As the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), stung by leaks and cheating in earlier exams, conducted an entrance test across Chandigarh for its bachelor-level paramedical courses, candidates carrying the Sikh religious symbols of kirpan (dagger) and kada (metal bangle) had a hard time entering at least two centres.
After intervention of parents and religious leaders, their entry was allowed and they were even granted compensatory time, but the episode irked no less.
The first incident was reported at the DAV school in Sector 15, where a girl with kirpan was not allowed to enter the centre. As she called her parents, who turned up along with some local religious heads, she was allowed to appear in the exam, 45 minutes after the scheduled starting time of 8am and only following a heated argument.
The girl, Gurvinder Kaur (18), said she had reached the school around 7 am. "When I tried to enter the school after about 20 minutes, I was told that if the kirpan is not kept outside, I won't be allowed to appear in the exam." She added that there was no mention of religious symbols in the 'not to carry' items. Her father Jasvinder Singh came and initially tried to intervene himself, but when the authorities did not budge he called in some religious leaders from the local gurdwara. Sensing that things were slipping out of control, the officials in charge in the centre allowed the girl and some other students to enter the hall at 8.45 am. These students gave the exam in a separate room and were given 45 more minutes after the examination ended at 10 am.
In the other incident, a student faced the same problem at the centre in Guru Nanak Public School in Sector 36. "Initially, they did not allow us to enter. But when parents protested, they allowed us to enter with kirpans and kadas (metal bangle, another Sikh symbol). They took an undertaking from us that we took the kirpans and kadas inside the hall despite opposition from the in-charge," said another girl, Amrit Kaur (19), who had come from Kharar. She said some students wearing the symbols had decided against taking the exam after the initial problem.
The PGIMER spokesperson, when contacted, said that the measures were taken "keeping in view some past incidents". "Among other things, metallic objects are not allowed to be carried inside the examination hall. In this particular case, when the officials realised that students were carrying religious symbols, they allowed them in and even gave extra time."
But Sector-16 gurdwara head Gurpratap Singh has approached the police: "This examination must be re-conducted and strong action should be initiated against those responsible. If the police do not act, we will approach court."
As for the cops, Sector-11 SHO Gurmukh Singh said the matter was being examined.