British MP Tan Dhesi calls for National Sikh War Memorial in London

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British MP Tan Dhesi seeks a National Sikh War Memorial in central London to commemorate the contribution of Sikh soldiers who died defending Great Britain and its allies during World War I and II. Readers are invited to append their signatures to the online petition initiated by the MP, addressed to British Prime Minister Theresa May, seeking a parliamentary debate.

Commemorating the centennial years of World War I and II, in a befitting tribute to thousands of Sikh soldiers who died fighting for Great Britain and allied forces, the first turbaned Sikh Member of Parliament in Britain -Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi takes up one of his dearest causes seeking a National Sikh War Memorial in central London. With support from leader of the Opposition -Jeremy Corbyn MP and Deputy Opposition leader Tom Watson MP, this historic move has got the much-needed push to call for a parliamentary debate.

Moving an Early Day Motion in Parliament early last week, the Labour party MP from Slough called upon the Conservative party-led Theresa May government to support the setting up of the memorial. Till date, the motion has more than 240 signatures from across the political spectrum in the 650-member British House of Commons.  

Making the move, Tan Dhesi MP said, “This motion recognises the sacrifices of Sikh soldiers in service of Great Britain, and calls for a permanent national monument in a prime central London location. It would have huge additional benefits for community cohesion and integration within our country – something that’s very close to my heart”.

This motion recognises the sacrifices of Sikh soldiers in service of Great Britain, and calls for a permanent national monument in a prime central London location.

Many senior parliamentarians including John McDonnell (Shadow Chancellor, Labour), Ken Clarke (longest serving Conservative MP and former UK Chancellor), Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative, former Attorney General), Ian Blackford (Leader of SNP MP’s), Nigel Dodds (Leader of Northern Ireland DUP MP’s), Tim Farron (former Leader of Liberal Democrats),  Liz Saville-Roberts (Leader of Wales Plaid Cymru MP’s), Caroline Lucas (Green Party Leader) and Lady Hermon (Independent) have already pledged support.

Going the whole hog, before the Winter recess of Parliament for Christmas and the New Year, Tan Dhesi has asked the Leader of the House for “a debate on a National Sikh War Memorial in a prime central location in our capital, to commemorate the extraordinary bravery and sacrifices of Sikh soldiers in the service of Great Britain”

Leaving no stone unturned to elicit public support for the motion, Tan Dhesi has initiated an internet petition #WeWillRememberThem, addressed to the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the London Mayor Sadiq Khan which solicits signatures because “Sikh soldiers exhibited extraordinary bravery and sacrifices in the service of Great Britain, including during both World Wars. Though Sikhs made up only 2% of the population of British India, they formed 20% of the British Indian Army during the First World War, and hundreds of thousands of Sikh soldiers saw active service during the two major wars and many other conflicts.”

Tan Dhesi with Opposition leader -Jeremy Corbyn MP and Deputy Opposition leader Tom Watson MP who have seconded the motion for a National Sikh War Memorial in central London.

When asked about this move by Tan Dhesi, leading chronicler of the Sikhs killed in World War I and II, Bhupinder Singh Holland, whose two volumes on the World Wars already has names of 44 thousand Sikh soldiers from across the Commonwealth countries across the world, said, “this is a great and timely move. I am sure that with an appropriate memorial in London, the brave Sikh soldiers would get due recognition. I congratulate Tanmanjeet Singh for this.” He apprised that in 2013, in a conference on the subject at Westminster, parliamentarians, historians, authors and community leaders had sought such a memorial during the launch of the National Sikh Remembrance Foundation.  He further added, “this is not coming a day too soon.”

Balwinder Singh Chahal, author and activist, who has chronicled the contribution of Sikh soldiers in the two Wars in Italy and other parts of Europe, said, “Tan Dhesi’s move is a milestone as there has to be a memorial in London for posterity to remember the monumental contribution of Sikh soldiers and officers. Europe has taken lead in setting memorials and Great Britain must not lag behind. I will do my best to further the cause.”

This is not coming a day too soon. I am sure that with an appropriate memorial in London, the brave Sikh soldiers of yore would get due recognition. I congratulate Tanmanjeet Singh for this.

Earlier this month, the first Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had reiterated his election promise of a war memorial in central London in honour of the Sikh servicemen and women who fought and lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. He said, “Britain and the world owe a huge debt to the Sikh servicemen and women who fought alongside British troops during the First and Second World Wars.”

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With the number of signatories building up and support coming in from across the globe, not very far from Trafalgar Square, we look forward to a Sikh Circle, epitomising Anglo-Sikh association and the inclusive nature of present-day British society.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi 19 December Early Day Motion in the British House of Commons seeking the setting up of a National Sikh War Memorial in Central London.
“That this house appreciates the extraordinary bravery and sacrifices of Sikh soldiers in service of Great Britain, including during both World Wars, and supports the erection of a permanent national monument in a prime central London location to commemorate and highlight these contributions; further notes that for over a decade there has been a demand from various quarters for the installation of such a national monument; welcomes the recent statement by the Mayor of London who said it is only right that these brave individuals should have a memorial in our capital city; notes that, though Sikhs made up only two per cent of the population of British India, they formed 20 per cent of the British Indian Army during the First World War, and that hundreds of thousands of Sikh soldiers saw active service during the two major wars and many other conflicts; further notes that more than 83,000 turbaned Sikh soldiers laid down their lives and more than 100,000 were injured during the World Wars; and calls on the Government to actively support a memorial dedicated to those who made or were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of our country.”

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