By shymon thottumkal
CHANDIGARH June 17: On June 8, as thousands of Sikhs joined protests in the UK and other parts of the world amid chorus for "truth" behind the killing of Sikhs in 1984, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi stood vandalized in Leicester, around 150 miles from London.
However, the defacement of the statue of Bapu, who remained an advocate of truth, left the Sikh community disturbed and many lost no time in offering to pay for the statue's repair and restoration.
Within a week, local authorities of Leicester cleaned up and restored the statue. Yet, the incident that happened during the protests held to mark 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar continued to evoke strong reactions from representatives of the community, including those pitching in for an independent probe into the deaths of Sikhs in 1984.
"Unfortunately, there are always a few hotheads in any community and we deplore genuine hurt in the Sikh community being expressed in this way. The act has been condemned by the wider UK Sikh community and many even came forward to bear the repair costs soon after the incident," said Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon CBE while responding to TOI's queries.
Punjabi NRIs, particularly Sikhs in Leicester and other parts of the UK, say the act of vandalism has embarrassed them and hoped that such incidents don't recur.
"It's a criminal act and has diverted attention from the main issue of seeking resolution about what happened in 1984 and bringing to justice people who were involved in the genocide of Sikhs in November 1984 following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi," said Jasvir Singh, chairperson legal and media relations director, City Sikhs Network, that claims to be the largest network of Sikh professionals in UK.
Several NRI supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), for whom Gandhi has been the inspiration, too seemed perturbed by the incident.
"As Indians, we have the highest respect for Bapuji and his ideals. Peoples' views need to be expressed in a peaceful and law abiding manner," said Raj Redij Gill, an AAP coordinator in London.
Expressing concern at the incident, several AAP supporters in Canada too mentioned that protests should be held in a peaceful manner.
Meanwhile, locals in Leicester and London are relieved that the Hindu and Sikh organisations in Leicester showed exemplary maturity in coming together and preventing any further fallout of the incident.
Calling the incident merely an aberration, Sikhs want the new NDA government to take some fresh initiatives to get to "bottom of the truth".
"I fervently hope that the new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi would set up an open inquiry into all the events of 1984. This would heal a still-open wound and help in restoring good relations between the two sister communities that have been historically close," summed up Lord Singh, the first turbaned Sikh to sit in the UK's house of lords.