Indian American Sikh leader arrested for plotting to burn down Gurdwara in California



Rajvir Raj Singh Gill, a former Bakersfield City Council candidate, was arrested by the Bakersfield Police Department on March 4 for allegedly targeting one of Bakersfield’s largest Sikh places of worship, Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji Khalsa Darbar, and plotting to burn down the property.

The 60-year-old Indian American Sikh, Gill, has also been accused of allegedly attempting to hire hitmen to shoot members of one of Bakersfield’s largest Sikh temples and burn down the property, escalating a years-old conflict that has divided the congregation’s leadership and resulted in lawsuits in Kern County Superior Court.

Gill was arrested in connection with six counts of criminal threats after officers executed a search warrant at his residence, the report said. The Bakersfield Police Department said in addition to offering someone money in exchange for burning down the gurdwara, Mr. Gill tried to pay people to shoot others with whom he had an ongoing dispute with, portal reported.

Gill who won less than 7 percent of the vote in November’s Ward 7 election, was under a temporary restraining order not to harass the temple when Bakersfield police say he was taken into custody on Saturday, March 11, after being accused of six counts of solicitation to commit a criminal act. Records show he has since been released from jail.

Gill had run for City Council Ward 7 against Manpreet Kaur in 2022. Kaur won the election and became the first Sikh Punjabi woman elected to the Bakersfield City Council. Kaur, who won the seat for Ward 7, issued a statement: “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.”

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, including as recently as last fall Rep. David Valadao, Mayor Karen Goh, Assemblyman Vince Fong, and Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner.

An elder of the Sikh community, Sukhwinder Singh Ranghi, attributed the repeated confrontations to a dispute over more than $800,000, contributed by members of the congregation, that was supposed to reimburse a corporate entity set up to buy the temple out of foreclosure in July 2020. “It’s the greed that most likely got to him,” Ranghi was quoted in a report by

Ranghi said that the temple learned Gill offered $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, the report stated.

Gill instructed the men on how they could burn down the temple by exploiting faulty electrical wiring, installed by his own workers when the temple was built more than a decade ago, Ranghi alleged, and also showed part of a video of Gill unplugging microphones still in use during a religious service at the temple.

Court records say that when Shaheed was in danger of losing control of its property because of foreclosure proceedings, a plan was devised by the temple’s leadership in 2019 to have board members form a limited liability corporation that would buy the property at public auction and then return ownership to the temple’s nonprofit organization, the reported.

Shaheed won a restraining order against Gill in Kern County Superior Court that barred him from harassing or disturbing the peace of the temple or otherwise interfering with its daily operations.


Related posts