Four wounded in fisticuffs at Sikh congregation

Massive mêlée in DDO

By Robert Frank


Wounded parishioners lay on stretchers in the middle of the road in front of Gurudwara Sahib of Greater Montreal, after a massive brawl, June 12, and a member of the congregation said that a two-year-old child was struck during the altercation.
According to Montreal Police on-scene commander Marc Charbonneau, some 150 parishioners were involved in the donnybrook, 30 of whom were still fighting when police arrived on the scene at the Sikh congregation in Dollard des Ormeaux.
A neighbour who witnessed the conflict told The Suburban that the antagonists spilled out of the temple at 1:41 p.m. and engaged in fisticuffs in the front courtyard on Hyman Drive. She said that the first police to arrive on the scene had to call for backup in order to control the mêlée.
“People were pouring out of the temple screaming and their wives were yelling and trying to pull them away,” recalled the eyewitness, who did not wish to be identified for fear of reprisal. “I’m putting my house up for sale. I don’t feel safe. It makes me uncomfortable to be here.”
More than a dozen police cruisers responded, closing Hyman Drive east of Sunnybrooke. Urgences Santé chief of operations for the West End of Montreal Robert Gobby said that four people were treated for minor injuries such as lacerations, some of them to the head. Three of them were wounded seriously enough to merit being taken by ambulance to hospital.
Police were previously called to intervene but laid no criminal charges, May 21, when tensions first escalated between two groups competing for control of the congregation. The conflict appeared to be resolved after both parties agreed before a judge, May 31, to allow one of the groups, led by Gurdeep Singh Sohal, to continue to run the congregation for another two years.
According to parishioner Arjan Singh, this week’s Sikh community gathering exploded into violence after a woman challenged remarks made by Manjit Singh, one of Mr. Sohal’s supporters.
“They were prepared for trouble,” observed Mr. Singh, who himself was injured during the incident. “There was a group of 18-20-year-olds, who no one had seen before. They were all clean-shaven and wore no turbans. They attacked the people who were wearing turbans. They pulled off our turbans and were pushing, hitting and punching us.”
A leading member of the opposing group, led by Narinder Singh Minhas, alleged that “15 or more young men were brought to the Gurudwara for just that purpose. As soon as we stepped outside, they attacked our group.”
“I talked to Mr. Sohal and he knew that we were coming peacefully today,” said the man, who did not wish to be identified. “The violence that ensued was due to his speech and the gangster guys he called in today. I will tell him that we need to come together and put all these things which are in the past behind us, and that we come here to pray to God.”
Reached by telephone, Mr. Minhas told The Suburban that the May 31 judicial settlement prohibits him and the other parties from talking to news media. He underscored that the temple is open to anyone who wishes to worship. “It does not mean that we are not allowed to go back in there.”
According to Montreal Police spokesman Sgt. Ian Lafrenière, no criminal charges have yet been laid, as each group is pressing charges against the other.

“Once police complete their investigation, they will bring their findings to the Crown Prosecutor,” explained Sgt. Lafrenière.
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