A west London council said on November 30 that it has agreed to rename a road in its heavily Punjabi suburb of Southall as Guru Nanak Road. The announcement coincided with Guru Nanak’s 551st birth anniversary being marked as Gurpurab across the world on Monday.
The proposal to rename Havelock Road in London's 'Little India' after the founder of the Sikh faith came to the fore in the wake of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm to review the UK capital’s landmarks in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, which have targeted memorials to historical figures with links to slavery and colonialism.
Havelock Road is named after Major General Sir Henry Havelock, the British general behind the quashing the Indian rebellion against the East India Company in 1857, referred to as the first war of Indian independence.
Ealing Council said the part of Havelock Road to be renamed lies between King Street and Merrick Road, and includes the location of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, one of the UK’s most well-known and largest gurdwaras.
The name change will come into effect in early 2021 as the council is in the process of writing to households, businesses and organisations impacted in advance of the change.
“I welcome this change. Ealing’s diversity is our strength and we have to make sure that the places we live reflect that diversity through our street names and buildings,” said Councillor Kamaljit Dhindsa, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for business and community services.
The local Ealing Council Leader, Councillor Julian Bell, welcomed the London Mayor’s review and said he has launched a parallel action within the borough of Ealing – which covers Southall.
“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 November 30,” said Bell.
“Ealing’s independent equality commission will explore what residents and businesses believe can be done to reduce inequality while improving outcomes. It will look at education, employment, crime and justice, health and housing, among others,” he said.
Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall moved to its current location at Havelock Road, soon to be Guru Nanak Road, in 1997 and was inaugurated by Prince Charles. Its langar, or free kitchen, offers thousands of free meals seven days a week to local residents in need.
The road naming decision follows a consultation process launched in June and the council said it has been taken in accordance with the Street Naming Protocol, which confirms that any change proposal should “respect and balance cultural and historical identities, sensitivities, and heritage”.
It comes as the UK’s Opposition Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, issued a letter to every gurdwara in the country to express his “heartfelt best wishes” to the British Sikh community on Gurpurab.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Sikh community in exemplifying the core teachings of Guru Nanak. The sewa of Sikhs during the pandemic is a shining example of their community spirit,” he writes.
The Labour Leader praised gurdwaras for their activities during the coronavirus lockdown, when volunteers continued to deliver free warm meals for people in the community and many British Sikhs took to the frontline as key workers.
“I appreciate that due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gurpurab celebrations will not be the same. I know how incredibly difficult and upsetting this will be for families and communities, who won’t be able to come together as they normally would. However, Guru Nanak’s teachings of selfless service and perseverance will continue to be an inspiration to us all,” he added.The founder of Sikhism and the first guru of Sikhs was born in 1469 in Nankana Sahib, now in Pakistan.