New Delhi, India__ Security forces arrested two suspected gunmen Thursday in the attempted assassination of Sikh religion’s high priest and authorities mounted an intensive manhunt for a third, a police official said.

Senior police superintendent D. R. Bhatti said the two men were caught in the northern Punjab province’s Ludhiana district, about 12 miles from where three motorcycle riding gunmen opened fire on Kirpal Singh and two aides Wednesday.

Bhatti, quoted by the Press Trust of India, said a motorcycle, a .45 caliber revolver and a homemade pistol believed used in the shooting were seized.

The official said police and security forces mounted a manhunt to track down the third gunman suspected of wounding the leader and his aides Harbans Singh and Gurdey Singh.

The two accused gunmen were identified as Devinder Singh Fauji, an ex-serviceman, and Darshan Singh, from Dhalle Village in Ludhiana District. Descriptions provided by the chief priest’s driver led to the arrests, the Press Trust said.

 Kirpal Singh suffered four bullet wounds two in the head, one in his chest and another on his right forearm. Doctors at Christian Medical College Hospital in Ludhiana said Thursday he was “under a state of shock, but out of danger and is fully conscious.”

Kirpal Singh, 66, is chief priest in the Akal Takht shrine of the Golden Temple and has been acknowledged the leader of the world’s more than 15 million Sikhs since June, 1982.

Kirpal Singh’s shooting came as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government prepared to renew negotiations with the Sikh leaders.

The news agency said police investigations showed Fauji had taken a vow at the Golden Temple of Amritsar to punish Kirpal Singh for “misleading Sikhs” about the army attack’s damage to the shrine.

He has drawn criticism from fellow Sikhs for reversing a decision to excommunicate President Zail Singh, a Sikh, for issuing the order to invade the temple last June.

The late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi alienated most Sikhs by allowing the army to storm the Golden temple.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 25, 1985