Chandigarh, July 14 (IANS) Accusing the Union Territory (UT) Administration of changing the definition of Sikh women to make the wearing of helmets on two-wheelers compulsory for all non-turbaned women, the Shiromani Akali Dal on Saturday urged that the decision be reversed immediately for all Sikh women.
“The SAD strongly urged the Chandigarh Administration to reverse its arbitrary amendment to the Motor Vehicle Rules virtually and outrageously changing the definition of a Sikh woman to mean only a woman wearing a turban,” SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said here on Saturday.
Declaring that the Chandigarh administration’s action “has deeply hurt the religious sentiments of the entire Sikh community”, Cheema accused the administration of changing the definition of Sikh women to make wearing of helmets on two-wheelers mandatory for all non-turbaned women, including Sikh women.
“The UT administration has absolutely no right to define or redefine the identity of a Sikh woman or to determine who is a Sikh woman in the eyes of law. Their action in this regard is absolutely dictatorial, ill-conceived and thoughtless.
“How can the UT administration assume the right to change the definition of a Sikh woman which has been well laid out in the ‘Sikh Rehat Maryada’. It is none of the UT’s business to change that Rehat Maryada,” Cheema said.
He said that the as per the tenets (Maryada) of the Sikh religion, it is not necessary for a Sikh woman to support a turban.
“This is entirely her choice. Turban is compulsory only for men in Sikhism. Almost 99.99 per cent of Sikh women cover their heads with ‘Dupatta’. The exemption to Sikh women from wearing a helmet is applicable to all of them. But under the new notification, all these women have been denied their rights as Sikh women,” he pointed out.
Cheema expressed surprise that while Punjab stood firmly in defending the exemption to all Sikh women granted on the basis of Supreme Court judgment, the capital state, Chandigarh, has taken an all together different and opposite stand.
“This has created a dichotomy between two different sets of laws for women in the parent state on the one hand and those living in its capital on the other,” he said, adding that the governments of individual states and UTs could not arbitrarily define and redefine the identity of a Sikh, man and woman.
Cheema, a former Education Minister, said that the SAD would take up the issue with the UT Administrator and request him to withdraw this amendment.
The UT administration issued the amended notification on July 6. Under the amended notification, wearing of helmets has been made compulsory for women riding two-wheelers in Chandigarh, except for turbaned Sikh women. Sikh men wearing turbans are also exempted from wearing helmets in Chandigarh.
The issue was brought before the Punjab and Haryana High Court which said that women could not get a blanket exemption on issues concerning their own safety.
Chandigarh has the highest per capita density of motor vehicles in the country with over 800,000 registered vehicles for a population of 1.1 million. Majority of the vehicles are two-wheelers.