AMRITSAR, India – Indian police said on Friday they had arrested three members of a radical Sikh sect accused of hacking to death a young man for chewing tobacco near the Golden Temple, the faith’s holiest shrine.
Harmanjeet Singh, 22, was killed after an altercation with three Nihangs – a radical Sikh warrior sect known for dressing in blue robes, carrying swords, and a puritanical moral code.
The trio had accused Singh of being drunk and consuming tobacco – both prohibited under the religion’s codes of conduct.
“The incident occurred in full public view,” Amritsar police commissioner Arun Pal Singh told reporters Thursday, a day after the murder.
“Onlookers watched the entire episode at Kahia Wala Bazar on Wednesday night and did not come forward to prevent it.”
Police arrested all three men by Friday afternoon, officers told AFP.
The protection of shrines is a highly sensitive issue for the Sikh faith, and the consumption of tobacco, liquor or drugs on a holy site is considered an act of desecration.
The killing took place in a market just a few minutes’ walk from the Golden Temple, the headquarters of the religion’s most senior clergy and home of its holy book of scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 after she ordered a brutal army assault on the Golden Temple to flush out separatists.
Her killing sparked a bloody pogrom in the capital New Delhi which left nearly 3,000 Sikhs dead.
Last year a crowd beat a man to death on the grounds of the Golden Temple after he jumped over a railing and approached the holy book with a sword. AFP