Riots in India after Vienna killing

A Sikh preacher died today after being wounded in an attack on his temple in Vienna, by a group of fundamentalist Sikhs armed with knives and a handgun, police said.

India's prime minister appealed for calm as riots protesting the deadly shooting spread to several northern Indian cities.

Witnesses said the Vienna temple attended by lower-caste Sikhs had been attacked by Sikhs from a higher caste who accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the religion's Holy Book.

The attack set off a brawl that wounded 16. It was not clear whether some of the weapons used were kirpans - ceremonial daggers that may legally be worn by Sikhs in Austria.

Two preachers - identified by Indian diplomats as Niranjan Das and Sant Rama Nand - underwent operations for gunshot wounds, but Nand died early today, according to a police official who declined to identify himself on the telephone, in line with Austrian custom.

Hundreds in India defied a curfew and army patrols to protest the killing, attacking police stations and torching the car of a senior officer and several trains. In two places police opened fire on mobs, wounding at least four people, said senior police officer Khubi Ram.

The violence in Indian centered on the north Indian town of city of Jalandhar, a stronghold of the Dera Sach Khand, a Sikh sect comprised of mainly "untouchables", or Dalits.

Worshipper Mohnder Ram, 72, who has lived in Vienna for decades, said the temple that was attacked had been attended by followers of Shri Guru Ravidas, the 14th-century founder of the sect. Witnesses said the group of bearded and turbaned men raided the temple as the preachers led several hundred worshippers in prayer. Followers moved to defend their leaders.

"I heard four to five shots" in the temple, said Ram. "People started screaming, children were crying as they ran out. It was like war. There was lots of blood everywhere."

Six suspects are in custody, including four wounded and in serious condition, police spokesman Michael Takacs said, adding that more may be detained. The wounded were all of Indian origin and aged between 30 and 50, said Bernhard Segall of Vienna medical services. The most serious wounds were caused by gunshots to the abdomen and head.

The temple is housed in a residential building of the working-class neighborhood of Vienna-Rudolfsheim.

Ram said about 400 people were at the service when the fight broke out; police put the number at between 150 and 300.

The scene was "like a battlefield," Takacs said.

Nearby resident Bimla Lalka said she saw seven or eight men with long beards and dark blue and orange turbans fleeing the building.

Sikhs make up less than 2 per cent of India's nearly 1.2 billion people.

Caste discrimination has been outlawed in India for more than a half century, and a quota system was established with the aim of giving Dalits a fair share of government jobs and places in schools. But their plight remains dire, living in poverty and kept down by ancient prejudice and caste-based politics.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee