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Denmark: Sikh fights to keep his 'kirpan'

Sanjay Ganjoo & Rajeev Bhaskar in Chandigarh | April 30, 2005 14:29 IST

A Sikh in Denmark is fighting a court battle after refusing to part with his kirpan (ceremonial sword), a religious symbol sacrosanct to all baptised Sikhs.

"We have decided to appeal in a higher court after a Copenhagen court recently fined my son 3,000 kroners (about Rs 24,000) for carrying a kirpan," said Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba, father of Ripudaman Singh.

Singh is currently pursuing his PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Aarhus.

Ripudaman had on May 24, 2004 visited the US Embassy in Copenhagen where the local police arrested him for carrying a kirpan with a length more than the permissible limit (2.5 inch).

The security staff confronted Ripudaman saying he should have confessed that he was in possession of a knife. Danish law prohibits carrying a knife or dagger in public places.

Lamba added that the police was called in despite the fact that Ripudaman had handed over his kirpan and mobile phone to the embassy guards before entering the building.

"My son then had the choice of either paying the penalty for the violation of the relevant law or going to court and he preferred the latter," says Lamba, who is based in Jalandhar.

It's ironic that this same boy was once paid by the Danish authorities to give lessons on Sikh culture and history to school students. "Ripudaman had taught about the relevance of the kirpan," Lamba added.

"The judge of the City Court in Copenhagen recognised that kirpan was required to be carried by a baptised Sikh but said there was no provision for this under the Danish law," he said.

Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, considered to be a 'mini parliament' of Sikhs, said they would take up the issue at diplomatic levels and approach the National Human Rights Commission and the National Minorities Commission.

"This is a serious issue and no Sikh can or should be forced to compromise with his identity. We will meet the Danish ambassador in Delhi and ask India's ambassador to Denmark to take up the matter with the concerned authorities," SGPC spokesman Dalmegh Singh said.

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