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Mourners pay homage to six Gurdwara shooting victims

August 10, 2012 21:22 IST

With a heavy heart and a prayer on their lips, hundreds of mourners gathered on Friday to pay their final respects to the six Sikhs gunned down by a white supremacist at a Gurdwara in Wisconsin.

Mourners gathered inside the Oak Creek High School gymnasium for the visitation and memorial service. Friends and family members brought the simple wooden caskets bearing the bodies of those killed into the school for their funeral.

The caskets were accompanied by some two dozen men, their heads covered in turbans. The men sang prayers during slow and emotional journeys from hearses to the gymnasium.

Flowers were arranged at the foot of each casket. Hundreds of people made their way inside. Everybody took off their shoes and covered their heads.

Worshippers were allowed back into the Gurdwara for the first time since Sunday's attack yesterday. United States Attorney General Eric Holder, deputed by US President Barack Obama, was to attend the memorial.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was expected to be among the attendees.

The 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, an ex-army veteran, went on a shooting spree killing six Sikhs on Sunday before dying of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. A number of priests read the Sikh holy book in a rite honouring the dead called 'Akhand Path'.

Organisers distributed orange and black scarves. Prabhjot Singh, co-founder and trustee of the Sikh Coalition said that today's visitation represents a time of healing and paying respects for those killed in Sunday's attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

"The religious ceremonies will be done privately over the next weeks," Singh was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying. "Not all of the victim families are here," he said. "Some are flying in from India."

Singh said it was 'very moving to see all Americans, Sikh Americans, white Americans, black Americans, together to pay their respects to Americans who have fallen'.

"Hate and the killer were not successful. He wanted to divide us and we came together," he said. A speaker at the ceremony told the mourners, "We are just here to pray for the departed souls. Everyone has to depart from this world."

The women were joined by the men, who chanted prayers as white sheets that adorned the top of each casket were pulled back, revealing the bodies of the dead.

Pictures of each of those killed were placed on stands above the casket. An American flag has been unfurled in the front of the gym, where the memorial was taking place, while a drummer kept up a soft, gentle beat.

The mourners honoured the memories of Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, Paramjit Kaur, 41, Sita Singh, 41, Ranjit Singh, 49, Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84. Three people, including a police officer, were critically injured in the shooting.

Four of the six dead in the rampage were Indian nationals.

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