Bedford, cleveland, January 02, 2005
Plain Dealer Reporter
The new year at the Sikh temple on Tarbell Avenue
began with an old feud over voting rights and tradition.
A group saying they were the newly elected leaders
of the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Temple grabbed the microphone
at the midnight prayer service, then returned to the
temple later Sunday to continue their takeover.
For two hours, men from both sides traded angry words
and snapped photographs of each other, as women and
children milled about and police appealed for calm.
In the past, fights have broken out, and people have
"The Police Department can't settle this. This
has been going on for two years. We're here to keep
the peace," said Bedford Police Chief Greg Duber,
who arrived in street clothes after officers contacted
him at home.
The dispute is between longtime members of the temple,
who view themselves as modern Sikhs not bound by rules
regarding dress, and more numerous newcomers, who
favor a return to tradition, including beards and
turbans. The longtime leadership also restricts who
can be a voting member.
Police finally left Sunday after the longtime leaders
agreed to leave the temple, which opened in 1992 and
has from 250 to 400 members. The five-member executive
committee that took over this weekend stayed.
The feud, which is working its way through the courts,
came to a head this weekend because the temple's constitution
calls for new leaders to take office Jan. 1.
A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge ruled
in September that the temple's membership could be
expanded with the many newcomers and all members are
entitled to vote and view financial records. That
paved the way for the new leadership.
But the old leaders filed a notice of appeal. Until
the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals rules, the
leadership should remain in place, argued Gursharan
Gill, one of the ousted leaders.
"Whatever the decision is, we will abide by
it," he said.
Azaad Khaira represents the new leadership. He said
that Gill and the others are dragging their feet with
the appeal, and their disregard for wearing beards
is an insult to the prophet Jesus Christ.
The religion began about 500 years ago in the Punjab
region of India
"They say there are modern Sikhs. There is no
such thing," said Khaira, editor and publisher
of The Asian Leader.
For about five minutes, the two sides appeared to
be one. As the priest, also called religious worker,
began praying in the upstairs sanctuary, his voice
was piped downstairs through the speakers.
Gill and the others grew quiet, folded their hands
and joined in prayer.