Sikhs Vandalise Own WWI #SikhSoldier Memorial
“Sepoys No More” Sprayed on Birmingham First World War Statue
The first ever memorial to Sikh soldiers who fought in the First World War has been vandalised – by Sikhs. The Birmingham statue of a Sikh soldier was vandalised with graffiti only days before Remembrance Sunday.
The 10-foot statue was commissioned by the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick Sikh temple in the town of Smethwick and targeted by vandals less than a week after it was unveiled.
Sikh Vandals Dishonour War Dead
“Sepoys No More” was sprayed across the base of the statue and a black line sprayed over the words “Great War”. The word sepoy was formerly the designation given to an Indian soldier in the British Indian Army. In the modern Nepali, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Army it remains in use for the rank of private soldier. However, for some it is still associated with the British Empire.
The use of the phrase “Sepoys No More” would indicate that the vandals were themselves Sikhs. Police have described the crime as racially motivated.
Disgusted to learn about the vandalism of the Sikh soldier’s statue installed in Birmingham, UK. What the Sikhs contributed to the UK & the ‘Great War’ effort is way bigger than this statue.
— Harjinder Singh Kukreja (@SinghLions) November 10, 2018
While some members of the Sikh community were disgusted by the vandalism, it showed a deep divide among Britain’s Sikh immigrants.
“Racialism” Says Punjabi Chief Minister
Condemning the vandalism at UK’s newly inaugurated Indian War Memorial, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has called for strict action against the culprits of the apparent racial attack on the occasion of the World War I centenary.
“The vandalism of the 10-foot-high statue, depicting a Sikh soldier of the 15th Sikh battalion, symbolic of the contribution of South Asian soldiers to World War I, was outrageous,” said the chief minister. Singh also made claims of racial attack on Twitter:
Shocked & grieved at vandalism at UK’s newly inaugurated Indian war memorial. The attack on statue of soldier of 15th Sikh regiment on historic occasion of WWI centenary is highly condemnable as it smacks of racialism. Urge @GOVUK to take strict action against culprits.
– Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 11, 2018
Sikh Nationalist Message in Meaning of “1 Jarnoil”
The words “1 Jarnoil” were also sprayed on the Sikh memorial. “1 Jarnoil’ is believed to refer to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a militant religious leader in the Sikh separatist movement.
An advocate of armed insurgency, Jarnail called for the establishment of an autonomous Punjabi state, to be called Khalistan. This caused a series of bloody Hindu-Sikh confrontations. Branded a terrorist, he died fighting Indian government forces in 1984 during Operation Blue Star.
“Lions of the Great War” is written in gold lettering on the base of the Sikh memorial statue. The thick black line was sprayed over the words “Great War”, changing the message to read “Lions of 1 Jarnoil.”
Police Hunt for Sikh Memorial Vandals
West Midlands Police Sergeant Bill Gill said that the police are assessing CCTV footage to identify those responsible for what was described as “racially aggravated criminal damage.”
“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,” he said.
This latest act follows a wave of vandalism of First World War memorials across Britain.
Sikhs in the British Army Today
Punjabi-born Charanpreet Singh Lall made history earlier this year by becoming the first soldier to wear a turban during the annual Trooping the Colour parade to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday.
In a shocking revelation, Coldstream Guardsman Lall is now facing disciplinary action and could be expelled from the Army after testing positive for the Class A drug cocaine, according to media reports. Head of Army Personnel Services Group, Brigadier Christopher Coles, confirmed that an investigation was underway.
There are almost half a million Sikhs now living in the UK. Of these, only 130 Sikhs are serving in the British Army despite recent efforts to recruit more members from ethnic minorities.