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Dalits in Canada call Vienna killing 'act of terrorism'

world Updated: May 26, 2009 09:23 IST

Outraged by the killing of their spiritual leader Sant Rama Nand by Sikhs opposed to his sect in Vienna, the Ravidassia community of Canada has called it an act of terrorism and violation of their right to worship.

Considered to be one of their largest groups anywhere in the West, the Canadian Dalits number abou t 15,000.

Sant Rama Nand, 57, who headed Dera Sach Khand Ballan near Jalandhar, succumbed to his injuries on Monday in a hospital after he was attacked by a group of knife-wielding Sikhs inside a gurdwara in Vienna.

The sect's top leader, Sant Niranjan Dass, 68, and many others were also injured in the attack.

The two preachers were in Vienna to participate in annual celebrations of Ravidassia sect founder and 14th century mystic saint Guru Ravidass.

Paying tributes to their sect leader at a candle-light vigil in Vancouver on Monday night, the Ravidassia community - who refuse to be called Dalit Sikhs - said the killing of of their saint was "the negation'' of the Sikh spiritual values.

"The shooting of preachers is an act of terrorism and an attack on democracy and on people's right to worship,'' said Michael Ghirra, president of the local Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.

"Violence never leads to (any) healthy solution," said Surinder Ranga, president of Chetna Association of Canada which works for the emancipation of Dalits.

Since upper-caste Sikhs were allegedly behind the attack on their sect leader, the Canadian Dalits said 'those who mounted the attack in the presence of the holy Granth had no respect for Sikh maryada or code of conduct. They cannot be called Sikhs.'

They appealed to people in Punjab not to indulge in violence as their late sect leader "preached tolerance and respect for others".

The upper-caste Sikhs were apparently opposed to the opening of the Ravidassia temple - also known as Shri Guru Ravidass Sabhas in the western world.

The Ravidassia community of Canada plans to submit memorandums to the Indian and Austrian governments to bring the culprits to justice. The community has four shrines in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary.