The Indian Embassy in Washington has taken up the issue of a Sikh New York State Trooper being barred from growing a beard with senior levels of the administration, as lawmakers voiced concern over the incident and termed it "religious discrimination".
New York State trooper Charanjot Tiwana sought permission to grow a beard for his wedding in March last year. However, his request was denied on the grounds that keeping a beard would pose a safety risk if required to wear a gas mask.
Indian officials here took up the issue with the office of the New York State Governor, and India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, has taken up the matter with senior levels of the Biden administration. The New York State Police and the Governor's office are also working on it, officials here said.
Assemblyman David Weprin, representing Queens in the New York State Assembly, termed the denial of Tiwana's request to grow his beard "a concerning incident of religious discrimination" in the New York State Police.
In a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Weprin said that he had sponsored the Religious Garb Law, signed into law in 2019, "so no one will have to choose between practising their religion and doing their job." Calling for immediate action by the New York State Police to accommodate Tiwana in accordance with state law, Weprin said, "Quite frankly, I am appalled by these discriminatory practices and clear violation of state law." "New York State is the most diverse in the country, and if we don't let those officers serve with their religion and their faith, we won't have enough police officers," a report in CBS News quoted Sgt. Gurvinder Singh, President of the Sikh Officers Association, as saying.
The report quoted a New York State Police spokesperson saying, "We have recently updated our guidelines with respect to facial hair… The New York State Police Uniform and Equipment Committee is currently working on a policy for the design and issuance of turbans." The President of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the apex Sikh religious body, Harjinder Singh Dhami, had written to Sandhu and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar "to raise a strong objection to discriminatory policy" of the NY State Police "of forcing Sikh troopers to cut hair & protect the rights of Sikh community." In 2016, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the country's largest police force, announced it would allow Sikh officers to wear beards and turbans while in uniform.