The volunteer arm of Ireland’s national police force, the Garda Síochána Reserve, inducted its first practising Sikh member earlier this week. Ravinder Singh Oberoi, who shifted to Dublin in 1997 and has since worked in IT, said wearing the Garda Reserves uniform with a turban was a “proud moment” for him, the Irish Times reported. In 2007, Oberoi had had to discontinue training for the Garda after he was told he would not be permitted to wear his turban with the uniform.
On Tuesday, 14 years after he first started training to join the police force as a volunteer, Oberoi was sworn in as a member of the reserve along with 71 others at the Templemore Garda College in Tipperary.
After discontinuing his training in 2007, Oberoi had challenged the force’s uniform rules before an Equality Tribunal and the High Court, but lost the case. The High Court ruled that the Garda was not guilty of employee discrimination as its members were legally volunteers and not employees.
Badge of distinction: Meet the first Sikh in the Garda Reserves, the national police force of Ireland 🇮🇪
— Harjinder Singh Kukreja (@SinghLions) January 23, 2021
But in 2019, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced a new set of rules, which allowed people belonging to religious minorities to add certain items — such as a turban or headscarf — to their uniform. The move was meant to encourage ethnic minorities to join the force.
Soon after this, a jubilant Oberai underwent a refresher training course in Dublin between October and November. “After 14 years it was a proud moment as a Sikh man to be able to wear a turban as part of the uniform,” he told the Irish Times, adding that the event on Tuesday was “quite emotional”.
“My faith is quite important, especially during these Covid times, it’s what keeps you going. It’s a great honour to be able to call this country my home and now to be accepted in the attire I wear,” he told the Irish paper. Oberoi hopes that more Sikh men and women will follow his lead and join the force.