Members of Leicester’s Sikh community have spoken of their immense pride, following the unveiling of a Sikh soldier statue in the city’s Victoria Park.
Hundreds of people turned out to see the statue of a Sikh soldier unveiled on Sunday (October 30), in honour of the Sikhs who fought for the UK in both World Wars and other global conflicts.
Among those in attendance was Superintendent Manjit Atwal of Leicestershire Police, who is also Chair of the Sikh Police Association.
“For me personally as a Sikh, I just think it’s really amazing to recognise those Punjabi soldiers that fought in the First and Second World War,” she told Pukaar News.
“Professionally, I just feel really proud that I was able to be here, and part of the celebration.
“I think for Leicester and Leicestershire being such a multi-faceted city, I just think it’s so important to show and recognise the work of the Sikhs in the community because Sikhs make up a large part of Leicester, and to recognise what they’ve done it amazing,” she added.
“It’s something that will stay with me as part of history.”
Balbir Singh Flora, Warrant Officer for the Royal Air Force, also spoke of his “immense pride” at seeing the statue unveiled.
“As a serving Sikh, to see a statue of my forefathers, of some Sikhs who’ve served before me is a great honour and a great privilege,” he said.
Sergeant Major Nagra Balbir Singh MBE, explained the significant contribution that Sikh soldiers made to the UK during the Great War efforts and beyond.
“It’s important to remember all the Sikh soldiers who fought for Britain in the First World War, Second World War and before that, and what they did for the community, for India and for the wider world – the way they have put the Sikh community on the map,” he said.
“In India, Sikh’s are only two-percent, and out of the two per cent, nearly 20 per cent were Sikhs who joined the Armed Forces.
“During the Second World War, it was nearly 40 per cent (of Sikhs) who joined. And that is what it was – to fight for what was right at that time.”
The bronze statue, which was designed by artist Taranjit Singh (Taran3d), has been in the planning stages for seven years.
The idea for the statue was envisaged by the late Councillor Culdipp Singh Bhatti. It was brought to fruition with the help of representatives of the Sikh community, known collectively as the Sikh Troops Memorial Committee, as well as the wider public and city council community ward funding.
It will compliment the existing war memorials in Victoria Park’s Peace Walk.
“Every November 11 (or thereabouts), whenever we commemorate and remember what soldiers and others did to protect Britain and keep peace around the world, we will always be able to commemorate the contribution of Sikh too, and I think that’s brilliant,” said Claudia Webbe, MP for Leicester East.
“People from all over the city and all over the country really, will be able to see this statue and they cannot mistake the contribution of the Sikh community, and the efforts Sikh soldiers made for peace efforts,” she added.
“It’s been a real tremendous effort by the committee and the organisers who spent time to make this happen. It couldn’t have been easy and it took a lot of effort.
“The way it brings unity and togetherness and harmony. It’s a peaceful statue that we should all be proud of.”