US Sikh held, turban snatched over kirpan

July 1st, 2008 - 8:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, July 1 (IANS) A Sikh truck driver was arrested and his turban forcibly removed after marshals in a Connecticut court found his kirpan on him when he went to contest a traffic violation. Sachdev Singh, 47, a New Jersey resident, entered the State of Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford June 18. While passing through security, he told the officers that he had a five-inch kirpan under his clothing.

The kirpan, or blade, is a religious symbol that all Sikh men wear.

As soon as he passed under the metal detectors, he was promptly handcuffed. Both his kirpan and turban were taken away from him forcibly, according to the United Sikhs, a community organisation.

After questioning, Sachdev Singh’s handcuffs were removed, he was allowed to retie his turban, and then was placed under arrest for “carrying a dangerous weapon.”

Taken to jail, he was finger printed and his turban was again forcibly removed, United Sikhs said.

Sachdev Singh is now out on bail but faces the charge of possessing a dangerous weapon, which is punishable by up to $500 in fines or up to three years in prison or both.

“It was a great shock that state marshals handling security of a court of law would treat me in this manner,” said Sachdev Singh.

“I am concerned this incident will adversely affect my citizenship status, as I am applying for naturalisation,” he said.

Jaspreet Singh, staff attorney for United Sikhs, said: “Prior case precedent in multiple states show that the kirpan is to be treated only as an article of faith and should never be classified as a dangerous weapon.”

United Sikhs is trying to have the charges levied against Sachdev Singh dismissed and is exploring civil remedies to ensure that a training programme about Sikhs for the Connecticut state marshals is put into place to prevent any future recurrence of mistreatment of a Sikh.

Sikhs in different parts of the US have faced harassment over kirpan and turban, two of the five symbols of their faith.

United Sikhs is an international humanitarian relief, human development and advocacy group working for the disadvantaged and minority communities. It was founded in New York in 1999.

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