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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technicians - Prestige Brand

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A passionate and experienced Head Chef i...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 Drivers

£31700 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist wholesaler owned and man...

Recruitment Genius: Laser and Router Operative

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser and Router Operative is...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones