According to reports by human rights advocates, US Border Patrol agents have been confiscating Sikh turbans of Indian asylum seekers after detaining them at the US-Mexico border. The border patrol mentioned “security concerns” as the reason for disrespecting the Sikh religion. It is a religious obligation for men belonging to Sikhism not to cut thier hair and wear turbans. US authorities said they were investigating the reports about more than 50 migrants losing their religious headwear along with many personal belongings.
US Officials Throw Sikh Turbans in Trash
Reports further detail how the US Border Patrol has been treating migrants from one of thier biggest ally nations. Agents were forcing everyone to throw away all of thier belongings except travel documents, wallets, and cellphones. They demanded Sikh men to remove thier turbans if they wanted to enter the US. Sikhs saw them throwing their sacred accessories in the trash. Migrants hurt by this behaviour complained that at least US agents could have let them keep the Sikh turbans for later use.
Along with Sikh turbans, detainees were also carrying other religious symbols like kirpan (curved knife or sword), a bracelet, a comb, and special cotton underwear called Kacchera. Border agents forcefully confiscated that underwear as well because it had no elastic. They claimed that its drawstring could assist suicide which is why they could not let migrants wear that. However, Sikhs argued that if someone wanted to commit suicide, there were many guaranteed ways than hanging from a drawstring.
Rights advocates called out US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for violating their own discrimination policies and religious freedom. CBP was supposed to protect the belongings of migrants rather than throwing them in the garbage. Advocates called it dehumanizing and asked Border Patrol about what security threat they felt from a turban. There has been no response yet.
The increasing number of asylum seekers from India are mostly Sikhs, trying to get away from the Hindu nationalist government’s crackdown on religious minorities. In an attempt to seek some religious freedom in the “land of opportunity”, Sikhs are being stripped of their sacred garb.
Treatment of Indians at the US-Mexico Border
It is a universal fact that under Bhartiya Janata Party, India has been discriminating against religious minorities. According to published records, Border Patrol has detained more than 13,000 migrants from India at the US-Mexico border since October last year.
The border where Sikh turbans are getting confiscated has seen many Indians lose their lives before entering the US. For example, in a high-profile case from 2019, a 6-year-old girl from Punjab, India, died of extreme temperature (42C) after her mother had to leave her with another group of migrants to go find water.
Moreover, on 27 June, a truck was found parked on the road in San Antonio, Texas, containing 62 migrants, including adults, women, and children. 50 of them were dead due to no ventilation and dehydration. The border itself is laden with blood, with migrants trying to enter the US dying due to heat exposure, dehydration, drowning, and falling from the tall border wall.