With the Chandigarh Administration making helmets mandatory for all females, except turbaned Sikh women, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday said the Union Territory’s (UT) move to define Sikh women, as only a woman wearing a turban, has hurt the religious sentiments of the entire community.

Urging the Chandigarh Administration to reverse its arbitrary amendment to the Motor Vehicle Rules and virtually changing the definition of a Sikh woman to mean “only a woman wearing a turban”, the SAD said the UT has “absolutely no right to define or redefine the identity of a Sikh woman or to determine who is a Sikh woman in the eyes of law”.

In a statement, SAD’s senior vice president and spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said UT Administration’s action to define or redefine the identity of a Sikh woman or to determine who is a Sikh woman in the eyes of law is “absolutely dictatorial, ill-conceived and thoughtless”.

“How can the UT administration assume the right to change the definition of a Sikh woman which has been well laid out in the ‘Sikh Rehat Maryada’. It is none of the UT’s business to change that Rehat Maryada,” Cheema said. The Rehat Maryada is the official Sikh code of conduct and conventions.

The SAD leader said in its notification, UT Administration said for the purpose of exemption from wearing a helmet, a “Sikh woman” would mean “a Sikh woman wearing a turban.”

“Someone needs to educate the UT administration that the basis for exemption from wearing helmets to the Sikhs is granted on the grounds not of inconvenience but of religious sensitivity and the principles which prohibit a Sikh from wearing a helmet or a cap or a hat,” he said.

The former Punjab minister said SAD would take up the issue with the Administrator of the UT and request him to withdraw this amendment.

He said as per the tenets and Maryada of the Sikh religion, it is not necessary for a Sikh woman to sport a turban. This is entirely her choice. A turban is compulsory only for men in Sikhism.