Organized Panel Session
On Thursday, 19 December 1946, a ship left Port Swettenham for Calcutta. On board was Dr Bhupendra Chandra Majumdar. Dr Majumdar was making his final sea voyage from Malaya to India. He came to Malaya in January 1917 and served with the Health Office of Seremban for 26 years. His brief life history gives a glimpse of the Indian diaspora in Malaysia and Singapore, which goes beyond the ‘coolie experience’. The vast literature on Indians in Malaysia is often transfixed with labour policies and quantitative analysis of migration. It is paradoxical that the focus of these existing secondary literatures on the Malayan Indian diaspora is ‘non-elite’ yet the framework within which they are studied is ‘elite’. The secondary literatures are often critical of British colonialism yet fail to escape a narrative where the agency is with the British imperial authorities. It is unique that the marginalisation of the ‘elite’ in Indian diaspora history in Malaysia and Singapore in favour of ‘labour history’ renders the ‘elite’ as the ‘subaltern’. The preponderance of ‘colonial sources’ for writing about the ‘Indian’ diaspora tends to create a bias for the ‘labour voice’ which was the ultimate arena of British colonial ‘action and response’. This paper seeks to explore non-labour migration in Singapore and Malaysia in the age of empire and in that context evaluate the transition from ‘cosmopolitan anti-colonialism’ in the early 20th century under the aegis of Anjuman-i-Islam to the rise of nationalism in the context of the Second World War.