A commemoration of a military raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, went awry Friday, as rival groups of Sikhs clashed at the shrine. Ceremonial swords and staffs were swung in anger, resulting in injuries and panic.
The violence broke out after a group of “radical Sikh activists” wanted to brandish their swords and chant slogans calling for a separate Sikh homeland, or Khalistan, according to the Times of India. The newspaper says at least 12 people were injured.
Other news outlets say the clash followed an argument over who would be allowed to speak at the event, and in what order.
Video from the shrine shows tightly packed groups of agitated men wearing orange, yellow or blue turbans, yelling and arguing in the shrine complex as sword fights broke out. As the sound of clanging metal rang out, attendees rushed to get out of the way of the blows. In one sequence that recalled a scene from an old movie, men swung swords at one another as they fought their way up and down a staircase.
The violence came after hundreds of Sikhs had gathered to commemorate the 1984 Operation Blue Star attack on the complex that houses the holiest Sikh shrine.
Hundreds of people died in that episode 30 years ago, when, as the Times of India says, “Heavily armed terrorists, led by separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, were flushed out of the Golden Temple complex by the Indian Army. … The then prime minister Indira Gandhi had ordered the Army operation.”
As the Two-Way reported earlier this year, recently uncovered documents also outlined a British involvement in the 1984 crackdown, which had dramatic aftershocks that included the assassination of Prime Minister Gandhi in what is widely seen as a retaliation for the attack.
“Today we were supposed to have a solemn remembrance for the martyrs of 1984, so what has happened is very sad,” said Prem Singh Chandumajra, a spokesman for Punjab state’s ruling party, according to the BBC. “The temple has once again been dishonored today.”