On a day when the US Vice President Mike Pence lauded the contribution of Sikhs in America while talking to a Sikh delegation in Indianapolis, a 33-year-old Sikh convert in Maryland was arrested by the police for carrying a kirpan.
The man, Harpreet Singh Khalsa, who owns a catering business was at a grocery store in Catonsville, Maryland when one of the customers at the store called the cops.
Khalsa tried to explain to the officers that carrying the kirpan was a part of his faith but the police frisked him, took away his kirpan, handcuffed him and took him to the nearest precinct. He was released eventually without any charges after the police "confirmed that the knife was a kirpan and part of his religion, and not a threat to the community," Baltimore County Officer Jennifer Peach was quoted as saying.
Apparently, this is not the first time that Khalsa has been arrested for carrying a kirpan. The Baltimore Sun quoted him saying that he has been arrested multiple times and for the same reason.
Harpreet Singh Khalsa, who was born as Justin Smith, has worn the ceremonial knife known as a kirpan every day since he converted to Sikhism nine years ago.
"The officer did follow all Maryland and county laws properly in this incident. There is no known exception to the deadly weapons laws at this time," Peach said.
She said the department is providing education and guidance to its officers about Sikhs and their culture.
Pence too in his meeting with the delegation discussed the need to raise awareness regarding Sikhism and the introduction of Sikh history in public history curriculum through the federal department of education. "Sikh Community and its issues are always close to my heart and I always admire the contribution of Sikhs in Indiana and across the US," he said, according to a report by the Press Trust of India.
The entire incident by recorded by Rachel Bereson Lachow, a witness, and she shared it on her Facebook page. he 54-second video has been shared 1.6 million times and received hundreds of comments.
Stressing on the importance of the kirpan, Khalsa told the Baltimore Sun, "We don't consider it a knife, but a visual reminder to stand up to justice."
"The kirpan obligates a Sikh to the ideals of generosity, compassion and service to humanity," Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the New York-based Sikh Coalition, was quoted as saying.
"It acts as a reminder to its bearer of a Sikh's solemn duty to protect others and promote justice for all," she said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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