Greenwood police meeting with Sikh temple members to prevent future violence

GREENWOOD, Ind. – Greenwood police hope more conversations and understanding will lead to less fighting at the city’s Sikh temple on Graham Road.

A disturbance that escalated into a massive brawl Sunday afternoon resulted in nine injuries and a large response from several police and fire departments.

“I was called by our dispatch center and they told me they had dispatched every car in the county,” said Greenwood Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth. “We certainly needed more manpower to help calm and disperse the crowd. That’s a lot of people.”

Investigators say tensions at the Gurdwara Shri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji temple have been building for several weeks. The tension revolves around leadership elections, which are held every two years at the temple. Similar fights have broken out at the temple in recent years, and Greenwood police responded to disturbance at the temple one week before Sunday’s incident.

Fillenwarth has reviewed portions of security video from inside the Temple. He says early reports of sword fights were not accurate, and stemmed from some confusion as the large situation was still developing. He says some ceremonial swords were present during the fight, but none were actually used to injure anyone.

“I saw none of that,” he said. “We didn’t have anyone stabbed.”

Temple member Balwinder Singh says the fight was started by a group of former members who used to be in charge at the temple. He says the outside group is trying to regain control of the temple and use it for political purposes. He says the former members had been previously trespassed from the property.

“They called a mob from outside the state, from Cincinnati, all over the state, and bring those people attack on us,” Singh said.

Greenwood police spent all day Monday meeting with temple members to better understand the ongoing conflict and deescalate the situation.

“Both parties or sides don’t have to necessarily like what’s going on, I guess,” Fillenwarth said. “But we can’t have fighting and people getting hurt.”

In the meantime, Singh says the current climate has some members feeling nervous about more violence.

“Of course we want our members safe, safety is first,” Singh said. “We want to make sure every child who comes in this Gurdwara is safe. So we have to handle the way that we can to keep that people out from this temple.”