On the occasion Gurpurab on November 30, which marked the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, London confirmed a new road to be named after the founder of the Sikh faith.
Ealing Council said that a part of Havelock Road, between King Street and Merrick Road, will be renamed Guru Nanak Road from early 2021. It includes the location of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, one of the UK’s most well-known and largest gurdwaras, in the west London suburb which is home to a large British Sikh population.
“I welcome this change. Ealing’s diversity is our strength and we have to make sure that the places we live reflect that diversity through our street names and buildings,” said Councillor Kamaljit Dhindsa, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for business and community services.
“Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught patience, equality and fairness were rights for all to enjoy not a benefit for just a small few. His lessons remain as valid today as they were 500 years ago,” said Virendra Sharma, the Labour MP for Ealing Southall.
The proposal to rename Havelock Road after Guru Nanak came up in the wake of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm to review the UK capital’s landmarks in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, which have targeted memorials to historical figures with links to slavery and colonialism. Havelock Road is named after Major General Sir Henry Havelock, the British general behind the quashing the Indian rebellion against the East India Company in 1857, referred to as the first war of Indian independence.
The local Ealing Council Leader, Councillor Julian Bell, welcomed the London Mayor’s review and said he has launched a parallel action within the borough of Ealing – which covers Southall.
Bell said: “The decision to rename one of Ealing's roads reflects the importance of celebrating the borough’s diversity and is a timely celebration of Guru Nanak's birthday on 30 November.
“Ealing’s independent equality commission will explore what residents and businesses believe can be done to reduce inequality while improving outcomes. It will look at education, employment, crime and justice, health and housing, among others.”
Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall moved to its current location at Havelock Road, soon to be Guru Nanak Road, in 1997 and was inaugurated by Prince Charles. Its langar, or free kitchen, offers thousands of free meals seven days a week to local residents in need.
The road naming decision follows a consultation process launched in June and the council said it has been taken in accordance with the Street Naming Protocol, which confirms that any change proposal should “respect and balance cultural and historical identities, sensitivities, and heritage”.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Opposition Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, issued a letter to every gurdwara in the country to express his “heartfelt best wishes” to the British Sikh community on Gurpurab.
He wrote: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Sikh community in exemplifying the core teachings of Guru Nanak. The sewa of Sikhs during the pandemic is a shining example of their community spirit.
“I appreciate that due to Covid-19 restrictions, Gurpurab celebrations will not be the same. I know how incredibly difficult and upsetting this will be for families and communities, who won’t be able to come together as they normally would. However, Guru Nanak’s teachings of selfless service and perseverance will continue to be an inspiration to us all,” he said.