June 6, 2014

Sword-wielding Sikhs clash at India's Golden Temple (VIDEO) - @TwitterIndia

At least six people were injured as dozens of Sikh radicals clashed with supporters of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) at the Golden Temple, in Amritsar
A violent sword battle broke out at Sikhism's holiest temple today during a special prayer ceremony to mark the government massacre that took place there 30 years ago.

At least six people were injured as dozens of Sikh radicals clashed with supporters of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) at the revered Golden Temple, in Amritsar, Punjab State.

It is understood the scuffle erupted over who would speak first at the service, held to remember victims of military offensive Operation Blue Star that left hundreds dead on June 6, 1984, when soldiers stormed the compound in a bid to flush out separatist insurgents holed up in the temple.

Footage appeared to show the two groups of men, sporting blue and saffron turbans, chasing each other down the temple's marble steps, yelling battle cries and lashing out with their swords as the violence grew out of control, soon spilling inside the temple's walls.

'Today we were supposed to have a solemn remembrance for the martyrs of 1984, so what has happened is very sad,' Prem Singh Chandumajra, a spokesman for Punjab state's ruling party Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), told reporters.

'The Temple has once again been dishonoured today,' he added.

Peace has since been restored, said an official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. 

'The violent clashes will be investigated and action will be taken against those who are accused,' said Giani Gurbachan Singh, a leader of the SGPC, the elected body that manages Sikh temples.

Operation Blue Star was one of the most contentious episodes in India's battle against Sikh separatists in the 1980s.

The three-day siege saw the Indian Army storm the Golden Temple to flush out Sikh separatists and arrest Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale a Sikh leader and his followers who had initiated a movement for a separate Sikh state.

As a result, Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards following the bloodbath.

Nearly 3,000 people were subsequently killed in retaliatory riots against the Sikhs.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is an organisation in India responsible for the upkeep of gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship, in three states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

It is also responsible for the administration, upkeep and security of the Golden Temple, known as Harmandir Sahib.

Earlier today, hundreds had gathered at the temple to mark the massacre's anniversary.

But proceedings took an ugly turn when Simranjeet Singh Mann, local head of Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal, and his supporters forcibly tried to deliver a speech from the temple's rostrum.

But guards from the SGPC attempted to stop him, resulting in a fracas that grew into a violent stand off.

The situation was made worse by the fact that police personnel are not permitted inside the Golden Temple.
During the melee, many panic-striken devotees ran for safety, sources said.

The CNN-IBN television channel said police detained nearly 50 people, and that many shops closed because of the tension in Amritsar city.

Meanwhile, 1,500 personnel of anti-riot police were deployed in several places in Amritsar in the wake of a bandh call given by hardline outfit Dal Khalsa.

India has suffered an upsurge of violence in many forms since a general election last month won by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the most heinous crime, two girls were raped and hanged in a village in Uttar Pradesh. Three men have been arrested over the killing, and two policemen suspected of helping to cover up the crime.

This week, a lynch mob in Pune killed a Muslim information technology worker. Seventeen men with links to a little-known radical Hindu group have been arrested over the killing, apparently provoked by a controversial Facebook post.

Modi, who was sworn in on May 26, has not commented on any of the episodes of violence.

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