Sikhs in Indian Punjab were stopped from voting in the provincial assembly elections by the police for carrying Kirpan — the steel sword and dagger worn by the community as a key tenant of their faith. The incident is the latest in the BJP government’s attempts to bar the country’s minority communities from wearing religious garb.
The Kirpan is generally permitted in most places across India. “So why is the sword banned only for voting?” one Sikh man was quoted as saying by the Tribune. The new regulations concerned many in the minority community about their welfare in other parts of the country, especially as Indian Punjab is a Sikh majority state.
Analysts said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had till now been unsuccessful in stowing communal or religious politics in Indian Punjab, unlike in other areas of the country where anti-Islamic rhetoric has become a cornerstone of the party’s platform
“Those parties who spread hate and divide people are not welcomed here. In Punjab, Sikhs, Muslims or others, vote for the secular parties,” said Chief Cleric of Punjab Maulana Mohammad Usman Rehmani Ludhianvi.
Earlier this month, the Indian government banned hijab from classrooms in Karnataka in southern India. A video of a Muslim student being harassed by a crowd of boys wearing saffron scarves went viral on social media, leading to national and international condemnation of the incident.