Sikh leader Rajvir Singh Gill arrested for plotting to burn down prominent Gurdwara in US appears in court
New York: A 60-year-old Indian-origin Sikh leader, who was earlier this year arrested for plotting to burn down a prominent Gurdwara in the US state of California has appeared in court to set his preliminary hearing dates.
Rajvir Singh Gill, former Bakersfield City Council candidate, on August 17 appeared for his set preliminary hearing after being arrested on March 4 for allegedly targeting one of Bakersfield’s largest Sikh places of worship, Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji Khalsa Darbar, and burning down the property, 23ABC News reported on Friday.
He is accused of attempting to hire people to shoot others and burn down the local Sikh temple.
Gill is expected to be back in the Kern County court for a motion on August 31, the report said.
He will also be in court for his preliminary hearings on October 5 and 6.
Gill had attempted to run for City Council Ward 7 against another Indian-origin candidate, Manpreet Kaur in 2022.
Kaur won the election and was the first Sikh Punjabi woman elected to the Bakersfield City Council.
Kaur, who won the seat for Ward 7, had then said: “I am aware of the alleged allegations. I am confident the Bakersfield Police Department is working diligently to keep our community safe and will address the matter accordingly. Hearing this news is distressing and frightening.
“This is one of our most highly attended Sikh temples locally. To hear of an alleged attempt to destroy a place of worship is heartbreaking and unfathomable,” she said in a statement.
“He hired the people. Those people, whoever he hired, came and told us and they made a report to the police. So, the police called us and they got our information and everything and asked questions and we told them what’s going on, and that’s when everything happened,” said Amrik Singh Athwal, a temple board member.
A Bakersfield Police Department spokesman had declined to address what may have prompted Gill to take the actions he is accused of, and he would not elaborate on the case.
Another elder, Sukhwinder Singh Ranghi, attributed the repeated confrontations to a dispute over more than USD 800,000, contributed by congregation members, that was supposed to reimburse a corporate entity set up to buy the temple out of foreclosure in July 2020.
Ranghi said the temple learned Gill offered USD 10,000 to two Hispanic men to kill certain leaders of the congregation who are involved in the court cases, including Ranghi.
He said Gill drove the men around the city pointing out the homes of the temple leaders he wanted to be killed. This information came to temple leadership from an associate of the intended hitmen.
With more than 500 members, Shaheed is one of Bakersfield’s best-attended Sikh temples. It hosts an annual celebration in late October that draws thousands. PTI PY PY PY