Page last updated at 20:41 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Call for temple protection boost

By Divya Talwar
BBC Asian Network

Ruined Sikh temple
The temple was all but destroyed in the attack

Sikh leaders have called on police to do more to protect religious buildings in light of an arson attack.

Last March the Sikh Sangat Gurdwara in Bow, east London, was gutted when an intruder started a fire.

Temple president Jagdish Singh has warned everything possible must be done to prevent a similar incident happening to any religious institution.

He said: "This time a Gurdwara has been a target - but in the future it could be another religious temple."

Mr Singh continued: ''The police need to ensure that it increases its efforts to stop any sacred building from becoming a vicious target."

The leaders of the Sikh Sangat Gurdwara say holy premises are often the subject of attacks and they want the police to provide more monitoring and surveillance to prevent future attacks.

It was like losing a home and having nowhere to go
Jodhar Singh, worshipper

''We have increased the security around our building, but the local authority and police also have an important role to play," Mr Singh said.

The fire was started in a room of the temple where the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, was kept.

It led to the closure of the Gurdwara for more than 10 months and Mr Singh said it had a devastating effect on the Sikh community.

Jodhar Singh, a regular worshipper at the temple, said: "It was like losing a home and having nowhere to go.

"It was a black day for us when our temple was burnt.''

A section of the Gurdwara was reopened at the beginning of this year and the temple's committee hopes to restore the entire building within the next couple of months.

However, there is a big fear within the Sikh community that a similar attack may happen.

Increased surveillance

Gagandeep Gill, who attends the temple for Sunday prayers, said: ''Our Gurdwara is a holy place and for someone to attempt to burn it down is very upsetting.

''I'm very happy it has reopened but I'm scared that something like this will happen again.''

Stephen Manger, of the Metropolitan Police, is an inspector for the local safer neighbourhood team.

He said: ''We regularly patrol religious buildings and since the incident on the Sikh Sangat Gurdwara we have increased our surveillance in the area.

''The police have a number of schemes in place to safeguard religious buildings."

The Sikh Sangat Gurdwara has offered a £50,000 reward to help catch the arsonist. No arrests have been made so far.

A spokesperson for the Met said: ''This is an on-going investigation and we are doing everything we can to find the culprit.

''We assure the Sikh community that every possible line of enquiry is being pursued.''



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