Amritsar, India — Sikh groups stoned and shot at each other in the Golden Temple complex prompting authorities to send in security forces, police reported.
Rival groups exchanged at least 50 shots inside the holiest shrine of Sikhdom, the police said. Security forces quelled the fighting and arrested at least 150 people, all identified as members of the Sikh political party, the United Akali Dal, the report said.
The intersect battles arose because of a peace accord signed last week by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Harchand Singh Longowal, leader of a faction in restive Punjab state, where Sikhs are in the majority and separatist sentiment is high.
Paramilitary troops were reported still occupying the temple. They patrolled outside the United Akali Dal’s office, which was padlocked after the arrest of its employees.
The fighting heightened tension in this sacred city near the Pakistan border. Shops closed and people fled indoors in the areas near the shrine.
Witnesses said the clash began when Longowal arrived at the temple and was greeted by Sikh youths chanting slogans.
One of his bodyguards fired into the air to scatter demonstrators surrounding the 55yearold leader’s car.
The shooting enraged the estimated 200 Sikhs, who hurled bricks and rocks at the moderates. Within minutes, the two sides were fighting a pitched battle inside the 17century temple complex.
Swinging batons, security troops entered the temple from opposite sides, beating militants and whisking away scores of them in jeeps, witnesses said.
The troops searched militants’ offices and residences in the complex and arrested 10 close aides of Joginder Singh, leader of the United Akali Dal.
He is the father of slain preacher Jarnial Singh Bhindranwale, whose tape-recorded speeches were played during Tuesday’s protest.
The name Singh, meaning lion, is adopted by all male Sikhs.
May when the militants tried to seize control of the party.
After disturbances were quelled, moderates led by Longowal met under heavy police guard at the main temple hall. In a resolution, the moderates appealed to Sikhs throughout the world to observe Aug. 16 as “Thanksgiving Day” to celebrate what they called the “historic settlement” with Gandhi.
Militants and two top leaders of Longowal’s faction rejected the 11point pact as not granting most Sikh demands, including an amnesty for army mutineers and release of imprisoned youths.
Longowal, however, told the meeting the settlement was “a victory for the Sikh sect” because Gandhi agreed to merge the disputed Chandigarh territory with Punjab and accepted several other demands.
Rajiv can now sit back and watch from his “royal balcony” the entertaining spectacle of Sikhs destroying one another.
Article extracted from this publication >> August 2, 1985