The Lions of Great War statue in Smethwick, Birmingham, was unveiled on November 4, just a week before the centenary commemoration of the end of World War I. The statue was commissioned by the Sikh temple Guru Nanak Gurdwara in the city in order to honor the thousands of Indian soldiers who fought in both World Wars.
But less than a week later, the statue has already been vandalized, per Unilad.
On November 9, the words “sepoys no more” and “1 jarnoi” had been spray painted on the memorial, and the words “of the Great War” had been crossed out. “Sepoys” refers to Indians who served in either the British or other European militaries, while “jarnoi” is believed to refer to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a controversial figure who many saw as a terrorist wanting to create his own Sikh state.
West Midlands Police are investigating the vandalism and treating it as racially aggravated criminal damage.
Sergeant Bill Gill, from the Smethwick Neighbourhood Team, issued a statement regarding the incident.
“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.”
— Neil Sheane-Smith (@NeilSheane) November 9, 2018
So far, the police are already looking into CCTV footage to try and identify the culprit and have the cooperation of the management at the temple to help them.
The 10-foot-high bronze statue is the first full statue of a South Asian First World War soldier in the UK and was unveiled to honor the sacrifices that thousands of Indians made in service to someone else’s country.
Jatinder Singh, president of the temple, made a statement prior to unveiling about what the statue would mean for the community.
“The memorial opposite Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick will honour the sacrifice of all those brave men who travelled thousands of miles to fight for a country that wasn’t their own. These men volunteered to serve and fought to defend the freedoms we enjoy today. The memorial will ensure that this part is never forgotten. So I am delighted Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick is commissioning the statue and will ensure its success.”
Sandwell Council leader Councillor Steve Eling also praised the “striking tribute” of the statue, given that so many Indians have made Britain their home in the past century, adding that he “hopes this contributes to the growing recognition of the sacrifices that servicemen from Commonwealth countries have made for our country.”