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US varsity to allow kirpans on campus

Wayne State University is reviewing its safety policy after a ruling by Detroit judge, writes Kanupriya Vashisht.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2006 11:14 IST

Going by American psyche, kirpans are essentially knives that can kill. So if guns are not allowed in school or university campuses then neither should knives.

But that rule is about to change in one American university.

Wayne State University is reviewing its public safety policy after a Detroit judge ruled that a Sikh student should not have been arrested on campus for carrying a kirpan.

Sukhpreet Singh Garcha, a 23-year-old senior, was arrested by campus security police in August for sporting a 10-inch knife at his hip and another 5-inch knife in his waistband.

The city's knife ordinance prohibits carrying knives with blades longer than 3 inches.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the religious group United Sikhs protested Garcha's arrest, saying the kirpan is not a weapon, but an ornamental article of faith that baptised Sikhs must wear at all times.

Judge Rudy Serra of the 36th District Court agreed. In her decision she wrote that the city's knife ordinance was intended to apply to people carrying "a knife as a weapon or for some unlawful purpose."

Since Garcha was carrying the kirpan for religious reasons, the ordinance does not apply to him.

"It would be similar to an ordinance that made it illegal to wear a cross or a Star of David," Serra wrote.

WSU Public Safety Director Anthony Holt said his officers would comply with the ruling and would not arrest Garcha or other Sikh students who carry the implement.

For all the rest, however, the university still prohibits knives with a blade longer thanthree inches on campus.

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 20:31 IST