VIENNA — Sikhs wielding knives and a handgun attacked two preachers at a rival temple in Vienna in a brawl that left one of the victims dead and at least 15 others wounded, police said. A related clash later broke out in northern India.
Witnesses said a group of bearded and turbaned men attacked the religious leaders at the temple in Austria's capital on Sunday, and their followers moved to defend them.
The preachers were among the six people who suffered serious wounds and were identified by Indian diplomats and police as Niranjan Das and Sant Rama Nand.
A police official who declined to identify himself on the telephone, in line with Austrian custom, said early today that Nand, 57, died shortly after midnight.
Police spokesman Michael Takacs said the scene was "like a battlefield." Six suspects were in custody and more arrests were possible, he said.
Mohnder Ram, a worshiper who said he had lived in Vienna for decades and attended services at the temple every Sunday, said it is run by followers of Shri Guru Ravidas, a 14th-century founder of a Sikh sect called Dera Sach Khand.
In India, fighting between mainstream Sikhs and followers of the guru broke out in the northern city of Jalandhar several hours later in what locals there described as an apparent reaction to the melee in the Austrian capital. Sanjiv Kalra, a senior police official at Jalandhar, said protesters set fire to many vehicles and erected several roadblocks across the city. He gave no other details.
Witnesses said the perpetrators were fundamentalist Sikhs from a higher caste, who accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the Holy Book. Indian news reports said the attackers were incensed that one of the preachers was given a ceremonial shawl considered a high Sikh honor.