Sikh Federation UK ask “Was it racism?” whilst Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick request anyone with information to go the police.
Sikh organisations have come together to condemn the vandalism of a newly erected Sikh World War 1 soldier statue outside Smethwick Gurdwara.
The three-metre (10ft) bronze statue was unveiled on 4 November, a week before the centenary of the armistice, but it was found on Thursday night/early Friday morning to have been sprayed with the words “sepoys no more”.
The term “sepoy” refers to Indian soldiers serving in British or other European armies. The words “of the great war” from the statue’s title were also covered with a black line with “1 jarnail” graffitied next to it.
The Sikh Federation UK said of the vandalism, “Sikh Federation (UK) condemn the senseless and cowardly act of vandalism to deface the newly erected WW1 monument to the Sikh sacrifices ‘Lions of the Great War’. Was this an act of racism? ‘Sepoy’ was a phrase originally used derogatorily by the British because it denoted a relatively untrained local militia man.”
A statement from Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, who funded the statue, said, “We are aware of the vandalism that took place on the Lions of the Great War Monument site today and condemn this despicable and cowardly act.”
Jatinder Singh, President of Guru Nanak Gurdwara (GNG) Smethwick was extremely disappointed with the actions of the vandals but remained resolute.
“There was some vandalism to the back wall overnight which is very disappointing. The graffiti was cleaned off and the matter was reported to the police.
Working with the council we won’t allow this vandalism to undermine the very strong message created by this new monument and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to its unveiling.
What makes this incident particularly distressing, is the complete disregard and lack of respect for the significance of the statue and inscriptions, installed recently to commemorate the losses felt by many South Asian families who lost their dear ones during the First World War and mark 100 years since the end of the Great War.”
GNG Smethwick have advised anyone who witnesses vandalism or other anti-social behaviour taking place to report any incidents to the police as soon as possible.
Sikhs at War, an organisation dedicated to documenting and highlighting the Sikh contribution to the World Wars, called the act “utterly shocking and despicable”.