A newly installed war memorial to commemorate the 1,500,000 Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War has been vandalised less than a week after it was unveiled.
Known as Lions of the Great War, the sculpture in Smethwick, West Midlands, paid tribute to all military personnel from the Indian subcontinent who fought and died for freedom.
The three-metre bronze statue was unveiled on November 4th, a week before the centenary of the Armistice, but by Friday night it had been sprayed with the words ‘Sepoys no more.’
The term ‘sepoy’ refers to Indian soldiers serving in the British or other European armies.
The sculpture was the brainchild of artist Luke Perry, funded by Smethwick Guru Nanak Gurdwara and is standing in a new public space created by Sandwell Council.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara president Jatinder Singh said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the vandalism but ‘remained resolute’.
In a statement he said: ‘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.
He added: ‘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.’
The words ‘of the Great War’ which formed part of the statue’s title, had been sprayed with a black line, while the words ‘1 jarnoil’ had been sprayed on to the memorial.
Indians in the First World War
More than 1,500,000 Indian troops served overseas in WWI
74,187 died and another 67,000 were wounded.
Indians fought the Germans in East Africa, the Western Front, the Italians in Galipoli and Eypgt, and the Ottomans in Mesopotamia
India included modern day Pakistan and Bangladesh
Indian troops won 11 Victoria Crosses for their outstanding bravery
Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from 1942 said: ‘The British couldn’t have come through both world wars if they hadn’t had the Indian Army.’
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 who wanted to create a Sikh state.
He was killed in 1984 in a gun battle with the Indian army after his organisation occupied the famous Golden Temple complex in the city of Amritsar.
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.