Furious row after council strip Southall road name from British general to Sikhism founder

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  • December 12, 2020
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furious row has erupted over what to call Havelock Road in west London after the council decided to strip the name off a British general who killed Indian soldiers to name it after the founder of Sikhism.

A stretch of Havelock Road in Southall is set to be renamed after Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism,  after a local MP argued that it currently honoured a “colonial oppressor who ravaged India for personal gain” 

The Indian community accounts for nearly 50 per cent of Southall’s population of 70,000.

Henry Havelock was a British general who won fame for his recapture of Cawnpore during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Havelock won adulation back home for his violent putdown of the Indian ‘mutineers’ who threatened the British Empire.

He died of dysentery three days after his men survived the siege of Lucknow in 1857. His surviving family were awarded his title as a baron thanks to his exploits.

His tomb still stands in Chander Nagar – Alambagh area of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and there is a statue to him in Trafalgar Square.

Southall gas explosion that killed two men in October.

Henry Havelock died of dysentery in 1857

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Henry Havelock died of dysentery in 1857

/ Rev. William Brock via Wikipedia )

“Havelock also had many brave Sikh men under his command and he had spent a good deal of time studying the local culture and learning the local language before he resolved to go to India – this makes me wonder if he’d find it quite fitting to have half a road named after him, and the other half named after someone significant to his Sikh comrades-in-arms.

“I think that it brings attention to Henry’s story and the story of the people in India who fought both with and against him. 

“People say that changing street names is ‘erasing history’, but how many people will have walked down Havelock Road and thought to search for who the road was named after and why? 

“I believe that discussions about historical figures and events and their relevance to modern day life in the UK is just one way that we keep history alive.

“Without these conversations about something as simple as a street name change, many people would never know about someone like Havelock, and never think to ask.”

Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall, has campaigned for the name change since 1992, added: “I have seen her comments sadly along with too many bigoted and racist people, but what she says seems right to me.

“I am delighted we are celebrating the impact, contribution and place in British history Sikh people have.

“This name change is about more than just a sign coming down, Sir Henry Havelock was a colonial oppressor, he ravaged India and her people for personal gain and imperial glory. To have a road named in honour of a colonial murderer in the heart of one of the UK’s most diverse areas is an insult.

“His name is to me, and millions of other British Indians, British Pakistanis and British Bangladeshis, synonymous with murder, oppression and thuggery.

“It means memories of stories told by parents and grandparents of being a second-class citizen in your own country. In much the same way Section 28 was meant to make LGBT people feel ashamed of who they are, being faced by Havelock’s name on a daily basis is a tacit reminder to know your place and forget your past.”

Henry Havelock’s statue in Trafalgar Square

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Henry Havelock’s statue in Trafalgar Square

/ Peter Banyard via Wikpedia )

The name change of the part of Havelock Road to Guru Nanak Road will come into effect in the early months of 2021, according to a press release by Ealing Council.

Cllr Julian Bell said: “The decision to rename one of Ealing’s roads reflects the importance of celebrating the borough’s diversity and is a timely celebration of Guru Nanak’s birthday on 30 November.”

In addition, the Ealing Council has also formed a 12-person equality commission to address issues of structural inequalities and their impact on race. This commission has been asked to submit a report to the Ealing Council by May 2021.