Police entered the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab, today and arrested a group of militant Sikh separatists who had attempted to take over the newly restored Akal Takht building, the seat of priestly authority in Sikhism.
The youths had forced out the five Sikh high priests who on Saturday had ceremoniously accepted charge of the building after the withdrawal of Indian Army troops. The youths then had raised the flag of "Khalistan," the separate state some Sikhs have demanded in the northern Indian state of Punjab.
The Army troops had controlled the 150-acre Golden Temple complex since June 6, when they stormed Sikhism's holiest shrine and, in a battle that cost an estimated 1,000 lives, crushed a guerrilla insurgency led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Sikh separatist leader, who was among those killed.
After a prayer ceremony today to mark the restoration of the heavily damaged Akal Takht building and its turnover to the priests, a group of youths shouting pro-Bhindranwale slogans forced their way into the shrine and demanded to know why all of the administrative buildings in the Golden Temple complex had not yet been formally handed over by the Army to the Sikhs' temple management committee.
Indian news agencies reported that some volunteer marshals of the temple management committee attacked the youths with lathis -- long wooden batons -- but failed to force them from the building.
Later, according to reports from Amritsar, police using lathis rushed the building, forced out the youths and rounded up more than 300 people.
Meanwhile, the government extended until Dec. 2 an order banning all foreigners, including journalists, from entering Punjab without a special permit. The Home Affairs Ministry has refused so far to grant permits to foreign journalists.