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Statue of Sikh soldier vandalised in Smethwick

A war memorial featuring a statue of a Sikh soldier has been vandalised less than a week after it was unveiled.

Lions of the Great War in Smethwick, Birmingham, was commissioned to honour people from the Indian subcontinent who fought in the first and second world wars.

The three-metre (10ft) bronze statue was unveiled on 4 November, a week before the centenary of the armistice, but it was found on Friday night to have been sprayed with the words “sepoys no more”.

The memorial was commissioned by Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, a Sikh temple, to mark the sacrifices made by South Asian servicepeople of all faiths.

The term “sepoy” refers to Indian soldiers serving in British or other European armies.

The words “of the great war” from the statue’s title were covered with a black line, while the words “1 jarnoil” had been graffitied on to the memorial.

Some speculated 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 Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.

West Midlands police said they were treating the incident as aggravated criminal damage.

The force said CCTV was being recovered and officers were working with worshippers and management at the temple.

Sgt Bill Gill from the Smethwick neighbourhood policing 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.

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