Punjab to pay for transporting bodies of gurdwara victims

The Punjab government Tuesday said it would bear the entire expenditure of transporting the bodies of those who were killed when a gunman opened fire at devotees at a gurdwara in the US state of Wisconsin. 

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was himself headed for Wisconsin for the wedding function of cabinet colleague Surjit Singh Rakhra's niece, said the Punjab government would bear the cost of transporting the bodies to India for the last rites as a mark of respect.

A lone gunman, Wade Michael Page, described as a white supremacist, Sunday morning opened fire at devotees in the gurdwara in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, spreading terror in the area and leaving the community stunned. He killed six people before he was shot dead.

According to a spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office, Badal contacted Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao Monday night to tell her that the state government would extend all possible help to the  bereaved families of the victims of the incident.

"The chief minister sought cooperation from the Indian  embassy in the US to facilitate the smooth transportation of the bodies by keeping  close liaison with the concerned agencies in the US government," the spokesperson said.

On Monday, Badal had visited the residence of two brothers, Sita Singh and Ranjit Singh, of New Delhi's Tilak Nagar who were  killed in the shootout.

He has also announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs.100,000 each for the next of kin of the Sikh  victims killed in the incident.

The six killed were Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84 and one woman, 41-year-old Paramjit  Kaur.

While brothers Sita Singh and Ranjit Singh hailed from  New Delhi, Parkash Singh was from Hardwar district (Uttrakhand), Paramjit Kaur  was from Punjab's Ludhiana district while Suveg Singh was from  Patiala.

In Patiala town, relatives of Satwant Singh Kaleka, the  president of the Oak Creek gurdwara, who was killed while bravely fighting the  gunman, are in a state of shock.

Kaleka, who had migrated with his family to the US  in 1982 and was a successful businessman there, was the brother-in-law of Punjab minister Rakhra. Family and friends, many of whom were going for the wedding of his niece in Wisconsin, were shocked by the turn of events.

"Everyone was getting ready for Rakhra Sahib's niece's  wedding and now this tragedy has hit the family," a relative in Patiala town, 80 km from here, said.

Eyewitnesses inside the gurdwara had told police that Kaleka, a deeply religious man, bravely fought the gunman with a knife  before falling to gunshot wounds. He had been one of the main founders of the  gurdwara on a sprawling 10-acre campus.

"We are proud of the bravery and courage that my brother  showed to stop the attacker," Kaleka's brother Amarjit Singh said in  Patiala.

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