According to Centre’s new guidelines, Sikh passengers will be allowed to carry kirpan at domestic airports and during flights. Further, the Centre’s guidelines also issued the conditions that will be applied in such cases.
The conditions involve the length of the blade and the size of the entire kirpan. The Centre’s new guidelines comes after the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security banned Sikh employees working in aviation sector from carrying a kirpan on their person within the premises of the airport. The ban received massive backlash from leading Sikh body Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
Earlier on March 8, the SGPC president also wrote a letter to Indian Civil Aviaion Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and said how the order of ban on kirpan was an attack on the rights of Sikh people. On March 12, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security issued a correction to the order and removed the paragraph which mentioned a ban on kirpan.
The Facts of the Matter
For Sikhs across the world, carrying a kirpan is both a duty and an honour. For the unversed, a kirpan is a combination of two words which are loosely translated into grace and honour. The kirpan is a miniature sword or a long dagger that’s much akin to a a Christian cross, a Muslim hijab or a Jewish star.
According to World Sikh Organization, “The kirpan is worn by initiated (Amritdhari) Sikhs, both men and women, and is one of five articles of faith, often called the 5Ks. Sikhs wear them as a reminder of their commitment to the tenets of their faith including justice, charity, morality, humility, and equality”.
Sikh Employee Carrying Kirpan Stopped at Airport
Earlier this month, a Sikh employee at the Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, Amritsar, was stopped from performing his job as he was carrying a kirpan. The employee was stopped from carrying his duty in the wake of fresh guidelines issued by Bureau of Civil Aviation Society. As per the notice, employees were no longer allowed to carry kirpan while performing their duty.
Sikh Welfare Committee Writes Letter to Aviation Minister
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) claimed that it was an attack on their religion and wrote a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. “The Centre should never forget that the Sikhs have remained at the forefront in making sacrifices for the freedom of this country and if the culture of the country survives today, it is because of the Sikhs,” SGPC Harjinder Singh Dhami said.
Centre Issues Notice, Conditions Apply
Taking cognizance of the matter, the Centre issued new guidelines and removed the paragraph which mentioned the exclusion of kirpan. As per the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, employees and passengers can carry kirpan at Indian airports.
According to the new order floated by BCAS Director General Jaideep Prasad, the length of the kirpan’s blade must not exceed 6 inches (15.24 cm), and the overall length of the kirpan should not be more than 9 inches (22.86 cm).
Passengers Only in Domestic Flights Can Carry Kirpan
It should be noted that the kirpan is allowed only while travelling by air on Indian airplane within India. Passengers flying on domestic routes of full domestic flights will be allowed to carry kirpan.
The notice further read, “This exception shall be for Sikh passengers only as stated above. And, no stakeholder or its employee at airport (including Sikh) and working in any terminal, domestic or international, shall be allowed to carry Kirpan on person”.