Violent fight erupts at Rich Hill Sikh temple

Violent fight erupts at Rich Hill Sikh temple
Gurnam Singh (l.) and Harinder Singh were two of eight Sikhs arrested following a fight that broke out at the Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Sikh Center in Richmond Hill. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
By Howard Koplowitz

Two warring factions of a Sikh temple literally came to blows Sunday during a melee involving swords, box cutters, sticks and cricket bats inside the Richmond Hill gurdwara, leading to the arrests of eight people, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Former City Council candidate and Community Board 13 member Swaranjit Singh said there are two factions within the Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Sikh Center — one loyal to President Jarnail Singh and another to Gurmej Singh.

Jarnail Singh was “supposed to leave his post” after his one-year term expired and that Gurmej Singh is “supposed to be the president, legally,” Swaranjit Singh said. “It’s a power struggle between two groups. It’s people’s egos,” Swaranjit Singh said. “It’s a bad thing.”

Jarnail Singh could not be reached for comment.

The battle started when Harinder Singh entered the Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Sikh Center, at 114-13 101st Ave. in Richmond Hill, between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and allegedly told worshiper Joghinder Singh, “I’m going to kill you,” before punching the victim in the face, causing pain, swelling and a cut above his right eye, according to the criminal complaint.

At around 10 a.m., Raghbib Singh and Harpreet Singh started screaming and yelling inside the gurdwara, where a religious service was taking place, the complaint said.

Joghinder Singh returned to the gurdwara between 11 a.m. and 11:59 a.m., brandishing a sword while Gurcharan Singh, another man named Gurcharan Singh and Sukhwinder Singh burst in with swords, box cutters and cricket bats, according to the criminal complaint.

Joghinder Singh is accused of striking a worshiper in the face and head with the sword while the other men is charged with hitting the victim in the body, the complaint said, cutting the victim above his eye and head and breaking his finger, the complaint said.

In the middle of the fight, Joghinder Singh allegedly yelled at Gurmej Singh, who had an order of protection against Joghinder Singh and was outside the temple, to “come inside, I’m waiting for you.”

Sikh community leader and Community Board 8 member Jagir Singh Bains, who is not a member of the gurdwara, said he was ashamed of the incident.

“It’s a bad name to the community, no matter what temple you belong to,” he said. “Anyone with a turban and beard, [people] will think these people keep on fighting each other.”

All eight men were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on charges ranging from assault to resisting arrest and released on their own recognizance, the DA’s spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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