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54 bailed, one in custody after UK Gurdwara standoff

Press Trust of India  |  London 

British police today said they have "contained" the situation at a Gurdwara in the West Midlands region of after an eight-hour standoff with a gang of sword-wielding men who opposed a mixed race marriage there and released on bail 54 men who were arrested during the clash.

Warwickshire Police said 54 accused have been given bail until next month while a 30-year-old man remains in police custody as investigations are on the nature of the weapons used during the incident.

The force had made 55 arrests on charges of "aggravated trespass" after an involving armed officers at Gurdwara Sahib in the town of Leamington Spa.

They were responding to reports of a gang of men carrying "bladed weapons" disrupting a mixed race wedding ceremony.

"Officers responded to an initial report of a group of masked men, initially thought to be around 20 in number, forcing their way into the Gurdwara.

"These were reported to be carrying a range of bladed items some of which were initially described as not being for ceremonial use. Officers assessed the situation and responded accordingly," a Wariwckshire Police statement said today.

"Having contained the situation, it became apparent thatthere were 55 masked men involved, all of whom were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass. Blades seized so far have been ceremonial. Another non-ceremonial weapon was seized. This is an ongoing investigation and we will be investigating the initial report that other weapons were involved," it adds.

Kirpans or short swords, are legally allowed to be worn by Sikhs in the as a symbol of their faith.

However, police have seized a blade not believed to be ceremonial.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that protesters from Sikh 2 Inspire and Sikh Youth were demonstrating in what they describe as a "peaceful protest" against an inter-faith Anand Karaj or Sikh matrimonial ceremony taking place at the Gurdwara.

The group believes Gurdwara Sahib Leamington Spa on Tachbrook Drive is a "rogue" group, which decided to break an agreement made last year between over 300 Sikh representatives at a meeting led by the Sikh Council to not hold an Anand Karaj in inter-faith cases.

Sikh Youth UK said, "Local Sikh youth attended the early morning prayers at the Gurdwara and began a sit-down peaceful protest by reciting prayers."

"There was no violence, so it does not make sense why Kirpans were confiscated and have to remain in police custody. We feel the police should not be holding onto the Kirpans...We are not sure where the media has picked up their distorted narrative which damages the reputation of the Sikhs," added Gurmail Singh of Sikh Council UK.

"We condemn the over-reaction by police and the disgraceful and inexcusable behaviour by the management committee at Leamington Gurdwara that have unashamedly brought the law-abiding Sikh community into disrepute by fuelling false and sensationalised media reports," added Sikh Federation UK.

Former treasurer of the Gurdwara, Jatinder Singh Birdi,

confirmed that a marriage between a Sikh and non-Sikh was due to take place.

Superintendent David Gardner of Warwickshire Police said: "We would like to reassure people that this was a contained incident that we believe was an escalation of a local dispute. A significant number of bladed weapons were seized from the scene. As a result of reports that the men were in possession of these weapons we deployed armed officers as a precaution. Nobody was injured in the incident."

"Over the coming days we will be working with local Sikh community to address some of the ongoing issues," Gardner said.

First Published: Mon, September 12 2016. 20:07 IST