Community Voice

Saturday, 2 July 2005

Harh 18, 537 Nanakshahi

Sikh Schoolgirl Rejects School's Decision to Weld Her Kirpan To The Sheath

Plano, Texas, USA—A 16 year old Sikh school girl has rejected her school's decision to allow her to wear her Kirpan only if it is welded shut to the sheath. Fortunately for her, she will not have to face the consequences of the school's ruling because she has been selected to complete her schooling at the University of North Texas, under a prestigious academic programme run by the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences (TAMS).

Priyanka Kaur says, ' This matter is not closed. I ask every Sikh child who is faced with my situation to defend their right to practise their religion, which includes the right to wear the Kirpan and other articles of faith,' said Priyanka Kaur.

'The day after I took Amrit, my dad wrote to my school informing them that I would like to wear my Kirpan to school. I have been wearing all my Kakkars except my Kirpan because my school has in the past been very strict about weapons. We took affirmative action and contacted UNITED SIKHS to assist us,' Priyanka added.

'I realised the issue had implications to the whole community and we requested UNITED SIKHS to help us,' said Priyanka's father, Mr Kultaran Singh.

'We worked with Kultaran Singh over the last few months and prepared for the school authorities a slide show presentation on the Kakkars and other aspects of Sikhi,' said Manwinder Singh, UNITED SIKHS director of International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy.

'The school's decision is unsatisfactory. However, as Priyanka will not be continuing her education at the school, we have written to the school to say that we consider the matter unresolved,' said Manwinder Singh.

The letter to the district assistant superintendent, Jeff Bailey, said: '(We) wish to notify you that we find the decision unacceptable as we believe it is extremely harsh and contrary to our beliefs and practices.'

'If the PISD (school district authorities) would at any time in the future require our services to assist in the understanding of religious or other rights of Sikhs, please contact us so that we may work with you to find solutions. Equally, if in the future any Sikh student needs assistance for advocating his/her rights, we would be grateful if you could notify us and/or pass our details on to the student or his/her parents,' the letter concluded.

Priyanka who plans to study medicine has this message for all Sikh youths: 'I don't like seeing people being discriminated. It upsets me .Sikh youths shouldn't be afraid to take Amrit because of situations like this. If more people take Amrit, the wearing of the Kirpan would become prevalent and hence treated as normal.'

Kultaran Singh, who not only stood by his daughter's resolve but was also actively involved in negotiating with the school, said: 'We need to practice Sikhi to the Max, as per the teachings of the Gurus and the spirit and word of the Reht Maryada. We need to stand behind our children and anyone who wishes to defend their religious rights and fight all the way at any level'.

If you or anyone you know is being denied her/his right to practise his/her religion, please contact us by e-mail (contact@unitedsikhs.org) or telephone us on 1-888-243-1690.

Our Mission

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.

UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.

UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.

Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.

We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.