Sikh Activists Upset Over Inmate's Haircut

October 6, 2008

Author: Sarah Netter

Source: ABC News

Sikh groups are decrying the treatment of a Florida inmate who was forced into the cutting of his hair, a revered symbol of piety.

The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is considering legal action against the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, saying that cutting Jagmahon Ahuja's hair after he entered the jail system violated the state's statute on religious freedom.

And for devout Sikhs, Ahuja's haircut represents hundreds of years of persecution.

"It's essentially like saying, 'I don't care about your religion. I don't care about who you are,'" said Rajbir Datta, national director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has been following Ahuja's case.

Ahuja, 36, was jailed April 29, charged with a probation violation and an order of protection related to a domestic violence case. He was convicted, sentenced to 714 days in jail and is expected to be released in May 2010, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's Department of Corrections Web site. Court documents show Ahuja has filed an appeal.

His hair was cut and his face shaved in July.