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Central & South Asia

Sikhs clash at Golden Temple in Amritsar

At least 12 injured during clashes between sword-wielding Sikhs and guards of holy shrine on anniversary of 1984 raid.

Last updated: 06 Jun 2014 11:47
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A spokesperson said supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal turned violent and were chased away by guards [EPA]

At least 12 people have been injured during clashes which broke out between Sikhs at Amritsar's Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, the religion's holiest shrine, in northern India.

Kiran Jyoti Kaur, a spokesperson for the temple, told the AP news agency that members of a Sikh group brandishing swords and wooden sticks clashed on Friday with the guards of the shrine.

Hundreds of Sikhs had gathered at the temple to pay their respects to those killed in the June 6, 1984 raid of the temple by Indian troops, aimed at flushing out armed separatists demanding an independent Sikh homeland.

"Today we were supposed to have a solemn remembrance for the martyrs of 1984 so what has happened is very sad," Prem Singh Chandumajra, a spokesperson for a Sikh group called the Shiromani Akali Dal, whose supporters were involved in the clashes, told the AFP news agency. "The Temple has once again been dishonoured today." 

Independent homeland demanded

Television footage showed two groups of Sikhs sporting blue and saffron turbans chasing each other with swords on the marbled staircase of the shrine in Punjab state.

Al Jazeera Frames - The Golden Temple

Kaur said supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal, led by Simranjeet Singh Mann, turned violent and they were chased away by temple guards.

They were raising slogans for an independent homeland for the Sikhs.

Local television channel NDTV said the situation had soon been brought under control when extra security was deployed inside the temple.

Operation Blue Star, the 1984 Indian army operation to establish control over the shrine, was one of the most contentious episodes in India's battle against Sikh separatists in the 1980s.

The army's action, which left 400 people dead, enraged Sikhs who accused the troops of desecrating the shrine.

India's prime minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her own Sikh bodyguards in October 1984 in revenge for the operation.

Her assassination triggered mass anti-Sikh riots in which some 3,000 people were killed, many of them on the streets of the capital New Delhi.

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