NSW government has banned carrying Kirpan (Sikh religious knife) to schools from Wednesday after a stabbing incident, which landed one high school student in hospital and another in court.
NSW government has banned students from carrying religious knives to school from Wednesday.
On Monday, the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said that she was quite “taken back” to learn that students could carry knives into schools on religious grounds.
“Students should not be allowed to take knives into school under any circumstances, and I think it doesn’t pass the common sense test. Even if they’re not using weapons, others might take them from them, so I was very taken back when I learnt that. I will be speaking to the Education Minister about it. My strong view is that no student should be allowed to take a weapon to school, full stop,” said Ms Berejiklian.
‘Weapons not permitted‘
The calls for ban on the ‘Kirpan’ arose after a stabbing incident in a high school in Western Sydney where a 14-year-old boy allegedly stabbed another 16-year-old boy, by a Kirpan.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell and Attorney-General Mark Speakman had met on Tuesday to discuss a law banning all weapons in school. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, they said that they were urgently reviewing the operation of laws relating to children carrying knives for genuine religious reasons.
NSW Education Minister Mitchell said on Tuesday that the Department of Education had issued advice to public schools banning students, staff and visitors from carrying knives for religious purposes on school grounds which would take effect from Wednesday.
“I have an obligation to students and staff in NSW public schools to ensure their safety. Weapons are not permitted at NSW public schools,” said Ms Mitchel.
The Kirpan is one of five articles of faith baptised Sikhs are required to carry. The others are Kesh (uncut hair); Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (iron bracelet); and Kachera (cotton underpants).
‘Article of faith’
Many Australian Sikhs are not in favour of this ban on the religious symbol.
Australian Sikh Association’s chairperson Ravinderjit Singh says Kirpan has been worn as an article of faith world over by Sikhs for centuries. It is recognised by British Army, French Army, Australian Army and other armed forces to recognise the bravery and valour of the Sikhs during World War I and II, including the battle of Gallipoli.
“The current exemption granted for the use of Kirpan in schools and public places by Sikhs is legislated under the Summary Offences Act 1988. In schools or workplaces, it is not meant to be used as a weapon but as a ceremonial religious reason as an article of faith,” Mr Singh told NRI Affairs.
He said that the very unfortunate incident in Glenwood High, more than ten days ago may have underlying bullying and harassment as the reasons that (may have) prompted a minor age student to use it against a student of higher class.
“ASA has been in touch with the Dept of Education last week and also met with the Glenwood High principal and staff to address the issue of Kirpaan. We have offered help and resources to work with the school community and address any concerns. We are also ready for any discussions with the government, Dept of Education and NSW Police to work out solutions around religious sensitivities attached to this matter,” said Mr Singh.
‘Proper policy is required’
However, many others in the broader Indian community say that no weapons should be allowed in schools on any grounds.
Dr Vikrant Kishore, a Melbourne based media academic & filmmaker, says, “Well, my first reaction as a father to the use of any weapon in schools, be it real, fake, or symbolic, is an absolute No! I am against any weapon within the school premise.”
“I do believe religion and religious beliefs should be respected, within reason, and one should have a proper understanding of “right to religious freedom”. Also, one must note that many have been discriminated, and are harassed based on their religion/faith-based outfits, which I find problematic. I am completely against any such discrimination/harassment,” said Dr Kishore, adding that the issue of Kirpan in schools “needs to be introspected.”
“A policy should be formulated in discussion with the community to keep students’ health and safety at the forefront. In case if any religious/symbolic weapon is allowed within the school premises, then proper checks and balances should be there, without infringing on anyone’s right, or disrespecting anyone’s belief/faith.”
The education minister says the ban will remain in place while the reviews are conducted which will “consider options for communities who carry a knife for genuine religious purposes”.