A Sikh temple in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was the scene of an eight-hour armed protest today which ended in the arrest of 55 people.
The incident occurred at the Gurdwara Sahibat where a marriage between a Sikh and a non-Sikh was due to take place, according to the BBC.
Police said a group of men – some with bladed weapons – entered the Gurdwara Sahib in Leamington Spa early this morning to protest against the mixed marriage.
Former treasurer Jatinder Singh Birdi said:
There have been tensions that have been going on for a couple of years with some people objecting to mixed marriages in taking place in the gurdwara.
The general consensus is people are respectful of mixed marriages if the traditions are respected.
Nothing has happened on this level before. This is meant to be one of the happiest moments of somebody’s life – it shows a lack of respect.
Supt David Gardner said the protest came from “the escalation of a local dispute”. He said a “significant number of bladed weapons” were seized, but no injuries were reported.
Over the coming days we will be working with the local Sikh community to address some of the ongoing issues that have culminated in today’s events.
A force spokesman said several of the weapons seized were kirpans, ceremonial daggers that are carried by Sikhs as an act of faith.
The group Sikh 2 Inspire said in a statement on its Facebook page that sending armed police in response to “peaceful protestors” showed how the items were misunderstood and the Sikh faith was being “victimised”.
They don’t have have an appropriate understanding of the Sikh community and have not found appropriate representatives from the Sikh community to balance the malicious viewpoints presented.
The media has once again misunderstood and misrepresented an issue affecting the Sikhs and have taken advantage of both the date (9/11) and the situation to create ridiculous headlines.
An organisation called Sikh Youth UK claimed in a statement that it was responsible for the protest.
It pointed out that last year in Southall, London:
A resolution was approved by the Sikh Council UK that Gurdwareh will no longer offer a Sikh marriage for an interfaith couple. This resolution was in line with a previous ruling from the highest seat of Sikh power, the Sri Akal Takaht Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab.
The Akal Takaht ruling states that Sikh marriage should only be for Sikh couples, but that interfaith couples were free to conduct a court marriage.
It added the Leamington protest:
Is an example of a rogue Gurdwara committee creating discord among the UK Sikh diaspora, by not only ignoring the ruling of the Akal Takaht, which is binding for all Sikhs, but also the resolution that was agreed at last year’s meetings.
Sikh Youth UK is an award winning charitable organisation dedicated to working for the benefit of the Sikh community. We are deeply saddened by the way in which the Leamington Gurdwara committee have conducted themselves. Local Sikh youth attended the early morning prayers at the Gurdwara and began a sit down peaceful protest by reciting prayers.
Seeing that the youth were traditionally dressed and carrying their Kirpans, as Sikhs all over the world do, the committee called the police and falsely reported that “armed men” had taken over the Gurdwara. This kind of behaviour alienates Sikh youth from trusting such Gurdwara committees’ ability to resolve the issue an amicable and mature way.
We sincerely hope that the Leamington Gurdwara committee stops creating divisions in the community and honours its role as a Gurdwara to educate the future generations about Sikh faith, history and values.
Hat tip: AgentCormac and PPS