London–A gurdwara in Britain that had put screens to separate disabled worshipers from the rest, has agreed to remove the partition after a legal action was brought against it.
The case is believed to be the first of its kind internationally and could impact practices at gurdwaras up and down the country.
Five disabled worshippers at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Blakenhall, Wolverhampton, had brought legal action against the temple’s ruling committee, claiming they had been discriminated against, reported Express & Star newspaper on Monday.
According to the report, the members of the congregation, who are unable to sit on the floor in the usual custom, were being forced to sit behind screens in the prayer hall and dining room of the gurdwara.
A settlement was approved last week as a hearing was set to begin at Birmingham county court on Monday, according to the report.
The agreement requires the gurdwara to remove all of the screens from both rooms as well as signs which prohibited the use of chairs and wheelchairs.
In addition a lift will be installed providing access to the first-floor prayer hall and “all necessary auxiliary aids” as set out by Wolverhampton council will be permitted, including chairs with arm rests.
The ruling committee must also pay the claimaint’s costs as part of the deal, which the claimants say are in excess of £150,000 ($187,000).
Bhupinder Kaur Chohan, one of the five disabled claimants, said: “Fifty years ago Sikhs were fighting for the right to wear turbans in public in this country.”
“Here we are in 2017 fighting for the right to attend the gurdwara as disabled people without being hidden away and forced to sit like zoo animals behind partitions,” she said.
“We have just the same right to worship and pray as everyone else. We should not be made to feel inferior,” she said, welcoming the deal.
Rajinder Singh Basi, Chair of the Sikh Forum in Wolverhampton, said: “Disabled people are not second class citizens and deserve enjoyment of the same right to worship and attend gurdwaras as everyone else.
“Now the gurdwara must make changes within a very short space of time and we look forward to them doing so.” (IANS)