Days after the BJP-led government banned wearing hijab in classrooms in India’s Karnataka state, another row erupted over Sikh’s Kirpan (steel sword or dagger) during provincial assembly elections being held in various parts of the country.
Members belonging to Sikh minority community were reportedly barred from entering polling stations by police officials for carrying Kirpan.
In one such incident in Jalalabad area of Indian Punjab, Sikh youths got into brawl with police officials when they were stopped from casting votes while carrying Kirpan.
Police said that they would not let anyone to enter polling station with “sword” while on the other hand Sikh youths were of the view that Kirpan was a part of their identity and they could not separate it from their bodies.
In general, Sikhs in India are allowed to visit any place across the country with Kirpan. “So why is the sword banned only for voting?” asked one disgruntled Sikh.
The minority community expressed fear that if they could not carry Kirpan in Indian Punjab, which is a Sikh majority state, then how they would be treated in other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Sikh organisations have also condemned the move saying that extremist Hindus in India want to crush all minorities.
Sikh community members Sardar Gopal Singh Chawla in a statement said Sikhs should not accept such a ban and urged other minority communities including Muslims and Christians to unite to fight extremist policies of the BJP-led Hindu national government.
As the northern Punjab state is electing its provincial assembly today, Sikhs and Muslims in one voice say they are against the divisive politics spread by politicians.
"Those parties who spread hate and divide people are not welcomed here. In Punjab, Sikhs, Muslims or others, vote for the secular parties," Maulana Mohammad Usman Rehmani Ludhianvi, the chief cleric of Punjab, told Anadolu Agency.
"I believe in Punjab the relationship between Sikhs and Muslims is like an elder and younger brother. It will continue and we have seen the examples of communal harmony frequently," he said.
Unlike in the Uttar Pradesh state, India's populous province, where anti-Muslim rhetoric has found space in the election campaigning, Punjab looks an exception.
Experts say that the growing relationship between Sikhs and Muslims has helped to keep the divisive forces out of power.
"Politicians are trying to invoke religion in the elections, people are not falling into it," said Jaspal Kaur Kaang, a Chandigarh-based expert in Sikh studies who ascribed Punjab's communal harmony to the secular characters of Sikhism.
"The Sikh gurus have given a concept of communal harmony to the people. Punjab is secular and they have rejected the politics of division and hate. They have focused more on universal brotherhood," she said.
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