Between a Hindu temple and a Salvation Army church sits a four-storey-high school in downtown Yangon. Its foundation stone bears the name of Dr Randhir Singh, the Sikh who founded it on 24 February 1934.

The school was established at a time when anti-Indian sentiment was already brewing in Yangon, then known as Rangoon, the nation’s capital. But within three decades, covering the Second World War to the Burmese military coup in 1962 that established military rule, many Punjab students were forced to leave the country.

Fast forward to 2018: one Sikh boy sat among the Buddhist students, a sole representative of the school’s original faith. A new head teacher, who was apparently unfamiliar with the Sikh religion, gave the student an ultimatum: either the turban goes or you do. The young boy was eventually allowed to wear his turban, but the teacher was never held accountable for the discriminatory behaviour. 

Members only

Log in or

Join New Naratif as a member to continue reading


We are independent, ad-free and pro-democracy. Our operations are member-funded. Membership starts from just US$5/month! Alternatively, write to sponsorship@newnaratif.com to request a free sponsored membership. As a member, you are supporting fair payment of freelancers, and a movement for democracy and transnational community building in Southeast Asia.

Lorcan Lovett

Lorcan Lovett is the editor of Myanmar Mix. His work can also be found in The Sunday Times, Vice, Nikkei Asian Review, and elsewhere.