A 60-year-old Sikh man of Indian origin has been arrested in the US for allegedly trying to hire people to shoot a number of people and set fire to a well-known Gurdwara in California, according to media sources.
Former Bakersfield City Council candidate Rajvir Raj Singh Gill was detained on March 4 on alleged charges of setting fire to Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji Khalsa Darbar, one of the major Sikh temples in the city, according to the bakersfield.com portal.
Once police carried out a search request at his home, Gill was arrested in connection with six counts of making criminal threats, according to the article.
The Bakersfield Police Department claimed that in addition to paying someone to burn down the gurdwara, Gill also tried to hire somebody to shoot persons that he was at odds, according to the 23abc.com portal.
Gill has attempted to challenge Manpreet Kaur in the 2022 race for Ward 7 of the City Council. The newspaper also stated that Kaur won the election and was the first Sikh Punjabi woman elected to the Bakersfield City Council.
Kaur, who won the seat for Ward 7, in a statement remarked, “I am aware of the alleged allegations. I am confident the Bakersfield Police department is working diligently to keep our community safe and will address the matter accordingly.
“Hearing this news is distressing and frightening. This is one of our most highly attended Sikh temples locally. To hear of an alleged attempt to destroy a place of worship is
heartbreaking and unfathomable,” she added.
Amrik Singh Athwal, a temple board member said, “He hired the people. Those people, whoever he hired, came and told us, and they made a report to the police. So, the police called us, and they got our information and everything and asked questions, and we told them what was going on, and that’s when everything happened.”
A spokesperson for the Bakersfield Police Department declined to comment on Tuesday’s allegations against Gill and would not go into further detail about the case.
A temple elder claimed on Tuesday that Gill had recently disrupted prayers, threatened members of the congregation, and been on the premises with a gun before being arrested at one point. His arrest prior to Saturday is not recorded.
The elder, Sukhwinder Singh Ranghi, ascribed the ongoing conflicts to a disagreement over more than USD 800,000, which had been donated by congregation members and was intended to pay back a corporate entity established to repurchase the temple from foreclosure in July 2020.
According to Ranghi, who was mentioned by bakersfield.com, “It’s the greed that most likely got to him.”
Ranghi claimed that the temple had learnt that Gill had paid two Hispanic individuals USD 10,000 in exchange for killing a number of congregational leaders who were parties to the legal disputes, including Ranghi.
He claimed that when Gill was driving the guys around the city, he pointed out the residences of the temple leaders whose lives he wished to end. The temple’s leadership received this information through a friend of the target hitmen.
Shaheed is one of Bakersfield’s busiest Sikh temples with more than 500 members. Every year in late October, it holds a festival that attracts thousands of people.
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