Sikh symbol of faith -Kara, a threat for Indian Institute of Technology

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Sri Guru Singh Sabha Mumbai writes to Indian Union Minister for Human Resource Development seeking immediate withdrawal of  unlawful orders of Indian Institute of Technology and other higher educational institutions banning the Kara as a metallic object not to be worn by students at examinations.

Upset at the increasing number of incidents of harassment of Sikh students appearing for higher education exams in technical and medical fields on absolutely no grounds whatsoever, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Mumbai has written to Prakash Javadekar -Indian Union Minister of Human Resource Development urging him to issue clear instructions to the IITs and medical institutions to refrain from upsetting Sikh students right at the door of their examination halls.

While Sikhs in the United States of America are running a successful #WeAreSikhs campaign to create awareness about who the Sikhs are, why do they wear the turban, why do they wear the Kara and other articles of faith, and what is the importance to them of their faith symbols, we never thought that we may have to do the same in India too. In an absolutely surprising development, though not shocking, taking into account the upsurge of hegemonistic fervour in the country, Sikh students -boys and girls are being asked to remove the Kara -the steel bracelet worn around the right-hand wrist and in some cases the Kirpan -the symbolic sword, in examinations at the various Indian Institute of Technology centres and other medical institutions.

“Wearing the Kara and the Kirpan is not a concession to Sikh students but a matter of right -enjoined in the Sikh religion, attained by the Sikhs after supreme sacrifice and expressly sanctioned by the Constitution of India.” –Manmohan Singh, General Secretary, Singh Sabha, Mumbai

The letter to the Indian Union Minister expressing deep concern at these incidents, states that, “ We write to you to express deep concern at growing number of incidents of religious discrimination of practising and other Sikh students partaking education and appearing for exams in IITs and other higher education institutions. Suddenly, there is a spurt of such episodes wherein the harmless Kara -one of the compulsory 5 Ks of a practising Sikh and worn even by others, has become a prohibited item to examiners of IITs and CBSE exams, because ostensibly it falls under the category of metal objects. In many cases, young students, right before entering the examination hall have been asked to remove their Kirpans-the other of the five compulsory symbols of the Sikh faith. We wish to say this in a forthright manner that this is just not acceptable. This has grossly hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikh people.”

“We fail to understand as to what harm can a steel bracelet around the wrist of a Sikh boy or girl can do during examinations? Who has given the IITs examiners and other senior staff to go against the letter and spirit of the constitution, which clearly guarantees under Article 15 -prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth?” asks Manmohan Singh, the General Secretary of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Mumbai, in the letter, questioning the authority of the staff doing such irrational actions.

The following incidents have come to light and I am sure that there are more which have not been reported.

  1. As recently as April 2017, a parent in Mumbai, Mr. Naresh Chandiramani has complained that his twin sons were asked to remove their kara in three separate exams including JEE (Main) and JEE (Advanced) and while speaking to the Times of India Mumbai, has threatened the IIT authorities to go to court in case there is no clear-cut instruction to the contrary for the forthcoming JEE (Advanced) exams in May 2017.
  2. In November 2015, a student, Ambala resident practising Amritdhari Sikh -Harmanpreet Singh while appearing for the written test for selection to posts of junior engineers at the Maharaja Aggarsain College in Yamunanagar was forced to remove his kirpan by the lady teacher there.
  3. In July 2015, three Amritdhari students -Gurpreet Kaur, Dharmbir Singh and Harsimrat Kaur had to fight their way into the Pre-medical exam centre in Bhatinda as they were asked to remove their Kara and Kirpan.
  4. In April 2015, another Amritdhari Sikh -Jaswinder Singh was asked to remove his “kirpan” and “kara” at the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) -2017 at the Mahavir Public School in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
    As these incidents cause delay and absolutely unnecessary anxiety to students prior to professional exams which require thorough concentration and peace of mind, Manmohan Singh has appealed to the Minister to direct the IITs, CBSE and other educational authorities to allow symbols of faith of all religions and to stop discrimination to any student -irrespective of gender, religion and examination.

Sikhs are upset and would not like repetition of the aforesaid events, otherwise like in France and the US, we may have to reach out and conduct awareness sessions regarding the importance of symbols of faith for the IIT, CBSE and other higher education institutions in India.

In a forthright manner, Manmohan Singh of the Singh Sabha Mumbai has stated that “this is not a concession to Sikh students but a matter of right -enjoined in the religion, attained by the Sikhs after supreme sacrifice and expressly sanctioned by the Constitution of India.”

It’s time to stand up.

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