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Priests Arrested From Winnipeg's Nanaksar Gurdwara

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Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 31, 2006

Photo: Nanaksar Gurdwara, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Members of a small Sikh temple are dismayed after charges of sexual misconduct were laid by police against three of its priests.

'Everybody's shocked . . . this was the last thing that would have ever popped into my mind,' said one member of Gurdwara Nanaksar, located on St. David Road in St. Vital.

'There's a massive uproar - sex is not talked about . . . it's a very taboo topic,' he said.

Gurdwara Nanaksar is one of only 17 temples of its kind worldwide - it is affiliated with a specific Sikh sect, Nanaksar Satsang Sabha.

Priests at the temple are expected to be celibate, and from as young as age eight lead a monastic life of meditation and prayer, the member said.

'(The priests) are raised in the temples - they don't have a choice in whether they are celibate or not,' he said. According to the member, the priests in question are believed to still be conducting religious ceremonies at the temple, but in a limited capacity preventing them from having contact with minors.

Others in the Sikh community worried about the scars the charges may leave on the reputation of the nearly 15,000 Sikhs in Winnipeg.

'This is very bad . . . any allegations of this kind reflect bad on the community as a whole,' said Mohinder Singh Dhillon, who worships at Singh Sabha, a mainstream Sikh temple on Sturgeon Rd.

Describing Winnipeg's small sect, consisting of fewer than 300 members, as 'not for the general public, but run for certain people,' Singh Dhillon referred to the priests as 'temporary - they are recalled (to Punjab) every three or four years.'

Paramjit Gill said it's the first kind of incident he's heard involving members of his community, and hoped for a full inquiry into the allegations.

'The Sikh people will not tolerate any incidents like this in our religion,' he said.

Winnipeg police said the priests were arrested last weekend and were released on a promise to appear in court.

Sgt. Kelly Dennison added the charges are linked to an alleged kidnapping occurring earlier this month. The Free Press previously reported that on Dec. 14, a man armed with a sword and another man armed with a tire iron allegedly kidnapped two priests from the temple. The men drove them to a residence in the Waverley area where they allegedly physically assaulted the priests.

Jeewan Jyot Kahlon, 24, and Amandeep Singh Chana, 25, both face charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

At the time, police said a 'personal dispute' was behind the incident and the victims knew their attackers.

'It's one big sordid soap opera,' Dennison said Saturday, noting police would not elaborate on the case. 'This is historical. It goes back over time.'

The temple is one of three of its kind in Canada - the others are in Brampton, Ont., and Surrey, B.C.

Winnipeg's Gurdwara Nanaksar began in 1982.