantyne, Tony (2006). Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World, Duke University Press, Durham, North CarolinaCrossRefGoogle Scholar; Axel, Brian Keith (2001). The Nation's Tortured Body: Violence, Representation, and the Formation of a Sikh ‘Diaspora’, Duke University Press, Durham, North CarolinaGoogle Scholar.
3 Ballantyne, Tony (2002). Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire, Palgrave, Basingstoke, p. 15CrossRefGoogle Scholar and passim; Blyth, Robert J. (2003). The Empire of the Raj: India, Eastern Africa and the Middle East, 1858–1947, Palgrave, Basingstoke, p. 2CrossRefGoogle Scholar and passim.
4 Anderson, David M. and Killingray, David (1991). ‘Consent, coercion and colonial control: policing the empire, 1830–1940’, in Anderson, David M. and Killingray, David. Policing the Empire: Government, Authority and Control, 1830–1940, Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 1–2Google Scholar.
5 Since Anderson and Killingray published twin volumes collecting the strands of the emerging scholarship on colonial policing (Anderson, and Killingray, (eds), Policing the Empire, and (1992) Policing and Decolonization: Politics, Nationalism and the Police, 1917–65, Manchester University Press, ManchesterGoogle Scholar), the sub–field of colonial policing has continued to develop, most notably with the publication of Georgina Sinclair's doctoral work on colonial policing in the late stages of colonialism and decolonization. Sinclair, Georgina (2006). At the End of the Line: Colonial Policing and the Imperial Endgame 1945–1980, Manchester University Press, ManchesterGoogle Scholar.
6 They are instead subject to a severe beating themselves. Hergé (2002). The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus, trans. L. Lonsdale-Cooper and M. Turner, Egmont, London, first published 1936 in French, Paris, pp. 11, 32. Hergé was introduced to the Chinese art student Zhang Chongren from Shanghai in Brussels whilst writing The Blue Lotus. Their friendship had a strong impact on Hergé's views of Chinese culture and led him to strive to present an accurate portrayal of Shanghai with a less sympathetic perspective on colonialism than had characterized his earlier work.
8 ‘Shanghailanders’ was the term used by British settlers in Shanghai to identify themselves. Robert Bickers (1998). Shanghailanders: The Formation and Identity of the British Settler Community in Shanghai, 1843–1937, Past and Present, 159: 161–211.
9 Daniel G. Cormie, Memoirs of a Shanghai Policeman, arranged by Nora Cormie, unpublished memoir, Chapter 3.
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14 Dikötter, Frank (1992). The Discourse of Race in Modern China, Hurst, London, p. 38Google Scholar.
15 Shanghai Municipal Archives (hereafter SMA), U1-2-427/1840: Stafford M. Cox to E. C. Pearce, 29 July 1913.
16 Dikötter, Discourse of Race, pp. 77–79 and passim.
17 ‘Da Duhe’, ‘Jiu Shanghai zujie Yindu xunbu ‘hongtou asan’ bagong fengchao’ (‘Strike and Unrest among Shanghai Foreign Concession Indian Policemen or ‘hongtou asan’), 18 August 2009, http://blog.163.com/cdy513124@126/blog/static/25048008200971882759576/, [accessed 24 January 2012]; original article: Wu Zhiwei, ‘Jiu Shanghai zujie de Yinbu fengchao’ (‘Unrest among the Indian Policemen of Old Shanghai’), Dang'an chuqiu (Memories and Archives), No. 4 (2009), pp. 52–54.
18 Bickers, Empire Made Me, p. 86.
19 Metcalf, Thomas R. (2007). Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1860–1920, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 1–14Google Scholar; Blyth, Empire of the Raj, pp. 2–8 and passim. Blyth's emphasis is on what he terms India's ‘western sphere’ from the Persian Gulf to eastern Africa, which he terms the ‘empire of the Raj’, but he stresses that Indian sub-imperial influence extended to Central, Southeast and East Asia.
20 The Shanghai Municipal Police (hereafter SMP)was founded in 1854, the same year that the Shanghai Municipal Council replaced the Committee of Roads and Jetties in running the Settlement, which had existed since 1843 in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Nanjing. Chinese were recruited from 1864.
21 Minutes of the SMC, Vol. viii, 15 June, 1885, p. 267.
22 For more on the involvement of Indians in this war, see Yang, Anand A. (2007). ‘(A) Subaltern(‘s) Boxers: An Indian Soldier's Account of China and the World in 1900–1901’, in Bickers, Robert and Tiedemann, R.G., The Boxers, China, and the World, Rowman and Littlefield, Plymouth, pp. 43–64Google Scholar.
23 Tatla, Darshan Singh (1999). The Sikh Diaspora: The Search for Statehood, UCL Press, London, p. 48Google Scholar.
25 Metcalf, Imperial Connections, pp. 250–281.
26 Markovits, ‘Indian Communities in China’, p. 63.
27 Metcalf, Imperial Connections, p. 125.
28 Shanghai Municipal Council, Report for the Year 1892 and Budget for the Year 1893 (hereafter, for example, SMC, Annual Report 1892), p. 48.
29 Two such Sikhs were deported in 1916, described as ‘hopeless drunkards . . . incapable of reform’, ‘a constant source of expense to public funds in the prison’ and ‘a danger to the rest of the Sikh community and to public order’. British Library, London (hereafter BL), IOR/L/PS/11/72, file P514/1914: Skinner Turner, Shanghai Supreme Court, to Sir Edward Grey, India Office, 8 September 1916.
30 Sinclair, At the End of the Line, p. 4; David Killingray (1999). ‘Guardians of Empire’, in David Killingray and David Omissi (1999), Guardians of Empire: The Armed Forces of the Colonial Powers c. 1700–1964, Manchester University Press, Manchester, p. 11.
31 See Richard Hawkins (1991). ‘The “Irish model” and the empire: a case for reassessment’, in Anderson and Killingray, Policing the Empire, pp. 18–32.
32 Clayton, Anthony and Killingray, David (1989). Khaki and Blue: Military and Police in British Colonial Africa, Ohio University Center for International Studies, Athens, Ohio, p. 5Google Scholar.
33 Bickers, Empire Made Me, p. 65.
34 Similarly, the services of W. C. Clarke were obtained by the SMP in 1925 from the Indian Police, when he brought 80 Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims with him, and Major Frederick W. Gerrard arrived from India in 1929. SMC, Annual Reports 1925 and 1929. When Clarke was promoted to Director of Criminal Intelligence in 1927 he was succeeded as Assistant Commissioner (Sikhs) by Captain E. R. Kennedy, seconded from the Indian Army's Kumaon Rifles. SMC, Annual Report 1927, p. 33.
35 Lambert, David and Lester, Alan, eds (2006). Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar.
37 Bridge, Carl and Fedorowich, Kent, eds (2003). The British World: Diaspora, Culture and Identity, F. Cass, London, pp. 7–8Google Scholar.
38 Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race, p. 15.
39 SMA, U1-1-82: Minutes of the Watch Committee, 7 December 1906; SMC, Annual Report 1906, p. 42.
40 In 1907 the Government of India overestimated this close relationship, demanding that the Sikh branch should be employed under military rules of discipline. But the SMC had to portray the SMP as a civil police force, as insisted upon by the consular body. BL, IOR/L/PJ/6/749, File 586/06: Telegram from the Viceroy to the India Office, London, 14 May 1907.
41 Sita Ram Kohli (1922). The Army of Ranjit Singh, I, Journal of Indian History (n.s.), p. 196.
42 Ballantyne, Between Colonialism and Diaspora, pp. 62–64.
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48 Many historians would, however, dispute this simplified characterization of the London Metropolitan Police. Taylor, David (1997). The New Police in Nineteenth Century England: Crime, Conflict and Control, Manchester University Press, Manchester, p. 2Google Scholar.
49 Taylor, New Police, p. 47.
50 Miller, Wilbur R. (1977). Cops and Bobbies: Police Authority in New York and London, 1830–1870, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p. 26Google Scholar.
51 Metcalf, Thomas (2005). Forging the Raj: Essays on British India in the Heyday of Empire, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 292Google Scholar.
53 Miners, Localization of the Hong Kong Police Force, pp. 312–313.
54 Unknown author (1917). ‘Shici lu: Yindu yao’ (‘Collection of Verses: Indian Policeman Folk Song’), Taiping Yang (Pacific), 1:5, 1–2.
55 Unknown author (1937). Shanghai zhanggu: Cong zujie bufang, Shoudao Yinbu, Yuebu, Ribu (Shanghai Anecdotes: From the Foreign Concession police forces, the Indian, Vietnamese and Japanese policemen), Shanghai Shenghuo (Shanghai Life), 1:6, 12–13.
56 The National Archives, London (hereafter TNA), FO 228/2518, file 19: SMC Chairman to the Foreign Secretary of the Government of India, 19 January 1906. A crisis was averted by military from the men-of-war in port, but it was feared that on another occasion the Settlement would have to fight insurgency alone, in which case its present forces were insufficient. BL, IOR/L/PJ/6/749, File 586/10300: SMC Chairman to the Under Secretary of State, India Office, 31 March 1906. On the ‘Mixed Court’ riots of 1905 see Goodman, Bryna (1995). Native Place, City and Nation: Regional Networks and Identity in Shanghai, 1853–1937, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 187–193Google Scholar.
57 Jianqing, Xiao (1936). Manhua Shanghai (Cartoons of Shanghai), Jingwei shuju, Shanghai, p. 24Google Scholar.
58 Quoting Mr Wilkinson, as recorded in the minutes and published in the North China Daily News, 14 March 1906.
59 TNA, FO 228/2518, file 82: Sir Pelham Warren to J. P. McEuen, 3 May 1906.
60 Minutes of the SMC, Vol. xvi, 1 October 1906.
61 Unknown artist (1940). Shanghai, Guo Yi (National Art), 1:5–6, p. 80.
62 SMA, U1-1-82: Minutes of the Watch Committee, 16 August 1906.
63 Sinclair, At the End of the Line, p. 28; Robins, Peter (2005). The Legend of W. E. Fairbairn: Gentleman and Warrior, The Shanghai Years, CQB Publications, Harlow, pp. 130–131, 138Google Scholar.
64 Bickers, Empire Made Me, pp. 192–193; Peters, E. W. (1937). Shanghai Policeman, ed. Barnes, Hugh, Rich and Cowan, London, p. 70Google Scholar.
65 Minutes of the SMC, Vol. viii, 17 November 1884, p. 208.
66 This reputation dates to Guru Arjan Singh's seventeenth century cavalry. Ram Kohli, ‘Army of Ranjit Singh’, pp. 193, 208.
67 BL, IOR/L/PJ/6/749, File 586/06: Major-General A. R. Martin, Adjutant General in India, to Lieutenant-Generals and General Officers Commanding, Divisions and Independent Brigades, 22 August 1906.
69 Lynn Pan with Xue Liyong and Qian Zhonghao (1993). Shanghai: A Century of Change in Photographs 1843–1949, Hai Feng Publishing Co., Hong Kong, p. 31, used with kind permission of Lynn Pan. The caption reads: ‘Though Shanghai was never a British colony, it often felt like one. . .An American was later to say of the International Settlement that “it's about as international as the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey.”’.
70 Bickers, Robert (1999). Britain in China: Community, Culture and Colonialism, 1900–1949, Manchester University Press, Manchester, p. 106Google Scholar.
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72 A small body of literature now exists on Shanghai's modernity, though it has focussed largely on literary and intellectual culture. Lee, Leo Ou-fan (1999). Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930–1945, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar; Yue, Meng (2006). Shanghai and the Edges of Empires, University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar; Shih, Shu-mei (2001). The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917–1937, University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar.
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74 Metcalf, Forging the Raj, p. 293.
75 SMC, Annual Report 1938, p. 103.
76 SMA, U1-1-82: Minutes of the Watch Committee, 8 December 1903.
77 SMC, Annual Report 1917, p. 30a.
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80 No author (1919). Yindu xunbu yu kaosheng (Indian policemen and examination candidates), Jiangsu, 6, 154–155; (1919). Yinren weixie busui zhe baoxing (Outrage at Indecent Assault by Indian), Shenbao, 26, 30 March.
81 SMC, Annual Report 1921, p. 43a.
82 SMC, Annual Report 1939, p. 93.
83 SMA, U1-3-2790/4062, Part 1: Captain Barrett's Report, 30 October 1928.
84 Ballantyne, Between Colonialism and Diaspora, pp. 69–70.
85 Metcalf, Imperial Connections, p. 112.
86 Spontaneous refusals of duty had occurred in 1891 and 1897 over terms of employment, but not on the scale of the strikes of 1906 and 1910. Minutes of the SMC, Vol. x, 11 August 1891, p. 350; Vol. xiii, 20 August 1897, pp. 46–8; and 22 March 1897, p. 50.
87 SMC, Annual Report 1906, pp. 39–40.
88 Letter to the Editor, NCH, 5 October 1906, p. 26. The editor had declared this ‘the most unsavoury feature of this whole affair’, finding it ‘regrettable in view of the circumstances obtaining in the Settlement that there should be any foreigner in Shanghai so lacking in public spirit as virtually to aid and abet these policemen in a step that amounted to a breach of discipline’. NCH, 5 October 1906, p. 9.
89 Minutes of the SMC, Vol. xvi, 10 October 1906, p. 342.
90 SMA, U4618–46/8/L: Memorandum by Captain Superintendent, 1 August 1910.
91 Thomas, Nicholas (1994). Colonialism's Culture: Anthropology, Travel and Government, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1994, p. 14Google Scholar.
93 Falcon, Handbook on Sikhs, p. 119; Streets, Martial Races, p. 214.
94 Ballantyne, Between Colonialism and Diaspora, p. 27.
95 SMC, Annual Report 1905, p. 23.
96 SMC, Annual Report 1912, pp. 27–28.
97 SMC, Annual Report 1913, p. 35a. The Malwa region lies south of the River Sutlej in Punjab and Majha is north of the river. Ballantyne, Between Colonialism and Diaspora, p. ix: map drawn by David Hood.
98 SMC, Annual Report 1916, p. 26a.
99 SMC, Annual Report 1916, p. 24a.
100 SMC, Annual Report 1917, p. 25a; 1918, p. 23a.
101 Eshar Singh (Punjab) to Jemadar Jai Singh (6th Cavalry, France), 19 January 1916, in David Omissi (1999). Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, 1914–18, Macmillan, Basingstoke, p. 140.
102 Singh, Krushwant (2004). A History of the Sikhs, Vol. II: 1839–1974, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 178Google Scholar.
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104 TNA, FO 228/2702, file 42: Consul-General to Sir John Jordan, 4 May 1916.
105 The expense of the 1.5 million men supplied by India for the war was borne by Indian taxpayers. P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins (1993). British Imperialism: Crisis and Deconstruction 1914–1990, Longman, London, p. 181.
107 SMC, Annual Report 1922, p. 57a.
108 SMA, U1-3-2429: Sikh Police Orders: Political Opinions, 29 May 1923. A Sikh constable was dismissed in April 1915 after the Ghadr newspaper was found on his bed. TNA, FO 228/2299, file 41: SMC Captain Superintendent to Consul-General, 13 April 1915.
109 SMA, U1-3-2429: Deputy Commissioner of Police Johnson to the Acting Secretary of the SMC, 2 June 1923; SMA, U102-3-29.
110 As the threat of nationalism grew worldwide, the scale of policing increased apace. Killingray, ‘Guardians of Empire’, p. 11. For the activities of the Criminal Investigation Department (hereafter C.I.D.), see Wakeman, Policing Shanghai, pp. 142–145, and Bickers, Empire Made Me, pp. 100–102.
111 Ballantyne, Between Colonialism and Diaspora, p. 71.
112 The request was denied, deemed ‘irregular’. NARA, SMP, D8/8: C.I.D. Office Notes, D.S. A. Rhind to the Acting Commissioner of Police, 24 October 1929.
113 SMC, Annual Report 1924, p. 37.
114 US National Archives, Record Group 263, Files of the Shanghai Municipal Police Special Branch (hereafter NARA, SMP), D8/8: C.I.D. Office Notes, 18 June 1929.
115 Frederic Wakeman Jr. (1988). Policing Modern Shanghai, China Quarterly, 115, 412.
116 SMC, Annual Report 1930, p. 96.
117 SMA, U102-5-31/2: Minutes of the Watch Committee, 26 September 1930.
118 BL, IOR/L/PJ/8/336, File 108/41a, p. 112: Press Office Bureau, Government of India, ‘Unofficial Notes: Relief of Indians in China’, 25 January 1946.
119 US National Archives OSS, RG 266, E182a, box 8, folder 59, (hereafter NARA, OSS), ‘Summary Report on Indian Political Affairs in Japan-occupied China’, PG 266/OSS/E182, pp. 1–6: Interrogation on Shanghai Police and Chopra's School, Penang, New Delhi, 14 August 1945. See Bernard Wasserstein, Secret War in Shanghai: Treachery, Subversion and Collaboration in the Second World War (New York, 1998), pp. 182–183.
120 NARA, SMP, D9411/14(c): Report by DSI Young of the meeting of the Indian Publicity Sub-Committee, 5 August 1940. It was claimed ‘considerable enthusiasm greeted the showing’ of the British War Picture to 400 Sikhs in August 1940.
121 Metcalf, Imperial Connections, p. 129.
122 TNA, WO 325/58, file 149/26.
123 Bickers, Empire Made Me, p. 325.
124 NARA, SMP, Box 119, Police List: Police Orders (F), box F/2-143.
125 Press Office Bureau, Government of India, ‘Unofficial Notes: Relief of Indians in China’, pp. 112–113. Indians numbering 782 had already been repatriated as refugees from Shanghai in 1938 aboard the SS Elephanta. BL, IOR/L/PJ/7/1347, File 4548, pp. 1–2: Director of Sea Transport at the Board of Trade, London, to the Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, 18 January 1938.