Sikh Kirpan : Religious freedom versus security

Sikh Kirpan : Religious freedom versus security

KARACHI: A delegation of elders of Sikh community, were stopped by the security personnel of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for an hour outside National Museum of Pakistan on Monday for carrying a Kirpan (a ceremonial dagger).
Sikhs were allowed after the intervention of the high officials, but were brought into the ceremony along with security personnel. Sikhs have protested over such attitude.
Sindh Culture Adviser Sharmila Farooqi arranged a ceremony on Monday to celebrate the birthday of country founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and also Christmas with Christian community, both are being observed on Wednesday (December 25) at National Museum of Pakistan. To express solidarity with Christians and to promote religious harmony among the minority communities, officials of Sindh Culture Department invited members from other religious minority communities of the city, including Sikhs and Hindus.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was supposed to preside the ceremony and due to his presence, security was beefed up at the museum; therefore when the delegation of elders of Sikh community lead by Sardar Ramesh Singh, Chairman of Pakistan Sikh Council reached the museum, they were stopped by the security personnel.
Following the action, members of Sikh delegation refused to remove their sacred religious symbol and thus were not allowed to enter the premises.
"They [security personnel] asked us to remove our Kirpan saying that it is a security risk, and when we refused to remove it (because as per the teachings of our Guru, we have to wear it our entire life) they refused to let us pass through for attending the ceremony and made us stand outside for around an hour," said Sardar Ramesh Singh.
Though, the members of Sikh delegation handed over their cell phones to the security personnel, they were ordered to remove their daggers as well.
"We personally informed Sharmila Farooqi about this attitude, but even then no action was taken. Just when we were going to boycott the ceremony, officials of Sindh Culture Department interrupted, and after a long debate, we were allowed to attend the ceremony," informed Sardar Ramesh.
However, that was not the end of it, he said, "Two armed security personnel flanked us as we were forced to sit on the back seats under their vigilant eyes. It was an insult and even we are not taken to the stage."
He said it was the first time in his life, that anywhere in Pakistan, he was stopped for carrying his scared religious symbol. "Just a few days ago, our Sikh friends attended a ceremony arranged by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharrif, they were not asked to remove the Kirpan, therefore it is strange and we protest over such attitude," he added. 
According to Sikhism, all Amritdhari (initiated or baptised) Sikhs have to wear the five religious articles of faith, which are Kesh (long hair), Kara (iron or steel bangle), Kangha (wooden comb), Kaccha (prescribed under shorts) and Kirpan (sword). For Sikhs these religious articles have deep spiritual and practical significance in Sikhism. These Amritdhari Sikhs wear all these articles round the clock for their entire life.
In different countries, for Amritdhari Sikhs there are special permissions to carry all these items even in premises that are considered most secured and prohibit certain items, which can be used as weapons.
Though, Kirpan, which can be a dagger or even sword, is just like a weapon, it is used as a religious symbol, therefore no country currently issues any license to carry a Kirpan.
In USA, under the law, Sikhs can carry a Kirpan with a less than 2.5 inches blade even in the premises of buildings secured under federal laws.
Australian law allows Sikhs to carry a Kirpan in a manner that does not cause someone any injury or harm, and neither fear of being injured or harmed.
But in Pakistan, as the Sikhs are a tiny minority and according to official data, only constitute a total of 6,000 community members, (disputed by Sikh who claim to be 15,000) there are no laws on carrying the Kirpan.


Security personnel asked us to remove our Kirpan saying that it is a security risk, and when we refused to remove it (because as per the teachings of our Guru, we have to wear it our entire life) they refused to let us pass through for attending the ceremony and made us stand outside for around an hour”


Sardar Ramesh Singh : Chairman of Pakistan Sikh Council 

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