Birmingham & Black Country

Sikh soldier memorial statue in Smethwick vandalised

The statue
Image caption The gurdwara that commissioned the piece said it made them "proud to be Sikh and proud to be British"

A memorial commemorating 100 years since the end of World War One has been vandalised days after being unveiled.

The work, which includes a 10ft (3m) statue of a Sikh soldier, honours service personnel of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain during WW1.

Sandwell Council said the graffiti on the £30,000 sculpture in Smethwick was "very disappointing".

Police are treating it as racially aggravated criminal damage.

Sgt 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."

'Overwhelmingly positive reaction'

The statue Lions of the Great War was commissioned by the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick temple and was unveiled on 4 November.

By Friday, part of the memorial had been sprayed with the words "Sepoys no more" - a term referring to Indian soldiers who served in the British Indian Army or for other European armies.

A black line was also scored through the words "of the Great War" and replaced by "1 jarnoil". There has been speculation on social media that this refers to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was a militant religious leader killed when Indian government forces stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.

Jatinder Singh, president of the temple that commissioned the memorial, said he was "disappointed".

Image copyright Sandwell Council
Image caption The statue was created by Black Country sculptor Luke Perry and was unveiled on 4 November

"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 [to] mark 100 years since the end of the Great War."

Councillor Steve Eling, Labour leader of Sandwell Council, said: "We're not quite sure about the motive behind it, but it's clearly very disappointing.

"It shows an absolute disrespect for everyone involved. It's a crime against the community."

The graffiti has already been cleaned off and CCTV of the area was currently being reviewed, the local authority said.

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