Police boarded a busy commuter bus in Auckland yesterday after a passenger was seen carrying a ceremonial knife, traditionally worn by Sikhs.

The man was seen on the Inner Link service in the area around Britomart and Queen St at about 10am.

A witness, who asked not to be named, told the Herald: "We looked out the window and we could see and the police car behind us with sirens blaring and armed men all around us. One policeman stormed into the bus with a gun in his hand and said to the guy, 'Get your hands up so we can see them and get out of the bus'."

Police say no guns were carried by the general duty officers, not did they storm the bus.

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The passenger, thought to be in his 20s, was wearing a turban and had a long, curved "sword-like" kirpan strapped behind his back on the left side, which the police removed, said the witness.

A police spokeswoman said officers were called after a member of the public reported seeing a kirpan.

She said the armed offenders squad was not sent and the officers were not armed.

"Police spoke with the man, who is a Sikh."

"He was in possession of a ceremonial kirpan, which is customary for Sikhs. The man, who is lawfully living in New Zealand, was polite and cooperative and no further action was taken."

The spokeswoman said the ceremonial kirpan wasn't confiscated.

National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi has a member's bill in the Parliamentary ballot which, if drawn and passed, would allow Sikhs to wear a kirpan under certain circumstances.

A baptised Sikh has five articles of faith and the kirpan is one of them, Bakshi said.

He has previously said there needs to be legislation around ceremonial daggers so it's clear they are not weapons and are safe to be worn. The bill will ensure the kirpan can be no more than 10cm and must be worn under clothing.

A baptised Sikh has five articles of faith and the kirpan is one of them.
A baptised Sikh has five articles of faith and the kirpan is one of them.

It will also require those who wear it to also be wearing the other four articles of faith - kesh (uncut long hair), kanga (a comb), kara (an iron bracelet), and kachehra (under shorts).

When Bakshi became an MP in 2008 he informed the then Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, that he carried a kirpan. He was given permission to wear it in Parliament and on planes.

"A kirpan is usually worn inside one's attire and normally is not exposed. It is blunt and doesn't have a sharp edge."

He didn't know of any other incidents where Sihks had been stopped for wearing a kirpan, but said: "We are a multicultural society and it just shows that a bit more work needs to be done to understand other cultures."

Auckland Transport referred Herald questions to NZ Bus, which has yet to respond.