55 people have been arrested following an eight-hour armed protest of a “mixed marriage” at a Sikh temple in Leamington, Warwickshire.
The men, described as “fanatical extremists” by a trustee of the temple, are believed to have entered the Gurdwara Sahib in Tachbrook Park Drive at around 6:45am Sunday morning to protest the wedding of a Sikh bride and a Hindu groom.
The protestors, who were carrying ceremonial Sikh blades and other knives, occupied the foyer forcing the postponement of the ceremony. Officers and religious leaders entered the temple in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution.
Warwickshire Police stated that the incident was being treated as an “aggravated trespass” and that it was part of an “ongoing local dispute” and was not linked to terrorism.
A spokesman for the force added: “We believe that some of the men are in possession of bladed items and as such armed officers have been deployed to the scene.”
Jatinder Singh Birdi, a former treasurer at the temple, said that mixed marriages have been a contentious issue, with a minority opposing using the temple for such services.
“There have been tensions that have been going on for a couple of years with some people objecting to mixed marriages taking place in the gurdwara,” he said.
“The general consensus is people are respectful of mixed marriages if the traditions are respected. Nothing has happened on this level before. This is meant to be one of the happiest moments of somebody’s life – it shows a lack of respect.”
Following the arrests, a trustee of the temple, who asked not to be named, told the Guardian: “[The fantatics] pushed around a couple of people, grabbed a tie, grabbed someone’s phone and they were trying to threaten people.
“People were scared. When a normal person goes to the Gurdwara they go to pray and be at peace. People are really, really annoyed with them.”
This is reportedly the fourth time in recent months that a group of men had attempted to gain entry to the Gurdwara over the issue of mixed marriages; however on previous occasions temple security staff have been able to repel the intruders.