Riot vans sent to Sikh temple after women denied vote

August 5, 2008 Source: www.dailymail.co.uk

Dozens of police in riot vans were called to a disturbance at a Sikh temple after women were denied the right to vote.

Trouble flared when 79 women were refused entry to vote in management elections at Bristol Sikh Temple on Sunday morning.

Worshippers began jostling each other and a pack of women surrounded a man's car and attempted to roll it over.
temple

Six riot vans were dispatched to close the road in Fishponds, Bristol, and one man was arrested and cautioned for a public order offence during the seven-hour stand-off.

Voting finally finished at 4pm and resulted in three women being voted onto the management committee for the first time in the temple's history.

Shopkeeper Paul Mathew , 52, who runs J and V Fine Foods 50 yards from the temple said: "It was terrifying. There were skirmishes and people pushing each other.

"A man caused trouble inside the temple then it spilled out onto the street."

"Women were blocking his car and trying to push it over while he was still inside clinging to the steering wheel.

"It was very frightening. People were jostling and using threatening words to each other.

"Women were shouting abuse at men and they were retaliating but I couldn't understand it because it was in their own language."  The dispute centres on two warring factions in the temple's 650-strong membership over whether women should take part in elections.

The situation came to a head when 79 women turned up to vote on Sunday morning.

Their opponents said they were not entitled to vote because they had not registered in advance.

Voting was due to start at 10am but it was delayed until midday when Chief Inspector Rob Dean of Avon and Somerset police arrived to mediate between the two sides.

One frightened elderly neighbour who watched the drama from her living room window said: "I saw a crowd of mainly women and children stood on one side of the road and men on the other."

"They were fronting each other up and shouting abuse across the road. The women were screaming 'we're not going anywhere'."

"It was really quite heated and there was a big scuffle of people that looked like it was going to turn nasty."

"There have been rows before that have spilled out onto the streets form the temple but never as big as this one."  

The fracas ended at around 5.30pm and when votes were counted three female candidates Anita Kaur, Sheila Kaur and Narinder Kaur, were elected to the management committee for the first time.

Temple spokesperson Satjeevan Kaur said the election was an historical moment for Sikh women in Bristol.

She added: "We are going to be equal to men and to make decisions equal to the men.

Jagbir Singh, 51 from Horfield, is a committee member at the temple and has been involved with it since 1977.

He said: "This is the first year we have ever had women voting at the temple but now a lot of extra women have come down at the last moment, after the end of the agreed time period for registration.

"A lot of time and effort has gone into this and it's been done very fairly."  Chief Inspector Dean said: "The elections were delayed for a variety of reasons and we have been involved in trying to help both parties through the negotiations.

"There are allegations of malpractice on both sides and our issue is to ensure that it doesn't come to violence.

"There are 650 registered members at the temple and, while this isn't an issue of the community against the police, there are two factions of the community here who can't reconcile their differences."

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