Murdered sect leader’s remains to be brought to India

May 31st, 2009 - 6:12 pm ICT by IANS  

By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, May 31 (IANS) The remains of Dera Sachh Khand leader Ramanand Dass, who was killed in a clash at a gurdwara here, will be brought to India by sect head Niranjan Dass in a few days, an Austrian official said Sunday. The killing had sparked widespread violence in the Indian state of Punjab.

An Austrian official told IANS that in a meeting with Indian embassy officials Saturday night it was decided that Niranjan Dass will carry back the remains of Ramanand, 56.

The clash had taken place May 24 at the gurdwara run by devotees of Guru Ravidass, a 14th century Indian saint. Six men brandished knives and opened fire at the Sunday sermon at the gurdwara, leading to Ramanand’s death.

Six people have been arrested for their suspected role in the clash that injured at least 15 people. During the melee, members of the congregation pounced upon the attackers and overpowered them, beating some severely.

Niranjan Dass, who was speaking at the gurdwara, was stable after undergoing emergency surgery.

Niranjan Dass received bullet wounds in the abdomen and hip and was immediately operated upon. He is recovering in a hospital. He is not allowed visitors but met Austrian officials and Indian embassy officials last Tuesday.

“There are many things that still have to be discussed before we reveal the exact date of departure of Niranjan Dass from Vienna next week. He will carry the remains of Guru Ramanand Dass with him,” said Austrian police spokesman Michael Takacs.

Photographs of Niranjan Dass recovering in hospital were released May 26 when Deputy chief of the Indian mission Achal Malhotra appeared on Austrian television to say that he had met and talked to the sect leader.

Takacs said Niranjan Dass’ date of departure will be scheduled after consultations with doctors attending on him.

Takacs added that one of the wounded persons, suspected to have led the attack on the two sect leaders visiting from India, was shot in the head and remains in a coma at a Vienna hospital.

The police said the five other attackers are of Indian origin and were asylum seekers in Austria. Without legal documents except for asylum papers, it took nearly three days to identify the suspects.

Police authorities say that investigations continue in an effort to find out the exact reason for the violence that erupted in the midst of a congregation of about 200 people, including women and children.

India has requested Austria for a detailed report on the incident.

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