Many Prime Ministers visit India... here Polish PM, Mr Tusk discusses trade with India in Sept 2010 - the issue of Sikh Turbans in Poland is raised... Mr Tusk assures Sardar Manmohan Singh that their Border Guard will deal with the issues sensitively ... but did they? Read on...
This is a campaign to gain recognition that Sikh Turban (known as Dastar - a sign of faith & identity) forms our integral clothing and is not an ordinary hat or a cap that is put on & taken off casually.
This campaign, with worldwide following, aims to raise awareness and is focussed particulalry on airport security checks and to the authorities that carry out such checks
and now in Poland too ???
The root cause of the camapaign goes back to mid 2009. At that time the EU Commission dealing with airport safety introduced new regulations on security checks,
While these checks were generally very sensible and necessary, one aspect of the rules affected Sikhs.
There was a requirement (though not compulsory) that head gear (hats, caps, baseball caps and other similar items) had to be passed through the scanners.
While this does not affect most people it does affect Sikhs, especially those that are the citizens and residents of EU Countries.
Border Guards in some EU Countries took this regulation literally. They demanded that Sikhs remove their turbans, place them on the tray for hand baggage and pass them through the scanner, despite no indication of any alarm signal.
The equivalent of this to non sikhs would be to ask them to remove their most intimate and "integral" clothing, and pass it through the scanner without there being obvious cause of suspicion.
Despite the fact that hand held mettalic detectors, "puffer machines" and hand pat down techniques are available to Border Guards, in all countries (see below), this was not used. Border Guards became belligerent with Sikhs. From a routine security check, this practice became nothing more than a tool to harass innocent Sikh businessmen, priests, tourists and government officials.
From Aug 2009 to Sept 2010 the Sikh Community made many attempts to have a dialogue with the Polish Border Guard ... suggesting that we provide them with information about Sikh Turbans, about Sikh values, about the possibility of non intrusive checks - and only then, by intrusive checks if some prohibited item was susoected in the Turban.... we even went to the length of agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding, albeit with some junior staff of the Border Guard, all to no avail. "Remove that turban, mate, else you're off the plane..." a refrain that was heard by many Sikhs passing through Poland....
We compiled a Case Document, submitted it to Helsinki Foundation, (Polish language - analysis of case) who agreed that there was a clear breach of our dignity and our human rights. A Court Case was launched in Sept 2010 - with much shock and awe in the Polish media ---- a Sikh taking none other than the Border Guard to Court??? Unheard of ! Nevertheless we did..
In that same month, Sept 2010, the Polish Prime Minister, Mr Tusk led a Trade Delegation to India and there gave assurances to India's Foreign Secretary Her Highness Shrimati Preneet Kaur, that checks on Sikhs would be conducted with sensitivity. Ten days after this assurance, the Polish Border Guard were at it again ! Instead of some degree of conciliation, they were emboldened to conduct even more severe "checks" and this continued while the Court Case against them was proceeding...
Insulting Sikh Turbans is exactly equivalent to insulting head gear with national emblems on them - Why is it that the Commander of the Polish Border cannot grasp this??
This campaign is addressed to all reasonable travelling people, to the Border Guards of EU Countries, to the Government agencies that regulate their Border Guard services and to Airport Authorities
In 2009 the incidents in which Sikhs were effectively harassed by Border Guards, especially in Italy, France and Spain were sporadic. An exception was Poland. In the former group, after interventions from high ranking people, the Border Guards used common sense. Poland's Warsaw airport' Gurads were the exception.
Here in Frederick Chopin aiport, the Guards took a delight in "checking" every SIkh - this checking was deliberate and intended to harass Sikhs, though they, of course, claimed otherwise in Court.....!
Better ....(in United Kingdom)
In the UK, rather than apply the literal wording of the EU Regulation, the Dept of Transport started a programme of confirming the effectiveness of alternative non intrusive checks.
The interim results in 2011 already showed that such means of checking do provide the required level of security check.... Other EU Member States have taken a watching brief... But in most countries the demeaning demand of turban removal came to a halt - but not for the Polish Border Guards.
Warsaw Airport is well equipped for Security Checks.....So, with equipment like this, why must Polish Border Guard REQUIRE that Sikhs remove turbans at each & every crossing of the airport?
Why did the Border Guard state in Court that the ONLY way to check a turban is to have it removed ?
Perhaps the objective was harassment of Sikhs and not the security of the airport.
See a full TV interview (SANGAT TV - English & Punjabi) decribing and explaining the evolution of the Case - from Aug 2009 through to Dec 2012 - the activities prior to going to Court, the Court case, the Ruling in the lower court in Warsaw...