'Kirpan should be permitted on planes'

Wellington, March 17: New Zealand parliament’s first Sikh MP has called for a legislation to allow carrying of the kirpan — a Sikh ceremonial dagger — while travelling in planes. tiol MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi on Tuesday said the legislation should make clear that the kirpan — a short dagger that symbolises a Sikh’s duty to come to the defence of those in need — is not a weapon and is safe to be worn. Bakshi said the biggest issue for Sikhs is being able to wear a kirpan at their workplace and at public events, The Dominion Post reported. He said carrying a kirpan at all times is a big deal for Sikhs and sometimes there is a compromise when it comes to flying.

“Some people are very strict at following the rules and don’t fly — in India they’ll travel by road, they won’t fly. There are people who will wear a symbolic one, a smaller version, which is allowed on airplanes.”

He said Sikhs are “sensible” people who would not use a kirpan ippropriately. The New Zealand government is considering exempting kirpans from civil aviation rules, allowing these to be carried on board planes rather than stowed away with luggage.

Prime Minister John Key addressed the loosening of the rules around kirpans at a meeting at the Takanini Gurdwara in Auckland on March 8. On Saturday, seven Sikh cricket fans were barred from watching India play Zimbabwe in a Cricket World Cup match at Eden Park because they were wearing kirpans. While Key said the Intertiol Cricket Council (ICC) made their own rules around the tourment, he did sympathise with the Sikh community regarding kirpans.

When Bakshi became an MP in 2008 he informed then speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, that he carried a kirpan and was given permission to wear it in Parliament. Bakshi also gets approval from the Speaker when he has members of the Sikh community visiting him at Parliament, making them exempt from security rules. “Kirpans have sometimes become controversial but I haven’t seen any Sikh using a kirpan for any harm of anyone else,” he said. Bakshi has also been pulled up for wearing his kirpan at the airport but has a small one that meets civil aviation requirements, which he wears to avoid any problems. Key said other countries, including Australia and Britain, had legislated civil aviation exemptions and he was open to New Zealand doing the same.

He said a wine bottle would pose just as much risk when boarding a plane as a kirpan. (IANS)

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