Perry Chiaramonte and John Doyle, New York Post, April 25, 2011
A holy war erupted yesterday at a Sikh temple in Queens–where worshippers wielding swords and cricket bats interrupted a prayer session to attack their rivals in a vicious power struggle, police and witnesses said.
Rival factions at the Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Sikh Center in South Richmond Hill have been bickering for months over control, authorities and members said.
The dispute reached a bloody climax yesterday when the infighting turned violent, accompanied by screams, taunts and death threats.
The alleged attackers–armed with at least one sword about 40 inches long, and another sword, according to a witness–were part of the old guard that had been recently voted out of power but refused to accept the decision, even going to court to challenge the election.
Police had been deployed outside the two-story center in case anything happened, but the violence broke out inside.
The attackers brought the long sword and at least one other blade, as well as a hammer, mallet and cricket bats to the temple at 101st Avenue and 114th Street at around 11 a.m., witnesses and police said.
Three people were reported injured, including a cop who tried to intervene, police said.
Seven people were arrested, including Harinder Singh, 47, who was charged with assault after allegedly punching a man in the eye. Others were charged with unlawful assembly, resisting arrest, rioting, and disrupting a religious service.