Remembrance Day 2022 had a new Sikh War Memorial to honour in the UK, unveiled in Leicester in the form of a bronze statue honouring all those who fought for the United Kingdom during the two World Wars and other conflicts around the world.
Although accounting for less than 2 per cent of the population of British India at the time, Sikhs made up more than 20 per cent of the British Indian Army at the outbreak of hostilities during the Great War – as World War I is known.
Sitting on a granite plinth, the statue at Victoria Park is created by artist Taranjit Singh and will complement the existing war memorials in Peace Walk. The Sikh Troops War Memorial Committee commissioned the statue, which has been paid for by donations from Sikh congregations, the wider public and city council community ward funding.
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“I’m really proud that we can celebrate this shared history that we have with British people. It’s just amazing. I just feel over the moon,” said Singh.
Historian Gurinder Singh Mann of the Sikh Museum Initiative said that “the sacrifice of the Sikhs in the World Wars and other campaigns have been underrepresented in the mainstream”.
“It has been a great project to work on. The Sikh statue in Leicester will create an arena for greater dialogue and continued interfaith relations in the city and further afield. Moreover, it will serve as an educational tool for future generations,” he said.
Also in time for Remembrance Day, marked annually on November 11 to honour armed forces members who died in the First World War, a specially designed waterproof prayer book filled with “tactical” hymns and prayers has been launched in London for British Sikhs to carry with them on duty and to the battlefield.
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The Nitnem Gutka Sahib, as the collection is known, is made of durable material with a camouflage design and was inspired by images of troops in the trenches of the First World War. It was launched and handed over to military personnel recently at the Central Gurdwara Khalsa Jatha in Shepherds Bush in west London.
The Defence Sikh Network UK, behind the project, said: “This is not something new, but a reintroduction of a tradition last seen over 100 years ago, during World War I.
“Sikhs in UK Defence now have a tactical water/tearproof Gutka to use wherever they serve, in whatever conditions.”