AMRITSAR, INDIA — A radical Hindu leader was shot dead in full public view in India on Friday as he protested the alleged desecration of his faith’s idols, police said.
Sudhir Suri, 58, the self-styled leader of a fundamentalist religious group, Hindu Shiv Sena, was killed in the northern city of Amritsar — the site of the Sikh faith’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple.
“The assailant arrived on the spot and shot him dead in full public view,” top police officer Arun Pal Singh told AFP, adding Suri had been shot several times.
The attacker was detained at the scene and was found to be carrying a licensed weapon, he said.
Suri, who according to local media reports enjoyed police protection, had sparked the anger of many Sikhs who accused him of making derogatory remarks about their faith and community.
Media reports said that he was shot while protesting against what he claimed was the discovery of desecrated Hindu idols on a rubbish dump in the city.
In 2020, Suri was arrested after enraged members of the Sikh community in India and abroad accused him of denigrating women and disparaging their faith in a video widely shared over social media.
He was again arrested on similar accusations in July.
Amritsar has seen several instances of religiously motivated killings in recent years.
In September, a young man was hacked to death in full public view after being accused of being drunk and chewing tobacco near the Golden Temple.
Three members of a radical Sikh warrior sect known for its puritanical moral code were arrested for the murder.
Last year a crowd beat a man to death on the grounds of the shrine after he jumped over a railing and approached the holy book with a sword.
The protection of shrines is a highly sensitive issue for the Sikh faith, and the consumption of tobacco, liquor or drugs on holy ground is considered an act of desecration.
The then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 after she ordered a brutal army assault on the Golden Temple to flush out separatists.
Her killing sparked a bloody pogrom in the capital New Delhi which left nearly 3,000 Sikhs dead.__VOA News