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USA: In California, Modesto Police Department hires First Sikh officer

Varinder Khun Khun, an Indian by origin has lived in Ceres for 10 years

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Logo of Modesto Police Department. Image source: www.modestogov.com
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  • Khun Khun represents the Sikh community which originated in Punjab around the 15th century in the Indian subcontinent
  • Khun Khun, an Indian by descent, has lived in Ceres for the last 10 years
  • the Police Chief Galen Carroll said he hopes Khun Khun to be “the trailblazer that may bring more Sikh officers who are interested in police

It is the first for the community as Modesto Police Department has announced a Sikh officer this Tuesday afternoon, June 14. Along with two others, Varinder Khun Khun graduated from the Napa Police Academy on June 11. His name is placed as an officer among the other 33 hired this year by the department.

“I’ve never seen police officers wearing a turban before; I didn’t know if I would get a chance (to be a police officer) … I am thankful for MPD giving me the opportunity,” said Khun Khun before he was sworn in at 1010 Tenth Street in Modesto, said the modbee.com report.

Varinder Khun Khun was sworn in Tuesday, June 14, becoming Modesto's first Sikh officer. Image source: India.com
Varinder Khun Khun was sworn in Tuesday, June 14, becoming Modesto’s first Sikh officer. Image source: India.com

Khun Khun, an Indian by descent, has lived in Ceres for the last 10 years. His happiness knows no bounds as he repeatedly expresses he had never thought he would be allowed to practice his religion through the mandatory turban and beard besides being an officer.

It comes as a new sign of a tolerant, peaceful co-existence of communities that Khun Khun has been given the freedom to wear his religious clothing since it is well know that the Modesto Police Department, in its grooming policy makes it compulsory for officers to be clean shaven and to keep moustache only till the edge of the lip.

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According to modbee.com, the Police Chief Galen Carroll said he hopes Khun Khun to be “the trailblazer that may bring more Sikh officers and other people who are interested that think they can’t be officers.”

Khun Khun had approached Carroll a year ago regarding his query whether he can join the force and be freely permitted to practice his religious beliefs.

“I told him that that didn’t matter, that we would make accommodations for his religious beliefs and that, more importantly, we were looking for people with high character standards and he would be an addition to the Police Department as a segment of the community that is not represented in the Police Department,” Carroll had said in reply to Khun Khun.

Surprisingly, it is not known widely that in 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown had signed a law, the California’s Fair Employment Act which called for protection against discrimination for religious dress and grooming practices.

Further, in April, three U.S. Army enlistees had won permission for wearing beards and turbans after they filed federal lawsuits. The lawsuits were to seek the Pentagon’s accommodation to those wearing beards for religious purposes, according to The Associated Press (AP).

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Khun Khun represents the Sikh community which originated in Punjab around the 15th century in the Indian subcontinent. The faith has been practised in the US for about 100 years now, as recorded by the Bee archives. The Central Valley accounts for the largest Sikh population in the country.

Others who were sworn in for various posts in the department on Tuesday were:

▪ Jared Silva, from the Napa Police Academy. The son of Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva, he graduated magna cum laude from Fresno State University.

▪ Daniel Hammer, from the Napa Police Academy, where he was awarded the top academic award. He has also served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

▪ James Shackleford, who joined the Modesto Police Department as a lateral-transfer police officer. He has previously worked at the Stanislaus County and Calaveras County sheriff’s departments.

▪ Aaron Tait was promoted to lieutenant. He has worked for the Modesto Police Department since 1998. He has also supervised the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force, Crime Reduction Team and the Traffic Unit, among others.

▪ Darline Kasper joined the Modesto Police Department as a clerk. She began as a volunteer in the Investigations Division.

▪ Jillane Blakeley joined the Modesto Police Department as a clerk. She previously worked for the Stanislaus Foundation for Medical Care for 19 years.

-prepared by Maariyah Siddiquee, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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  • Paras Vashisth

    ‘The trailblazer’ – means hopes a lot !!
    Huge opportunity and he should be work it on very willingly.

Next Story

In Pakistan, Hindus don’t get even a ‘Crematorium:’ Will you believe that?

There are a lot of Hindu family residing all over Pakistan and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area

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Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
  • Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices
  • As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence
  • Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan

Death is said to be a great leveller. But the tragedy struck to some section of society in Muslim-dominated Pakistan is altogether different.

Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices. People who can’t even afford to travel, they have no option but to bury the mortal remains of their near and dear ones.

As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence. But with the passage of time, they vanished in the thin air of the terror-torn nation. Even in areas lying in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where about 35,000 Hindus and Sikhs live, the cremation grounds are also rare.

Also Read: Today’s Social Issues and their Answers to Children

The law of the land is non-existent for the minorities communities like Hindu’s and Sikh’s. Without taking no-objection certificate, people from these communities can’t move an inch even. The grief-stricken families have to wait for the clearances, as they are left with no other option.

People are forced to travel long distances to cremate their relatives from the areas like Swat Bannu, Kohat, Malakand etc. The cost to travel such long distances ranges from Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000 and on the top of it, the fear of robbery during these travels cannot be ruled out. Not all the Hindu families can afford to perform the last rites in the manner they want.

Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan. The minority communities are compelled to bury the dead because cremation grounds are vanishing fast in Pakistan.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons
Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons

Although, the administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has allowed the minorities communities to perform cremation near temples. But most of the temples are built on the agricultural lands and commercial areas, which have already been encroached upon by land mafia.

There are a lot of Hindu family residing in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long.


After much of the protests, finally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started building the facility from the chief minister’s fund, as per some government sources.

There are almost 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Peshawar. And unfortunately, due to lack of proper facilities, people over there are also facing the same situation what others are facing in areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also Read: 7 new-age social issues in India that need a check

To expect some kind of generosity from the war-torn state like Pakistan is out of the way. Instead of spending extravagantly on the military expansion, Pakistan should come forward and full-fill the basic amenities for the citizen of its country. It’s the people who make the country and not the other way round.