A Sikh man living in Queenstown is disappointed serious charges were not laid against a drunken man who snatched his turban from his head.

Jasmail Singh, 26, said last week’s incident was the first time his hair had been seen in public.

Singh was outside the Camp St McDonald’s, where he has worked for six months, helping another crew member deal with drunks jumping on his car.

“He came from behind and took my turban from my head forcibly,” Singh told the Indian Weekender.

“I have never shown my hair in public – it is against my religion. It is very embarrassing for me. When he took the turban off, my

hair fell out. I went downstairs because I did not want to show my hair. I started crying – it was very shocking for me.”

Singh’s fellow crew members retrieved the turban and Sky Bar bouncers later detained a man.

A 19-year-old Scotsman was arrested shortly before midnight and charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence.

Queenstown sergeant Kate Pirovano said: “He was drunk and probably didn’t realise the seriousness of his actions.”

Singh said the man was let off and had returned to his country. “It should have been classed as an assault. In India it is taken very seriously, a serious crime. A police officer once knocked someone’s turban off and he lost his job. This has never happened before to me. I lived in Invercargill for four years.”

National List MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said the incident was a reminder of the importance of recognising cultural differences.

“I’m pleased the police are handling this unfortunate case; however, such incidents highlight the need to remember the multicultural nature of our society. It also serves to remind us that we must be more understanding and tolerant of the different cultural practices undertaken within our communities.

“All cultures, religions, and ethnic groups have unique practices and protocols. One of the most significant for the Sikh religion is the requirement of Sikh men to wear a turban. This tradition dates back to 1469,” Mr Bakshi said.

This is not the first time the Sikh headwear has caused issues in New Zealand. Three years ago, a Sikh businessman in Auckland was refused service at a golf club bar recently because he was wearing a turban.


Kharag Singh, 48, owner of the Everglade 4 Square supermarket and keen golfer, was refused service at the Aviation Country Golf Club bar in Auckland on February 28, 2010, after the day’s competition.