Violence erupts at Yuba City, CA, Gurdwara

"Karm Bains, left, looks on Saturday night as law enforcement personnel investigate two stabbings following a meeting at a Sikh temple in Yuba City." (Nate Chute/Appeal-Democrat)

“Karm Bains, left, looks on Saturday night as law enforcement personnel investigate two stabbings following a meeting at a Sikh temple in Yuba City.” (Nate Chute/Appeal-Democrat)

On Saturday night, news broke about a brawl that occurred outside the Gurdwara in Yuba City, California — the same that hosted the Sikh Parade in Yuba City last week — that required police action:

Two men were stabbed, a third was assaulted, more than a dozen were pepper-sprayed and several others were hurt Saturday night during a brawl outside the Tierra Buena Sikh Temple in Yuba City.

“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened here,” said Dave Chima, a temple director. “It’s just awful.”

No arrests were made, the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department said.

That such violence would occur at a Gurdwara is nothing less than shameful for all involved. It is even more disappointing that these situations are not unheard of among our Gurdwaras, as we saw similar events occur in El Sobrante, California, during the summer, and in an altercation in a Gurdwara in New York that became a viral video last year.

As the central space for any Sikh community, the stake behind most of these conflicts is the control of a Gurdwara and its finances, which in large part is sourced by donations from the congregation. In the case of this Yuba City Gurdwara, the control has been playing out in the courts:

In September, a Sutter County judge denied a petition from five board members seeking to force the election of a new board in December. Control of the 73-member board has been at the heart of the controversy.

Deputies have been called to the temple multiple times in recent months to prevent violence.

Lines have been drawn between a group in power that includes board President Paul Purewal and an opposition group, led by longtime director Karm Bains, among others, the leading voice behind the legal petition earlier this year.

The opposition group wants to force an election of new directors, while the group in power voted earlier this year to scrap the election, calling it an unnecessary expense, and voted to extend their own term limits by another two years.

I am constantly left astonished at the selfish ambition that is behind these situations. Quite often, these conflicts occur because territorial and power-hungry individuals within the community have decided that their own egos are more important than the sanctity of our sacred spaces. The seats on Gurdwara management committees are highly coveted by many within the community — indeed, the Gurdwara in Yuba City has a 73-member Board of Directors, and yet it appears there still is a shortage of seats. One must wonder why the demand for management is so high that individuals are brawling over elections. Evidently, the sense of community fostered by the Sikh Parade only the week before had a short shelf life.

And, in the aftermath of this latest incident, we must ask ourselves again: what is our role as a community in addressing this plague of violence by those who we select to manage our institutions?


  1. This is disgraceful and disgusting. No matter what the provocation, we need to conduct ourselves like civilized human beings. How can we ask the public and the police to trust us with kirpans when we act like this among ourselves?

  2. HS Vachoa

    If you read the constitutions of gurdwaras in America, they encourage ruffians and tribalistic people to rule us. It is nothing but tribalistic power structure.

  3. Pingback: Director arrested after violence at Yuba City, CA, Gurdwara « American Turban

  4. HS Vachoa

    Well, have you ever seem two political parties formed within a same organization, except Gurdwaras?

    That answer would tell where the problem really lies.

    The constitutions of our Gurdwaras don’t mention any objective to serve the democratic needs of the broader society, and remain highly disengaged from participating in the broader society. We elect incompetent managers and not representatives, who have no responsibility towards our interest in this society.

    As such, most of our Sikh activities remain confined to jatha, group, tables or chairs, meat or no meat, with an insulated reliance on divisive ritualism to become managers.


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