Police on Monday said they have “contained” the situation at the Sikh temple in the West Midlands region of England after an eight-hour standoff with a gang of sword-wielding men who apparently opposed a mixed race marriage.
Warwickshire Police made 55 arrests on charges of “aggravated trespass” after an operation involving armed officers at Gurudwara Sahib in the town of Leamington Spa.
They were responding to reports of a gang of men carrying “bladed weapons” disrupting a mixed race wedding ceremony.
“Officers responded to an initial report of a group of masked men, initially thought to be around 20 in number, forcing their way into the gurudwara.
“These were reported to be carrying a range of bladed items some of which were initially described as not being for ceremonial use. Officers assessed the situation and responded accordingly,” a Wariwckshire Police statement said on Monday.
“Having contained the situation, it became apparent that there were 55 masked men involved, all of whom were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass. Blades seized so far have been ceremonial. Another non-ceremonial weapon was seized. This is an ongoing investigation and we will be investigating the initial report that other weapons were involved,” it adds.
Kirpans, or short swords, are legally allowed to be worn by Sikhs in the UK as a symbol of their faith.
However, police have seized a blade not believed to be ceremonial.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that protesters from Sikh 2 Inspire and Sikh Youth UK were demonstrating in what they describe as a “peaceful protest” against an inter-faith Anand Karaj, or Sikh matrimonial ceremony, taking place at the gurudwara.
The group believe Gurudwara Sahib Leamington Spa on Tachbrook Drive is a “rogue” group, which decided to break an agreement made last year between over 300 Sikh representatives at a meeting led by the Sikh Council UK to not hold an Anand Karaj in inter-faith cases.
Sikh Youth UK said: “Local Sikh youth attended the early morning prayers at the Gurudwara and began a sit-down peaceful protest by reciting prayers.”
“There was no violence, so it doesn’t make sense why Kirpans were confiscated and have to remain in police custody. We feel the police should not be holding onto the Kirpans…we are not sure where the media has picked up their distorted narrative which damages the reputation of the Sikhs,” added Gurmail Singh of Sikh Council UK.
Former treasurer of the gurudwara, Jatinder Singh Birdi, confirmed a marriage between a Sikh and non-Sikh had been due to take place.
Superintendent David Gardner of Warwickshire Police said: “We would like to reassure people that this was a contained incident that we believe was an escalation of a local dispute.
“A significant number of bladed weapons were seized from the scene. As a result of reports that the men were in possession of these weapons we deployed armed officers as a precaution. Nobody was injured in the incident.
“Over the coming days we will be working with local the Sikh community to address some of the ongoing issues that have culminated in today’s events. We would like to thank local people for their patience while we dealt with this incident.”