Fighting for Sikh war heroes


GROUNDWORK: Tan
Dhesi (right) and
councillor John Caller,
mayor of Gravesham
with the statue of
Squadron Leader
Mohinder Singh Pujji
GROUNDWORK: Tan Dhesi (right) and councillor John Caller, mayor of Gravesham with the statue of Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji

By NADEEM BADSHAH

MP WANTS LONDON MEMORIAL TO HONOUR FALLEN SOLDIERS

BRITAIN’S first turbaned MP has vowed to take up the “Herculean” effort to have a war memorial for Sikh war heroes.  

Tan Dhesi told Eastern Eye he wants to deliver the project to honour troops who served in the two world wars, after the MP helped to erect a similar statue in Kent.  

The MP for Slough in Berkshire, who esti­mates that the project needs at least £500,000 in donations, tabled an Early Day Motion in Parlia­ment, which politicians submit to have issues debated, calling for the memorial. It has re­ceived around 250 signatures so far.  

Dhesi said it has been a long-running cam­paign in the Sikh community and he is “more than prepared for the long struggle”.  

He said: “It will take a Herculean effort to make it happen.  

“Having led on a similar memorial in Graves­end in 2011 when I served as mayor, it took us about two years collectively to make it a reality, make it a priority for the council and raise funds of about £70,000.”  

Dhesi added: “The demand has been ongoing for more than a decade from individuals and organisations. It’s time to make it a reality.  

“They needed somebody to champion the case strongly in Parliament. I have held meet­ings with different parties to that effect. It’s im­portant it’s not just a one-party issue.  

“Nearly 250 MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, the leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, DUP, Plaid Cymru and Green Party and prominent Con­servative MPs have already signed a parliamen­tary motion I tabled. I have formally asked the leader of the house to have it debated.”  

The eight-foot monument in Gravesend is that of turbaned soldier Squadron Leader Moh­inder Singh Pujji, one of the first Sikh pilots to volunteer with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.  

An online petition calling for a national mon­ument had attracted more than 23,000 signa­tures by Monday (8).  

Dhesi wants the statue to be in central London near other plaques to remember war heroes.  

The father-of-two said: “The mayor of Lon­don, Sadiq Khan, has always been very support­ive of the idea.  

“A petition was started to ensure we get prime land in central London for it. We don’t want somewhere out of the centre.  

“Other prominent memorials, like for Indian subcontinent soldiers, Commonwealth soldiers and for Gurkhas already exist in central London.  

“We will reach out to military organisations and other non-Sikh groups.  

“We will lay the groundwork in 2018 building up towards it. Fundraising will be key.”  

Sikh groups have backed the idea for a me­morial in central London.  

Jagjit Singh, spokesman for Sikh Council UK, told Eastern Eye: “While there are memorials in other parts of the country, there is an aspiration across the Sikh community for a dedicated monument in a prime central London location to mark the sacrifice of the large number of Sikhs who were killed in the world wars and Sikhs have called for this in recent years.  

“It is pleasing to see Tanmanjeet has taken a lead on this issue since becoming an MP.  

“We welcome the steps being taken and are committed to supporting Tanmanjeet in the various work streams involved in making this project come to fruition.”  

  • Visit https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-calling-for-a-national-sikh-war-memorial-in-prime-central-london-location for more.