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Controversial Tempers Flare In Temple Dispute

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Tempers flare in temple dispute

'There's going to be violence after today'
<TABLE border=0 width="100%"><TBODY><TR><TD></TD></TR><TR><TD>Dalson Chen</TD></TR><TR><TD>The Windsor Star</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

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</TD></TR><TR><TD class=storycredit>CREDIT: Nick Brancaccio, The Windsor Star</TD></TR><TR><TD class=storycredit>Kooner supporter Deep Rai is restrained by friends as she as she tries to make a point with members of the Kandola group after a civil court proceeding at the Superior Court in Windsor on Tuesday.</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR><TR><TD><TABLE border=0 cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=2><TBODY><TR><TD>
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=storycredit>CREDIT: Nick Brancaccio, The Windsor Star</TD></TR><TR><TD class=storycredit>Kooner supporter Jita Rai makes a gesture at Harjinder Singh Kandola, centre, and Gurbax Singh Wahid, current executive members of Windsor's Sikh temple followng a civil court proceeding at the Superior Court on Tuesday.</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>The bitter legal war between two factions at Windsor's Sikh temple spilled into the street on Tuesday when critics confronted temple leaders outside the Superior Court of Justice.

"Who do you think you are?" shouted Jiti Rai at members of the temple's executive committee on the courthouse steps.

Another Sikh woman, Deep Rai, had to be restrained by others as she screamed in Punjabi and pointed at temple leaders. She then fell to the ground crying and refused to get up.

The commotion grew so vocal that a police officer assigned to the courthouse came out of the building to break up the crowd. "That's enough," yelled Const. Ken Haines. "Go home."

The emotional episode was the latest in the ongoing power struggle at Gurdwara Khalsa Parkash Windsor -- the sprawling, multimillion-dollar Sikh temple on County Road 42.

And Jiti Rai warned of trouble to come.

"You will not be surprised -- I think there's going to be violence after today," she said.

The temple's 1,000-strong membership has been divided since late last year when a new executive committee was acclaimed according to the Sikh society's constitution.

Supporters of the old guard -- namely Dr. Sukhdev Singh Kooner -- say the new leaders have been acting like dictators: installing surveillance cameras, contracting police officers and banishing opponents from temple property.

But the new executive committee -- president Mohinder Singh Kondola, his son Harjinder Singh Kondola and treasurer Gurbax Singh Wahid -- say their critics have been violent, disruptive, unlawful and unreasonable.

"They are acting like nothing else than a mob," Wahid said.
A previous court battle resulted in legal recognition of the Kondola group's right to leadership.

But then the Kooner faction held a non-confidence vote in an attempt to oust the Kondola group.

On Tuesday, the Kondola group applied by civil motion to disregard the non-confidence vote, saying that it wasn't organized in a fair and constitutional manner.

Windsor lawyer Raymond Colautti, representing the Kondola group, successfully argued that the executive committee should remain in place at least until the next court appearance on Oct. 15.

"The temple has simply got to keep functioning," he said.

Bhupinder Nagra, acting as an agent of Kooner-faction lawyer Patrick Ducharme, said the tension at the temple is a "special circumstance" and the executive committee should be removed until the legal proceedings are resolved.

She said the temple could be run in the interim by the priest and his assistants.

"I'm urging the court to help us keep the peace," she said. "The risk of someone acting out is actually quite high."

Colautti attributed the risk of violence to the Kooner faction. He said Wahid was assaulted by Kooner supporters.

"My clients have done nothing but adhere to the law," Colautti said.
"It's quite the opposite with the other party."

Justice Joseph Quinn said he could not follow Nagra's suggestion because the court has not received materials in support of it, whereas the current executive committee has already been recognized by law.

"I can't micro-manage this organization," Quinn told Nagra.

Meanwhile, a temple member who didn't want to be named said she is trying to remain neutral about the dispute -- but she feels the old guard needs to accept the new leaders.

"That's the ego. The old party has an ego," she said. "Dr. Kooner has big money.... He don't want to leave the power."

dchen@thestar.canwest.com or 519-255-5550

© The Windsor Star 2010




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