The Vaisakhi Festivities are celebrated annually in Handsworth Park. This year was no exception when many hundreds turned up to enjoy good food, the fun fair and gather socially. Unfortunately one or two others had different ideas coming into the park brandishing a range of potentially lethal weapons including an unsheathed three foot sword. It’s generally held that the Sikhs are peace loving upholders of peace and justice following the teachings of their founder Guru Nanak.
A few years ago I and a Sikh friend went to the aid of two prominent Sikhs who were beaten in a local Gurdwara in Handsworth. I heard that some unsavoury characters were terrorising people here and in a Smethwick Gurdwara. We called a meeting with the police and asked them to follow the assaults up. My friend knew a lot more about the individuals concerned and said they were running their campaign across the country. It was said that drugs were involved. The police I have to say were very hesitant to take action.
On Sunday the man who entered the park openly brandishing the sword was arrested, bu amazingly was soon released!. The original incident sparked a number of others which continued on the streets after the park was closed early.
I was looking forward to attending a celebration of Anglo-Sikh relations this Saturday but due to the tensions which have arisen within the Sikh Community this has been put off following advice from the police. The organisers, who have put in much hard work for this, have readily acceded in the circumstances.
As much as it is bad to vilify the Muslim community because of the existence of terrorism, it is a much a mistake to assume that any group is blameless. It seems that a group of thugs are able to cause mayhem among the community for their own ends without reproach. There is some bitterness among African Caribbeans that Carnival was moved out of Handsworth park because it was thought to be unsafe, while others have been allowed to continue. Perhaps they have a point! Time for an even-handed approach to policing a diverse community.
There were a number of Muslims sharing the Mela, as would be common in India for all sections of the community. There have been rumours of some being beaten. I have to say that in the past few weeks I have been supported by many from both communities who have worked closely together. Last week comrades from Respect fighting the adjoining seat of Lozells and East Handsworth came in force to help us, a fine example of intercommunal co-operation at its best.