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.
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?