In Vancouver, B.C., Canada, the author was asked to speak before a social group known as C.R.J. (Committee for Racial Justice). The members include representatives of all religions, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other faiths. Police officials and public representatives also attend it. This gathering is held in turn at the religious place of each faith. About a decade ago, in the late eighties, they met in the guru Amar Das Niwas, a wing of the gurdwara at Ross Street, Vancouver.
While sharing special and unique features of the Sikh faith, I spoke about my unpleasant experience of being asked a wrong question by the local people, "Why are you carrying a dagger?" The audience enjoyed my observations when I explained to them why asking this question to a Sikh is wrong.
The relevant part of my speech is briefly mentioned below.
i. "Friends, I hope all of you will agree with me that we are not carrying our shirts and pants, but we are wearing them. This (showing my Kirpan in the sling), is an article of my faith. I wear it, I do not carry it. Further, it is not a dagger, but a Kirpan.
We know that robbers carry daggers to kill and rob people. However, the Sikhs wear Kirpans to protect people.
Wearing of the Kirpan by a Sikh, can be explained by an analogy to the wearing of a pistol by a police man. We have the police chief with us today (wearing his full uniform, he was sitting in the front row, just near the podium). He will agree with me that robbers carry pistols to rob people or even kill them. On the other hand, policemen use pistols not to kill people, but to protect them. Therefore, the policemen are required to wear them to perform their duty and as a part of their uniform. Sikhs are Sant-Sipahis (holy policemen), hence they are required to wear Kirpans as a part of their panj kakaar (5-K) uniform to be reminded of the responsibility of their faith to protect people.
This will help you understand why I feel hurt when somebody asks me, "Why are you carrying a dagger?" This question sends a very wrong and derogatory message to a Sikh. Surely, every police official will feel bad when he hears "He is carrying a pistol to kill people, whereas we pay him to protect people."
ii. The Guru had a very solid reason to coin a new name, Kirpan, for this article of the Sikh faith; Kirpan means a weapon for doing a favor to the people and protect their honor. The name reflects the mission for which a Sikh wears it. A Sikh is to publicly agree under oath before the Panj Pyaras for its genuine use before he is allowed to wear it.
On the same analogy, I suggested to the police chief to change the name of the pistol to protectil, when it is given to policemen for protecting and keeping peace. This new name will also reveal the mission of the police. It will provide them the psychology of service and motivate them for the right use of the equipment. (A white policeman was suspended for allegedly shooting an African-Canadian out of color bias. This use or misuse of the pistol was in the news during those days).
There was a smiling response from the audience including the police chief. After the meeting, he informally endorsed the justification of the wearing of the Kirpan by the Sikhs when he said to the President of the gurdwara, "Now, I know that a Sikh does not carry a dagger, but he wears a Kirpan."