Racist attack on London gurudwara: report

March 17th, 2009 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

London, March 17 (IANS) A Sikh gurudwara in London was gutted in an alleged racist attack, a British newspaper reported Tuesday.
Gurdwara Sikh Sangat in Bow, built in 1979 and which housed priceless religious books, was holding a women-only prayer session when the suspected arson took place Monday. Most of its roof collapsed but no one was injured, the Evening Standard reported.

“Somebody did this deliberately. A man came in and got to the temple’s holiest area. He was interrupted by one of the women and managed to get away. As he ran out, the place went up in flames. Everyone panicked. The women tried to put out the fire with buckets of water but it was too fierce,” said Gurpal Singh, an IT professional and a regular at the gurudwara.

Witnesses described the suspected arsonist as being black or mixed-race.

The London Fire Brigade confirmed that 75 percent of the building and the roof had been damaged by the fire.

More than 50 fire fighters battled the fire for almost eight hours before putting out the fire completely.

Kamaljeet Kaur said her aunt was in the temple when the alleged arsonist struck.

She said: “All the women thought he was a robber. It was only when they got upstairs that they discovered the fire raging. It is lucky one of them was not badly hurt.”

Singh said the women managed to save just one of the temple’s eight holy books before the flames took hold.

“I cannot describe how important those holy books were to the Sikh community,” he added.

One worshipper said that in the past few weeks he had noticed racist graffiti on one of the gurudwara’s outer walls, the newspaper said.

A police spokesman said: “Police are treating this incident as suspicious.”

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