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Italy proposes ‘modified’ model of Kirpan for Sikhs

A Sikh man in a traditional attire of warrior Sikhs also known as 'Nihang'. Source: SBS Punjabi

An Italian court had ruled against the people of Sikh faith carrying ceremonial daggers in public earlier this year.

Italy has suggested that Sikhs wear a modified version of the ceremonial dagger, known as ‘Kirpan’ instead of the traditional one which was deemed as a danger to public safety.

Sikhs consider kirpan as an essential part of their religious identity along with four other articles since the end of 17th century when the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth by giving the followers of Sikhism a distinct identity.

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After upholding the ban on Sikh kirpan earlier this year, Italy has now suggested a ‘modified’ version of kirpan for Sikhs.

According to Sikh24.com, the modified kirpan would be produced in Italy. It will be issued to Sikhs with an individualized serial number and license. It has been reported that the kirpan will be flexible, and will not have a tip or an edge. Only these modified kirpans will be allowed to be worn by Sikhs in Italy.

An Italian delegation seeking approval of the modified kirpan met with Jathedar Gurbachan Singh on June 26, 2017, seeking the Akal Takht’s authorization for the modified design. But, the World Sikh Organisation of Canada have called on the Sikh community and Sikh authorities to reject the Italian modification of the kirpan.

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The WSO’s President, Mukhbir Singh wrote to Gurbachan Singh and SGPC President asking them to strongly reject the re-design of kirpan saying,

“This type of interference in the Sikhs’ right to wear the kirpan is unprecedented and unacceptable.  No government has the right to “issue” a kirpan to Gursikhs and furthermore, any government alteration or interference with the shape or attributes of a kirpan is intolerable.  Acceptance of this model will have severe and negative repercussions for Sikhs across the world.”

The right to wear and carry the kirpan has been challenged over the last century in various parts of the world including UK, US, Canada, Australia, Italy and Denmark. The letter further states,

“In Canada, as you may be aware, Sikhs have worked towards the accommodation of the kirpan in public spaces such as hospitals, schools, courtrooms and hospitals.  While agreements have included limits on size or required that the kirpan be worn underneath the clothes, no attempt to alter or regulate the shape or attributes of the kirpan has ever been accepted by Sikhs. Though the process has taken years, the kirpan is now widely accepted and accommodated in Canada”.

The letter ends by stating that the Canadian Sikhs reject the Italian proposal to design and distribute the kirpan.

“Accepting such interference would have long term negative repercussions for Sikhs across the world.”

 

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