India is a country of different faiths, each respected like the other. On the occasion of International Turban Day, also called Sikh Dastar Diwas, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri recalled a 2010 incident at the US Airport and how the rules were amended to uphold the sanctity of faith.
Hardeep Puri, the then India's permanent representative to the UN, was travelling to the United States, when he was briefly detained at an airport in Austin, Texas. This was in November 2010, an incident etched in the memory of the former Indian diplomat so clear that he remarked it on a timely occasion.
"Don't touch my turban"
Puri was pulled aside into an enclosed glass holding room for questioning after he refused a request to remove his turban or allow the TSA officials to inspect it by touching it. Puri had offered to touch the turban himself and offered the security officials to run a check on his hands for traces of explosives. One security official refused to comply and insisted to inspect the turban.
But Puri maintained his stance and instructed the TSA officials to check their own rules. An Indian official who witnessed the incident said Puri told the security officials "Obviously you don't know your own rules. Please check your rules" and when the agent insisted, he said: "Don't tell me the rules."
After the incident, Puri said that "the guard there was unaware of the new procedures so I told him to go check with his superior officer." After being kept waiting for 20-25 minutes, the officials realised they were in the wrong.
"The important thing here is that I did not let them touch my turban," he had said, adding that "no pat down took place."
Self-pat check by Sikhs becomes a practice
This incident led to a historic change in how the TSA officials screen Sikhs at the airport. When the Indian government registered its protest with the US, Hilary Clinton, who was the US Secretary of State at the time, promised to review the US policy.
"I refused to remove my Dastar or let anyone touch it at a US airport in 2010 leading to the current practice of self-pat check by Sikhs at international airports," Puri recalled on Sikh Dastar Diwas. He said, "Dastar or turban is an article of faith & a symbol of pride & identity for us Sikhs."
Puri's wife Lakshmi M Puri praised the Union Minister for protecting the Sikh identity. "Married to a practising Sikh. Truly understand the significance of a Dastar which @HardeepSPuri Ji wears proudly & protects passionately. Have seen him take on the world for this article of Sikh faith," Lakshmi M Puri, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a tweet.
Many others showered praises on Puri for his steadfastness.