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Innocent Admission

United Sikhs opposes NSW’s proposed Kirpan Policy, provides recommendations

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Sydney, June 25, 2021 (Yes Punjab News)
United Sikhs wrote to the New South Wales Government on 23rd June 2021 to oppose conditions being proposed on the wearing of the Kirpan in schools. The NSW Govt had imposed a temporary ban on the Kirpan on 19th May 2021 after a student was hurt with a Kirpan during what is believed to a bullying related incident in a Sydney school. Last week the Department of Education published proposed conditions on the wearing of the Kirpan in schools, for public consultation by 25th June 2021.

“We welcome efforts to lift the temporary ban on the Kirpan in public schools in NSW and we are mindful of the need to balance the right of Sikh students to practise their faith and the safety of all students and staff,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of United Sikhs, in the letter that was addressed to Ms. Georgina Harrison, the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education.

“However, we do not accept the following aspects of the proposed changes and we request you to consider our suggestions below,” Mejindarpal Kaur added:

1. A Kirpan is not ceremonial as it is worn at all times and not only for ceremonies. Therefore, kindly replace the word ‘ceremonial’ with ‘religious’.

2. To refer to a Kirpan as a ‘knife’ is offensive. Please use ‘Kirpan’ as a proper noun (which we note and appreciate you have done so for the most part). We would propose the following changes to your text:

“…there has to date been a legal exemption for knives carried for religious purposes, and this has been applied to the carrying of the Kirpan by initiated Sikhs.”

“A Kirpan is one of the five distinguishing articles of the Sikh faith, carried and worn by initiated Sikhs on their person at all times, and comprises a curved blade.”

3. Attaching a chain to a Kirpan would require the Kirpan to be physically modified. This would be inappropriate. Conversely, the proposal to sew into the Kirpan Gaatra a “sturdy fabric loop” does not require physical modifications to the Kirpan. We request that the chain option be removed.

4. To wear a Kirpan is a matter of religious piety and dedication. Requiring it to be ‘concealed’ sullies the wearing of the Kirpan. We propose that the text be modified to requiring that the Kirpan be worn under one’s outer clothing.

5. If the Kirpan is worn under outer clothing and is secured by a sewn-in fabric loop such that the Kirpan cannot be removed easily, we do not understand why it is necessary to require that the Kirpan has a blunt blade. If it is accepted that a Kirpan may be worn if it cannot be removed easily, then whether or not it is blunt is a moot point. It does not appear to us to be a proportionate or necessary requirement in light of the other requirements.

6. The Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) does not stipulate a limit to the size of the Kirpan because it recognises that the length of a Kirpan is not a significant factor. Hence, we request that you do not specify a length for the Kirpan in the proposed guidelines.

7. A Kirpan is always carried within a scabbard and held in position by a loop, whilst being carried securely in a cloth Gaatra, a shoulder strap worn across one’s torso. This would secure it from falling or being removed with ease. During sports, the Kirpan may be further secured to prevent it from falling and causing injury during a sporting activity. There should be no further reason or method used to secure it.

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