Greenwood Sikh temple members blame fight on ousted members who brought in gang of outsiders

Published:
Updated:

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WTHR) - Nine people suffered minor injuries after they were hurt Sunday afternoon in a fight at the Gurdwara Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, a Sihk temple in Greenwood.

Members of the temple say that tension has been building for the past couple weeks as the executive committee that runs the temple transitions authority to the recently selected replacement executive committee. The board of directors says the fight broke out when a group kicked out of the temple showed up with outsiders to try to forcefully take over.

Peaceful prayers returned to the Sikh temple Monday, a day after what Greenwood Police called a large disturbance. Videos posted on Facebook show people fighting in the temple Sunday afternoon in a crowd of over 100 people.

“What I saw yesterday is something that I never want to see in our temple,” said temple member Gagan Kaur. “You don't initiate a fight, you don't start a fight at a temple."

Members of the temple board claim that donations were being counted at the end of the service when people whose membership was terminated by the board barged in to prayer hall to demand the money and the keys to the temple. They allegedly brought along a gang of outsiders.

“One of the guys grabbed the current president and tried to drag him out of the prayer hall,” said Gurpreet Singh, the outgoing secretary of the executive committee. “That's where it all began, and everyone just gathered and there was pushing, shoving and punching."

Baptized Sikhs carry a ceremonial sword, the kirpan. But members say no weapons were used in the fight and no one was stabbed. Nine people reported minor injuries. Greenwood Police say officers from seven other agencies responded

Board members say after the new executive committee was selected two weeks ago, another group that lost power two years ago came up with their own alternative executive committee and wanted to regain control of the temple. That led to the 40-member board terminating temple membership for nine people. The leadership has tried to keep the ousted members away from the temple and have them charged with trespassing. But they showed up Sunday and allegedly started the fight.

“They have no majority,” said Balwinder Singh, a member of the board of directors. “They have no membership support. They want to grab the power like gangsters. They want to call the gangsters from outside the state and bring them here to put pressure on the members to get the power."

Many of the 800-900 who attend on Sundays are embarrassed by the image the fight portrays to temple neighbors unfamiliar and perhaps uneasy with Sikh followers.

"We are not those people,” said temple member Simarjit Kaur. “We are peacemakers. We would like for our kids to learn. We come here to learn something and pray."

The temple has a large three-day program this weekend expected to draw thousands. But members are still concerned about the leadership issue that is still not completely resolved.

The executive committee plans to meet with Greenwood Police tomorrow. Detectives are still actively investigating the incident.

Filed under: