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How Kirpan-wielding 65-year-old gurudwara head was a hero in US attack

Tuesday, 7 August 2012 - 1:33pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: PTI
His heroism slowed down the racist killer, providing vital moments for women and children to flee the attacker and bolt themselves in rooms round the complex, US media reports said.

The 65-year-old head of the small US town Gurudwara turned out an unlikely hero of the Wisconsin shooting incident as he confronted the 'neo-Nazi' gunman with his kirpan to save dozens of women, children and other worshippers from being shot down.

Sadwant Singh Kaleka's, the head of the Wisconsin Gurudwara, unequal battle may not have lasted long as the 40-year-old former US Army 'psy-ops' veteran Wade Michael Page killed him mercilessly by his 9mm handgun.

But his heroism slowed down the racist killer, providing vital moments for women and children to flee the attacker and bolt themselves in rooms round the complex, US media reports said.

The women and children who were preparing meals for the congregation were in direct line of attack of the the gunman, but Kaleka's brave effort to stab Page to slow him down has won widespread acclaim and praise in Wisconsin.

"He turned into an unlikely hero to save the place which he had devoted to build," said Amardeep Kaleka, his son.

"Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover," he said.

Relatives said Kaleka was widely regarded as the founder of the Oak Creek temple that was attacked by Page, a disgraced former US army soldier and racist, who is widely thought to mistaken bearded and turban-wearing Sikhs for Muslims.

As Kaleka confronted the gunman, Page had already shot at least one person in the temple's car park. He then went on to kill six Sikh worshippers before going back outside to ambush the police when he heard approaching sirens.

The killer was then "put down" in a gunfight after severely wounding one police officer.

Kaleka and his family came to the United States from India in 1982. He built a successful business, and devoted every extra dollar he earned into building the Oak Creek Gurudwara.

Parishioners described him as the kind of man who, if you called him at two in the morning to say a light had gone out at the temple, would be there at 2:15 am to change the bulb.

In stark contrast, Page, 40, was a disgraced soldier, in the army from 1992 to 1998, before being discharged for a "pattern" of misconduct including drunkenness and going Awol.

Pictures show him heavily tattooed. Neighbours said that he had a tattoo commemorating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on his right arm, a common indicator of far-Right and anti-Muslim affiliations.




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