Militants try to halt multi-racial wedding
9:00am Wednesday 4th July 2012 in By Josh Layton
A WEDDING ceremony had to be abandoned after a group of 40 militant Sikhs locked themselves inside the community’s Kembrey Street temple.
The hardliners occupied the building on Saturday to disrupt a marriage between a Sikh woman and a man said to be a Christian and of West African background.
The group locked the doors and gates of the gurdwara, near Kembrey Park, before leaving more than six hours later.
Though the Sikh part of the marriage had to be abandoned, a civil ceremony between Susan Momi and Kenny Lawrence did go ahead at Lydiard Park, despite the militants turning up there as well.
Susan’s mother Harbhajan said: “Words can’t express how I feel, we are all in shock.
“They went inside the temple, locked the doors and switched the security cameras off.
“We had a caterer in charge of the breakfast. They ate all the food and then told him ‘go or we’ll kill you’. We also had relatives from other parts of the world turn up for the wedding who didn’t know what was going on.
“I was getting to ready to go to the temple when I had a phone call from a friend telling me to stay away. It was awful, my heart is still going even now.”
The militants claimed on YouTube that they had acted peacefully to stop an inter-faith union at the temple. But the bride’s family say couples from different religions have married before at the gurdwara without incident.
Mrs Harbhajan: “This had nothing to do with religion. There was nothing to stop the ceremony in the gurdwara.
“This was all to do with the colour of his skin.”
The ceremony had been agreed by the gurdwara’s managing committee, but they were powerless to act after several vans full of men turned up on Saturday morning.
Raghdir Bains, a committee member at the Punjabi Community Centre, said: “Nearly everybody in the Sikh community in Swindon is absolutely against what took place.
“We live in a multi-cultural society and if that’s the wish of the girl and her parents then it should go ahead.
“The majority of the hardliners were from Birmingham and Southall and they have been responsible for damage to another temple in Walsall.
“The committee had accepted the booking and it should have gone ahead. Local families went to the gates to complain, but there was no one to stop the militants.”
The group briefly left the temple, believing a holy book had been removed from the site and taken to the Lydiard Park ceremony.
Mr Bains said: “They arrived at 7.30am and stayed until 12.30pm. They left because they believed the holy book had been taken to Lydiard Park. They couldn’t find it so they came back to the temple and stayed until 2pm.
“I think the reason no one from the community went in is because they know the record of these people. The hardliners would have met any challenge with violence. People were afraid they would lose their lives if they challenged them.”
Dr Harbans Popli, a senior figure in Swindon's Sikh community, also condemned the militants after speaking to the bride’s family.
He said: “The family is very upset and angry. This is against all our morals and principles.”
The militants posted footage of the occupation on YouTube, showing a hooded hardliner standing by the gate while a local woman protests against their action.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: “We can confirm that we dealt with a small protest by a group of men in Swindon on Saturday. The protest was conducted peacefully.
“We believe the protestors objected to an event which was due to take place at the Swindon gurdwara. Our officers continue to liaise with the protestors and the community.”