War Memorial Vandalised Days After It’s Unveiled
A memorial of a Sikh soldier has been vandalised just days after its unveiling.
The Lions of Great War statue in Smethwick, Birmingham, was erected in honour of thousands of Indian soldiers who were killed in both world wars.
The 10ft-high bronze statue, commissioned by Sikh temple Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, was unveiled on Sunday November 4, one week before the centenary of the armistice.
It is the first full statue of a South Asian First World War soldier in the UK, honouring the sacrifices made by South Asian service personnel of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain.
According to Sandwell council, ahead of the unveiling Jatinder Singh, president of the temple, said:
The memorial opposite Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick will honour the sacrifice of all those brave men who travelled thousands of miles to fight for a country that wasn’t their own.
These men volunteered to serve and fought to defend the freedoms we enjoy today. The memorial will ensure that this part is never forgotten. So I am delighted Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick is commissioning the statue and will ensure its success.
On November 4, he added:
I’m absolutely so proud.
The contribution of Sikhs and of all other faiths that came over from South Asia is immeasurable.
Sandwell Council leader Councillor Steve Eling said of the memorial:
I am very proud that Smethwick – a place where many people from the Indian subcontinent have made their home – is paying such a striking tribute to the very important role played by South Asian service personnel during times of conflict.
I hope this contributes to the growing recognition of the sacrifices that servicemen from Commonwealth countries have made for our country.
By Friday, November 9, the words ‘sepoys no more’ and ‘1 jarnoi’ had been spray painted on the memorial, while ‘of the Great War’ had been crossed out.
‘Sepoys’ refers to Indian soldiers serving in British or other European armies. According to The Sun, it has been suggested that ‘jarnoi’ may be a reference to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a controversial figure in Indian history who some believed to be a terrorist who wanted to create a Sikh state.
Bhindranwale was killed in 1984 in a gun battle with the Indian army.
West Midlands Police, who are investigating the vandalism, are treating it as as racially aggravated criminal damage.
Sergeant Bill Gill, from the Smethwick Neighbourhood Team, said:
We understand that this attack has caused a lot of concern in the community, and we are working to understand the reasons behind it and identify whoever is responsible.
Officers had already planned to be at the remembrance event which is happening tomorrow at the statue.
I’d urge anyone with concerns to speak to the officers attending the event.
The police are investigating CCTV footage and working with management at the temple to find out who is responsible for the vandalism.
West Midlands Police are encouraging anyone with information to get in touch. You can contact police directly on Live Chat via the website between 8am and midnight, via 101 any time of day, or via Crimestoppers in complete confidence on 0800 555 111.
CreditsThe Sun and 2 others
West Midlands Police