In a shocking incident, a 33-year-old Sikh man was handcuffed and arrested in the US for carrying a ‘kirpan’ after a customer at a grocery store called the police. Harpreet Singh Khalsa, who was born as Justin Smith, has worn the ceremonial knife known as a kirpan every day since he converted to Sikhism nine years ago.
According to a PTI report, Khalsa, who owns a catering business, said that he has been stopped multiple times by police, and was arrested again last week outside a grocery store in Catonsville, Maryland, after a customer called police.
Khalsa said that he explained to the police officers that the knife is part of his religion, however, they frisked him and took the kirpan, placed him in handcuffs and drove him to the local precinct.
He was later released without charges, after police “confirmed that the knife was a kirpan and part of his religion, and not a threat to the community. Amid all this, the police department reportedly claimed that it is providing education and guidance to its officers about Sikhs and their culture.
Meanwhile, stressing on the importance of the kirpan, Khalsa said, “We don’t consider it a knife, but a visual reminder to stand up to justice.”
“The kirpan obligates a Sikh to the ideals of generosity, compassion and service to humanity,” Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the New York-based Sikh Coalition, reportedly said, according to the PTI report.
“It acts as a reminder to its bearer of a Sikh’s solemn duty to protect others and promote justice for all,” she said.
Khalsa said he was shopping on Monday when police approached him, walked him out of the store and took his kirpan.
Rachel Bereson Lachow, a witness to the incident, captured the arrest on video and posted it to her Facebook page. The 54-second video has received hundreds of comments.
Lachow said she watched Khalsa leave the store with police. She said the officers told him to keep his hands away from the knife until they removed it from him.