Sikh Cleric Cleared of Concealed Weapons Charge

December 6, 1999

Source: The Plain Dealer

On December 6, 1999, The Plain Dealer published an article on the upcoming court hearing for Gurbachan Singh Bhatia in Mentor, Ohio. Bhatia, who serves as a cleric for the Guru Gobind Singh Society of Cleveland, was arrested in September on a concealed weapons charge for carrying a kirpan. When members of his temple heard of the arrest, they launched an international campaign, informing the Sikh community via the Internet about Bhatia's case. The city of Mentor was flooded with phone calls and letters, including one from U.S. Ambassador to India Richard F. Celeste, a former governor of Ohio. One of those phone calls also came from Cynthia Mahmood, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Maine, who expressed sympathy for Bhatia. Mahmood stated: "Here was some type of misunderstanding...Are they really weapons or symbols? Those kirpans are kept in a sheath. They're not in a holster, so you couldn't whip them out at any moment." The case has struck a chord in the Sikh community worldwide, since they have suffered religious persecution and view the United States as a place of freedom. The case is to be heard in Mentor Municipal Court on December 6th and lawyers from both sides are confident that the case will be resolved quickly, with the charges possibly being dropped against Bhatia.

Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force has published an action alert about this case.