New Delhi: The imposition of a ban on baptized Sikh students wearing kirpan, one of five Kakkar’s of Sikhs, by the New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has snowballed into a major controversy as not only the Sikhs of Oz tooth and nail opposed the order but Sikh’s single largest representative body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has now approached the Government of India seeking its intervention for revoking the ban.
“The Sikh community has been hit hard by the knee-jerk reaction of the NSW government in the blanket banning of the Kirpan in NSW schools. The NSW government’s decision to impose a ban contravenes a statutory right to wear a kirpan for religious reasons. The right is not due to a ‘loophole’ in the law, as referred to by the Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell,” said Secretary, Australian Sikh Association (ASA) Pritpal Singh Tiwana while talking to media on Thursday (May 20).
Sarah Mitchell had on May 6 announced a ban on wearing kirpan in public schools after a 14 years old baptized Sikh student of Glenwood High School allegedly stabbed a 16-year student twice in his stomach with his kirpan.
Tiwana said the ban was imposed without taking the Sikh community into confidence, or consultation, in response to an alleged incident involving a 14-year-old Sikh student, who is believed to have been bullied in school. He is alleged to have used his kirpan that, regrettably, resulted in injury to another student at a Sydney school.
Condemnations have poured in from other parts of Australia as well. Danny Singh, a resident of Melbourne, said, “Ban is an assault on our religion and culture. I believe the minister has made this decision in haste and she needs to go back and make a much more educated decision.” Stating that carrying kirpan was compulsory for baptized Sikh, he said, “The kirpan is commanded to us to be carried by the father of Sikhism, the founder of the Khalsa himself.”
The Sikh faith is the sixth-largest religion with over 30 million followers worldwide. World leaders have acknowledged the charitable efforts of Sikhs during the bush fires, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, including the Covid-19 pandemic, within Australia and globally. During the pandemic, the Sikh community has continued to distribute free food, grocery hampers, setting up free hospitals, and providing free oxygen to those in need in India and elsewhere.
Tiwana informed that since 1890s Sikhs have been living in Australia as responsible citizens, and there had not been any known incidents involving the kirpan in schools.
“We deeply regret the recent incident and the position the two youths are in and we empathise with them and offer all possible assistance to them and their families,” Tiwana said.
Meanwhile, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur said that SGPC has written a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India and the High Commissioner of India to Australia on the issue of banning kirpan in public schools of NSW.
“Kirpan is an important part of Sikh life and it was very painful to hear about the ban. We have urged for the intervention of Union Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar and other officials to take up the matter with the concerned authorities in Australia. We urged them to make efforts to get this decision banning kirpan in public schools in NSW for Sikh children,” said Kaur.