Kirpan bill introduced in California assembly

February 28th, 2009 - 12:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, Feb 28 (IANS) In a major development for the Sikh community in the US, a bill has been introduced in the California state assembly for mandatory education on the kirpan for law enforcement officers.
It is the first bill of its kind in any state assembly in the US where the Sikhs have been targeted for racial violence after 9/11 attacks. Kirpan is one of the five religious symbols that Sikhs wear after baptism.

The bill has been introduced by Warren Furutani, a member of the state assembly from Long Beach.

“The Sikh community, who are a vibrant, peaceful and law abiding part of our state, should not live in fear of arrest by law enforcement for carrying the kirpan, which is an integral part of their religious faith,” said Furutani while introducing the bill earlier this week.

Various organisations in the US, including the Sikh Coalition, have been lobbying with state lawmakers and law enforcement representatives for this legislation after the arrest of many Sikhs for carrying kirpan.

The bill says: “It is the legislature’s goal to promote education and awareness of the carrying of the kirpan by Sikhs in California.”

It says that law enforcement officers should be trained in “how to recognise and interact with persons carrying a kirpan”. It is likely to be passed into law.

“Because Sikhs carry kirpans required by their religious code of conduct, they can be arrested and charged with violating state or local concealed weapons laws,” said advocacy group Sikh Coalition in a statement. “Such arrests violate Sikhs’ rights and are a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

There have been more than 20 cases when Sikhs have been criminally charged for carrying kirpan. In most cases, either prosecutors didn’t press charges or the judges dismissed the case.

Sikhs are the largest Indian group in California, with most of them concentrated in the Yuba City area.

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