May 28, 2020 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: In the early hours of Monday 25 May, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara Derby was attacked in a violent rage, in which bricks and a steel car jack was used to cause thousands of pounds of damage.
Thankfully there were no injuries or harm caused to the Granthis who were in residence. Granthis are those who organise the daily services and read from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh holy scriptures.
The lone perpetrator was identified and arrested within hours of the attack, with the assistance of the Derby Sikh community. 31-year old Mr Mohammed Ibrar of Cromwell Road, Derby has since been interviewed and charged with the attack.
The motive and intent behind this attack is clearly political and racial. In a note left by the attacker, he stated that his actions were in retaliation for the Indian governments’ oppression and human rights abuses in Kashmir. The note also threatened more violence and harm to Sikhs and the Gurdwara if such atrocities continued in the disputed region over 4,000 miles away.
Such actions go way beyond the boundaries of religiously aggravated hate crime, which would be the minimum classification of any attack on a place of worship, however in this case the Derbyshire constabulary shockingly communicated this incident as an attempted ‘burglary’.
This official communication has caused deep anger and outrage in the community and triggered the Gurdwara management committee to summon the police to an urgent meeting to clarify its blunder.
Such errors of judgement in communication lead to a lack of confidence and trust in the police and their ability to fully investigate such crimes. All efforts on the ground this week have been to ease community feelings and tensions to maintain the positive and harmonious interfaith relationships in the city.
Sikhs have in the past seen similar downgrading of attacks on Gurdwaras and individuals with the misreporting and under reporting of hate crimes. However, the note left by Mr Ibrar left no doubt of his intentions to cause harm and of the political and extreme views he held. Therefore, the community both locally and nationally are expecting a detailed and thorough “terror related investigation” to establish the full extent of any extremism activity.
Whilst the perpetrator attacked the Gurdwara alone, it is essential that his background and links be fully investigated on how and where he acquired such radical views and the plan to attack the Sikh Gurdwara. It is also unclear if he was part of a larger group who may share similar views or plans.
The Sikh Federation (UK) raised this case and concerns with senior police officers at the Metropolitan Police at a quarterly National Sikh Forum meeting on Tuesday 26 May. We were assured they would reach out to the Derbyshire Constabulary at a senior level and make the issues known. It was also confirmed that it was national police policy to treat any attack on a place of worship as a hate crime.
Since the attack many Muslim and Kashmiri organisations, groups and places of worship have publicly condemned this attack and expressed their solidarity with the respected and admired Sikh community, as well as their support to secure justice.
However unfortunately in this time of communities coming together, there are those who have tried to exploit this incident and inflame it to turn Sikhs against Muslims. Surprisingly the Indian Consulate in Birmingham and the Congress Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh both tweeted about the attack emphasising the unconfirmed Pakistani origins of the perpetrator.
The Sikh Federation (UK) responded to both for raising their concerns but reminded them of the genocides, human rights abuses and Indian army attacks on Sikh Gurdwaras in India since 1984, for which justice remains outstanding.
The Sikh Federation (UK) have been supporting the Gurdwara management committee and we demand that the Derbyshire Constabulary review its communication process, but more importantly record this crime and subsequent charge and prosecution as a “terror attack”.
Tajinder Singh, a management committee member at Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara said: “When I reached the Gurdwara it was clear the person responsible for the violence held extreme views towards Sikhs and our Gurdwara. I was shocked and saddened to see the damage that was done in this terror attack.”
“Police in attendance agreed this was a terror attack on our Gurdwara. We were therefore outraged when the police initially communicated the attack as a burglary.”
“We would like to thank all the local communities for their support and thoughts and Sikh organisations and media who have issued supportive statements and provided coverage.”
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