Interfaith Marriages

Fifty-five arrested after armed siege at Sikh temple in protest over interfaith marriage

Police cordon off a wide area outside the temple

Armed police surrounded a Sikh temple after scores of men, some carrying swords, stormed the building reportedly in an attempt to disrupt an interfaith wedding.

Fifty-five people were arrested for aggravated trespass following an eight-hour siege at the Gurdwara Sahib in Leamington Spa, which has a history of tensions over mixed marriages.

A group calling itself Sikh Youth Birmingham claimed responsibility for the raid, which it said was a peaceful protest undertaken to “uphold the sanctity” of the traditional marriage ceremony.

A Sikh bride was understood to have been scheduled to marry a Hindu groom at the venue later in the day.

The group inside the temple posted a video online of men clad in black with orange bandanas, chanting traditional Sikh verses, as well as a video showing an encounter with two armed policemen who went in to try to talk to the men.

One of the men in the first video was waving a placard that read “Stop violating Sikh principles for money”.

Armed police at the temple

Richard Barns, a witness, said he had earlier seen 10 members of the group standing at the door to the building with their arms folded.

“It was quite intimidating,” he said. “It looked like they were securing the door.”

Officers said a “significant number of bladed weapons”, many of them ceremonial kirpans, were later recovered from the scene after the siege which ended without injury.

Gurdwara Temple, Leamington Spa

Police, who cordoned off a wide area outside the temple, were seen taking pictures of the arrested men on mobile phones before loading them onto a coach.

Officers described the incident, which lasted from about 6.45am to 2pm on Sunday, as a culmination of “ongoing issues”.

In July, protesters attempted to disrupt another mixed marriage at the temple.

Jatinder Singh Birdi, a former treasurer at the temple, said: “There have been tensions that have been going on for a couple of years with some people objecting to mixed marriages in taking place in the gurdwara.

“The general consensus is people are respectful of mixed marriages if the traditions are respected. Nothing has happened on this level before.”

Police officers performed searches

The Sikh Council has argued that the marriage ceremony, known as Anand Karak, should be reserved only for Sikhs, but it has also called for a halt to protest at mixed weddings.

Superintendent David Gardner, of Warwickshire Police, said: “Over the coming days we will be working with the local Sikh community to address some of the ongoing issues that have culminated in today’s events.”

The Gurdwara Sahib committee has faced criticism in the Sikh community in recent days over proposals to construct a new building, described by some opponents as a “party venue”, next to the temple.

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