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Two Arrested For Stabbings at Yuba City Gurdwara

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 | 05:12 pm

Mangal Singh Sanghera, 43, left, and Parminder Singh Kooner, 47, right, were arrested and released on bail in the past week in connection with stabbings during a melee at the Yuba City, California, gurdwara on Tierra Buenna Road.

Photo Source: Sutter County Sheriff's Department

Two men were arrested and released on bail in the past week in connection with stabbings during a large brawl outside the Yuba City, California, gurdwara that emerged from an election dispute.

Mangal Singh Sanghera, 43, was arrested on Nov. 14 and released on bail on Nov. 16. He posted 10 percent of the $80,000 bond, a clerk of the superior court told SikhNN. Parminder Singh Kooner, 47, was arrested on Nov. 19 and released on bail on Nov. 20. Both are from Yuba City and both were charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

According to the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department, deputies responded to a call shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11, of a large brawl involving 50 to 100 people fighting with sticks at the Tierra Buena Sikh Temple.

Sanghera is accused of stabbing Balbir Bains, 46, of Yuba City, in the stomach. Bains was treated at the Rideout Memorial Hospital and released, said Capt. Lewis McElfresh, spokesman for the sheriff’s department.

Kooner turned himself in after the sheriff’s department contacted his attorney. He is accused of stabbing Ajaib Malhi, 30, also of Yuba City, in the back. Malhi spent three days at the UC Davis Medical Center, McElfresh said.

Both victims identified their attackers.

“I’m sure many more were hurt,” McElfresh told SikhNN. “It was a pretty good melee.” But these two were the only complaints filed, he said.

The fighting stems from a gurdwara election dispute.

“It (elections) costs too much money,” said Rashpal Purewal, president of the gurdwara. An independent, private company charges $150,000 to run the elections.

Earlier this year, the 73-member board of directors voted to extend gurdwara elections from every four years to every six years. The opposing members filed a lawsuit, and lost the case. Now they are asking for a general body meeting to vote on the issue, Purewal said.

There are two factions at the gurdwara, he added. One is aligned to Purewal and the other is aligned to Didar Singh Bains, the wealthiest farmer in California. One of the victims of the violence, Balbir Bains, is Didar Singh’s nephew, he said.

Everyone used to say this is “Didar’s gurdwara,” Purewal told SikhNN. He controlled the gurdwara for 35 years. The sangat held its first election four years ago, when a new management took over. Now everyone says this is the “sangat’s gurdwara,” he said.

Purewal’s father and uncle donated the land for the gurdwara more than 40 years ago, when he was a teenager. Other people also donated a lot of money for the building. Didar Singh came many years later.

“He did a lot of good work,” Purewal said. “(But) certain factions can’t handle” that he is gone.

Many attempts to reach Balbir or Didar Singh Bains for comment were unsuccessful.

On Sunday evening, Nov. 11, at about 6:30 p.m., lawyers for both sides, Purewal, and Sanghera were among a group of people meeting inside the gurdwara about holding the general body meeting. Members of the opposition gathered outside, and a fight erupted.

“All I saw was chaos outside,” Purewal said. The police and gurdwara security were trying to control the violence.

“I am ashamed of both sides that it should not come to this,” he said.
“It is very sad. People run away from this.

“The best option is to have a public meeting,” he added. “If they want an election, they can have an election, if they have a quorum.” The gurdwara has 4,500 members.

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