The Sikh Clergy is facing flak from several quarters for pursuing legal action against those who tattoo specific Sikh symbols and verses of the holy Gurbani on their body.
In a recent meeting of five head priests, a decision was taken that if anyone engraves tattoos of Sikh religious symbols such as ‘Ek Onkar’, ‘Khanda’ or ‘Siri Sahib’, then legal action will be taken against them under under Section 295 of IPC (hurting religious sentiments). Apart from these symbols, even verses of the holy Gurbani is out of bounds for tattoo enthusiasts. Jathedar of Akal Takht Gurbachan Singh recently said that misuse of symbols through tattoos hurts the sentiments of the Sikh community, so they have decided to register cases against offenders.
He said that they had received a complaint against Punjabi film actor Neeru Bajwa for engraving Gurbani verses and the Siri Sahib (sacred sword) on her forearm. She later issued a written apology for her act. Earlier, Bollywood actress Mandira Bedi also drew the ire of high priests for tattooing Ek Onkar (first word of Gurbani), on her back in 2007, and on her nape, in 2010.
The clergy also directed the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to approach the state government for making amendments in Section 295 (deliberately hurting the religious feelings of any community by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation) of IPC.
Strongly opposing the move, eminent sikh scholar Ashok Singh Bhagria said, “it was a minor issue which the Sikh clergy made into a bigger issue, there was no need for the clergy to interfere in it, there are other important issues which needs to be resolved. These symbols are printed on the rumalas (protective cloth), stickers and lockets and even printed on t-shirts.”
Radical Sikh group Dal Khalsa, which has always supported the Sikh clergy on issues has expressed its disagreement with Akal Takht jathedar Gurbachan Singh this time over the issue.