Sikhs protest college barring boy with kripan

Tension prevailed for hours in  Rourkela College on Thursday after college authorities debarred a Sikh student from appearing in the university examination for carrying his ‘kripan’, a traditional weapon carried by members of the Sikh community.

Three other non-Sikh community students also did not appear in the examination, protesting the decision of the college authorities, while hundreds of Sikhs assembled in front of the college, protesting against the incident.

The Sikh boy and three of his friends were finally allowed to take the examination about three hours later after several senior district administration officials rushed to the spot and intervened in the matter. A written apology was also submitted by the principal of the college to pacify the Sikh community.

According to sources, when Harwinder Singh, a third year ex-regular student of Rourkela College, was entering the examination hall, a group of college staff noticed his kripan hanging under his shirt and asked him to keep the weapon outside the hall. Harwinder tried to explain to the college authorities the Sikh tradition of carrying the article upon one’s person at all times but the college authorities were adamant on their stand and refused to allow him to enter the examination hall with the kripan.

Naveen Jain, Ashok Mohanty and Bimal Mallick — three of his classmates — also boycotted the examination, showing solidarity with Harwinder.

Sikh community members tried to reason with the college principal, informing him about a Supreme Court order that Sikhs are allowed to carry their kripan even in tight securities areas like aircrafts. “We tried our best to convince the principal and staff of the college but they were rigid on their stand and there was no sympathy for the career of Harwinder and the other three boys,” said Gurmeet Singh, president of Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.

Finding no other alternative, members of the community staged a demonstration to draw the attention of the district administration, following which senior district officials like sub-collector S B Mishra and Rourkela additional SP Sudarsan Sethi reached the spot. The matter was also brought to the knowledge of examination controller of  Sambalpur University, who granted a special permission to the four students to appear in the examination, after about three hours of examination starting time.

Pradeep Kumar Jena, principal of the college, was forced to submit a written apology to the Sikh community for hurting their sentiments. “I had no intention of hurting the sentiments of the Sikh community but the problem occurred due to inadvertent interpretation of the examination law for which I am extremely sorry,” Jena mentioned in his apology letter.

The Sikh community thanked the district administration for their intervention and support

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