Statue commemorating Indian soldiers vandalised

By Tess de la Mare, Press Association

A war memorial featuring a statue of a Sikh soldier has been vandalised less than a week after it was unveiled.

Lions of the Great War in Smethwick, Birmingham, was commissioned to honour the many from the Indian subcontinent who fought in both the First and Second World Wars.

The 10ft-high bronze statue was unveiled on November 4 – a week before the centenary of the Armistice – but by Friday night had been sprayed with the words “Sepoys no more”.

The memorial was commissioned by Sikh temple Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick to mark the sacrifices made by South Asian servicemen of all faiths.

The term “sepoy” refers to Indian soldiers serving in the British or other European armies.

The words “of the Great War” from the statue’s title had been sprayed with a black line, while the words “1 jarnoil” had been graffitied on to the memorial.

There was speculation on social media that the phrase could refer to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – a controversial figure in Indian history considered by some to be a terrorist but revered by others for his role as head of Sikh educational institute Dam Dami Taksal.

He was killed in 1984 during Operation Bluestar – an offensive by the Indian army to remove him and his armed followers from the Golden Temple complex in the city of Amritsar after they turned it into their headquarters.

West Midlands Police said they are treating the incident as aggravated criminal damage.

The force said CCTV is being recovered and officers are working with worshippers and management at the temple.

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.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact West Midlands Police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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