A brand new statue of a Sikh soldier – unveiled last week to commemorate the contributions of Sikhs during the First World War – has been vandalised in an incident police say they are treating as a race hate crime.
Graffiti which appeared on the 10ft-high bronze monument displayed the words “Sepoys no more’” and a reference to a prominent Sikh military leader killed by the Indian army in 1984.
Sepoys was a term used by the British Indian Army to describe a low-ranking cavalry trooper, many of whom were recruited from the Indian sub-continent to fight for the British in Europe.
The words ‘1 Jarnoil’ (sic) were also scrawled across the monument – thought to be a reference to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a militant religious leader killed during Operation Blue Star.
The Indian military intervention was carried out during unrest in the Punjab region in June 1984.
A thick black strike-out line was also drawn over the words ‘Great War’, which appear alongside the Smethwick monument in gold lettering, making the message appear as if it says “the Lions of 1 Jarnail.”
The statue, which stands opposite the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick on the High Street, was commissioned and paid for by the temple to honour soldiers from the Indian subcontinent.
It is the first full statue of a South Asian First World War soldier in the UK.
Standing on a 6ft plinth, inscriptions on all four sides include recognition of the centenary of the end of the Great War and the role of Sikhs in the British Army and wider society.
Sikhs made up 20% of the British Indian Army, and 2% of the Indian population at the time and remained loyal to the British Empire after the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
The monument began as an idea from sculptor...